Monday, August 20, 2007

Appeal of Buddhism

As for being influential to the younger generation, Buddhism is
incredibly appealing for several reasons: 1)it is not opposed to the
methods and discoveries of modern science (and in fact often tries to incorporate them), while at the same time rejecting the extreme of scientific materialism, 2)it provides a thoroughly rational and experiential spiritual path, while rejecting dogma and religious fundamentalism, 3)it provides amazing, time-tested practices for spiritual realization that are not totally free and up in the air(preventing an 'anything goes' kind of mentality which can easily lead down dark paths), while understanding and working with individual differences and karmic propensities, 4) it promotes peace, harmony and cooperation with other beings and our collective environment, and 5)has many living practitioners who have attained a high level of realization and who can (and do) serve as teachers and examples for the rest of us

I'm sure there are many more, but these are the reasons that come most readily to mind, and certainly sources of inspiration that brought me to the path. The question is, how to make these things known to a wider audience?

In terms of things that I feel are missing, or at least are underdeveloped at this point, that may help towards this goal:

If we are trying to support Rinpoche's vision of transmitting the pure water of Dharma into the container of Western culture, then we should think about the way westerner's express themselves in terms of the arts, music, and the media. For example, I have not seen much in the way of Western Buddhist art (although maybe I just haven't been looking hard enough). We seem to just import the thangkas (sp),
statues, etc. created by Tibetans, Indians and other Asian cultures.

Not that the art isn't beautiful (I happen to love it!), but it can have that kind of foreign 'exotic' flavor that can sometimes cheapen it, and also relegates it to another place and time. It would be really interesting to see what Amero-Canadian artists could do to capture the essence of Dharma in contemporary western painting, sculpture, etc. Same goes for music (I'm kinda working on that one myself...) and theater, as well as radio/television programming and movies.

Outreach: while I don't think any of us are interested in becoming evangelical Buddhists, one of the things that continues to make Christianity so successful is the way it reaches out to people. Focusing specifically on younger people, one thing I've noticed is that on UW's campus, there are constantly Christian, Islamic and Jewish groups around who are inviting people to Bible, Koran, etc. studies, potlucks, prayer groups, activity groups with other religiously minded youth, etc. They also have lots of info sheets, stickers, and other good advertising materials that try to get out some fundamentals of what they're about. I've never really seen that with Buddhist groups, though I know almost for certain that there are 1000s of people at UW who have an interest in meditation, yoga, and some very vague Buddhist notions of karma, compassion, etc. However, it may not be readily apparent how to explore these interests other than by reading books or talking to a few like-minded (but also
largely ignorant) friends.

How can we go about promoting and providing access to the teachings and practices in non-aggressive but nevertheless visible way? I wouldn't mind starting a group on campus here (and perhaps there are others at Seattle University, Bastyr University, the local community colleges, etc who would be interested in doing the same thing) to help facilitate this. The only problem is that fall quarter may be my last at UW for awhile, which would make this endeavor difficult at best.

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