Friday, December 08, 2006

The Thorn Tree

A reply to those pesky Muslims (as opposed to those Muslims who are not so pesky), after reading this on the Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree about travelling to India:

"... Throughout the world, but especially in America and Europe, some individuals have been intrigued by Buddhism, spurred on mostly by the superstitious, secret, and awesome qualities they perceive in this religion. Generally, those who adopt Buddhism do so not because they believe in the logic of its philosophy, but because they're attracted by its "mystical" atmosphere, drawn to this superstition because it is presented to them as far more different and awesome than any other philosophy they encounter in their normal lives..."

(full thread)

Anyway, here's my reply, as it seems pertanent to the general content in this weblog:

Hi,

As a Buddhist monk travelling to India, just thought it was funny to hear an ancient Indian religion being portrayed as something new, especially by Muslims, the comparatively new kids on the block. Both the Indian flag and its constitution, for example, show the Buddha's influence in Indian mainstream society.

Personally, I don't know many Westerners who were drawn to Buddhism by anything except "the logic of its philosophy"... certainly they seem to shun away from any of its mysticism, or else move to what is now more commonly called "Hinduism", which is in general much more mystical, I should think. It is, at the least, complete rubbish to think that those Westerners who leave a religious view of fear from an omnipotent, world-creating god to embrace the down-to-earth, practical and fruit-bringing teachings of the Buddha do so "spurred on mostly by the superstitious, secret, and awesome qualities they perceive in this religion."

Anyway, just popped in, because tomorrow I'm off to Bodh Gaya, to visit the place of the Buddha's enlightenment. I can say for myself that becoming "Buddhist" doesn't feel "original" or "more 'different'", it feels like returning to an ancient way of life, bereft of more familiar ritualistic superstition and empty faith. Rather than giving any feeling of standing out as special, It presents a constant battle of adaptation into the fold of the millions of Buddhists around the world whose humble and always friendly demeanour, coupled with both a deeply ingrained moral ethics and a profound sense of peace and contentment, always makes a Western interloper stand out in a less-than-flattering way. But all are welcome, and the incredible manner in which so many have found their way to the Buddha's teaching purely of their own accord should put all empirialistic or missionaristic religious groups to shame. Instead it seems, unfortunately, to scare them, as this post seems to show.

I don't have time to follow this up on other threads, I hope someone can answer this sort of false accusation elsewhere in a similar manner, or at least quote people like me on their opinions as people who came to Buddhism after they were already old enough to choose their religion.

Best wishes,

Yuttadhammo