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A place to meditate in the Buckeye State.
Akron, O

What Kind of Buddhism is this?

Buddhism started as the ideas of one man, who was reacting against theological and metaphysical problems he found in Hinduism. Since then, these ideas have traveled to many countries and become a part of each country's culture. Now it is hard to tell the culture apart from the religion itself. As a result, depending on which variant of Buddhism you are looking at, it may completely contradict other variants on topics such as reincarnation, souls, the relative important of each part of the eightfold path, et cetera. The process continues in the US as we mix it up with new age, Christian and the 'Red Cross' version of morality. Also, many Buddhists are also concerned about feminism, the environment, etc., all issues that didn't weigh heavily on the mind of Buddha or his followers over the past 2000+ years.

Nationalism and Buddhism

The world where the Buddha lived was characterized by castes. People where ranked in terms of importance and value before they were born. Buddhism doesn't have a caste system. It isn't even especially male chauvinistic. I hardly think that the Buddha was a nationalist of his province trying to convert everyone in the world to his cultural customs because he felt some pride or nationalistic fervor. People who get the Nationalist bug want to mix nationalism and everything. Just about any country that has a predominantly Buddhist population has members who are guilty of this. Being born in a particular place is a lousy reason to follow a religion and equally lousy reason to not follow it.

Being attracted to or deterred by fancy rituals, foreign habits, and so on has nothing to do with Buddhist practice or American Buddhism. Like, or dislike, Japanese food on its own merits, not because it is from a country with lots of Buddhists. Likewise, becoming (or not becoming) a Buddhist just because your parents are (are not) from Thailand is silly. It may ultimately be impossible to separate religion from the cultures that created it, but this difficulty doesn't change the fact that the ideas are the core and the rest is superficial wrapping.


I think any one precept of the eightfold path alone won't help you reach enlightenment. Just living a restrained moral life won't let you transcend desire if your head is full of the wrong sort of thinking. Likewise, being compassionate but being completely attached to your habits of smoking, TV, beer, baseball, and any of our 100s of other things we just got to have won't lead to enlightenment either.

Technical Issues

I will use the Pali, rather than the Sanskrit terminology throughout, for no particular reason. Don't be surprised if a Sanskrit word slips through, especially if it is easier to spell or pronounce.

Often when I say US Buddhism, the idea could equally apply to British or Western European Buddhism. I choose the former just because I don't want to speak on behalf a nation that I haven't even been to, not because there is anything special about 'turtle island,' (North Admerica).

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