Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Our Tradition, Our Choice
written by Kyle
One of the great things that I find about Buddhism is how the common thread of peace, truth and liberation of mind are present in all forms of Buddhism. Vajrayana(Tibetan being one example), Theravada, Mahayana(Zen being one example) are the 3 major schools, though there are many others. The basic principles are the most important thing, that the core teachings to do not change. It does not matter what coat of tradition you flavor it with, in fact, over the centuries, Buddhism has worked its way into the lifestyle of the culture where it sits and does not become the culture itself.
Its like flavoring water I think. You can have lemon water, coffee, tea, tonic water or anything in between. As long as the at the basic level, water is the major key ingredient, we have no problem. However, if that water becomes only a minor ingredient in the mixture, and becomes too diluted, it will not work. I study and follow a Soto Zen tradition, which has taken a most definite Western flare here in the States. It is true that I do, however, take some traditions or teachings from Theravada and Tibetan cultures. The path we each take is a very unique one, differing from person to person. However, i think it is important that we create our own traditions and values here, in Western society, as guide posts for those new to the teachings.
I see it maybe difficult for some western people to get past the traditions and hang-ups on conceived ideas about bald monks bowing to golden Buddha statues or caricatures of avenging Zen Samurai or fat happy belly rubbing Buddhas....etc,etc. This is why I think it is important, that we as Westerners find our own path. It is a great opportunity we have to build something new, that threads through the fabric of our culture, much like a yellow string sewn into a black shirt.
Here in America, especially, the teachings of Anatta(emptiness of self) are very difficult for many to understand. Its just my opinion of course, but where we raise our children based on pride and with a strong sense of self, breaking down the illusion of self is much more difficult than in many Asian cultures where ego is not as ever present. We drive our big trucks, climb the corporate ladder and revel in our pride. This is obviously a generalization, relative to all other things, but if we can find a new way, using the strengths of what we do have, conceptual understanding and breaking things down to see how they work, maybe we can break through the ignorance of ego......slowly.
My 7 year old son saw the Dalai Lama on the TV a few days ago, pointed at him then pointed at me. I said to him, "He is a Buddhist man, Tibetan, but he is me and you as well. Zen and Tibet, same thing, just different flavor of man" To which he quickly replied, "No! TV! Turn to Blue's Clues!."
Is the idea of creating and building our own way of Western/Progressive Buddhism(in a very real and tangible sense), realistically possible?