September 02, 2009

Daily Dharma - Keep respect for your own tradition

Generally speaking, it is better to keep one's own tradition. It is more suitable. But among some people—in the West they are usually Christians, Jews, and to some extent, Muslims—there is an interest in Buddhism. Sometimes, because of their individual mental dispositions, they do not find much in their own tradition that is effective, but they still want a spiritual practice. They feel a strong pull toward Buddhism, and then, of course, it is their right to follow Buddhism. After all, all religions belong to humanity. What's important is that once we make a decision to follow another religion, we must keep in our minds that we must avoid criticizing our own previous tradition. We must show respect for it.

–The 14th Dalai Lama, from "Ethics for a Secular Millennium: An Interview with the Dalai Lama," Tricycle, Fall 2001

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Ken Adair's picture

You might even fault the Dalai Lama for his deliciously subversive "ploy" of recommending respect for religions which can spontaneously deconstruct in the presence of Buddhism; his bargaining position is set within the walls of fortified dogma which can then be exploded or reinterpreted away. Is it not more the Middle-Way style to sidle up to a would-be opponent to convince rather than combat?

But Tenzin Gyatso does score some major points by not taking a belligerent position when discussing existing Western religions. He's the comic relief at any inter-faith council, with all its torpid, scowling old men.

And the "pack of lies" mentioned before? Just a grain of sand for Missy to develop her beautiful pearl.

josh's picture

If everyone just stuck with their own tradition, Buddhism would not exist at all. If nobody criticized other traditions, then the Buddha would never have gained any followers. I know that the Dalai Lama has good intentions and is trying hard to market Buddhism as a more progressive and tolerant religion, but this is just another example of the watering/dumbing down of the Buddhadharma in an attempt to win over Westerners.

Kirt's picture

I like that Missy. I think it is a very mature and compassionate way to look at it. I also struggle with this from time-to-time. I believe Boorstein often says that she is a fatihful Jew but and practicing/passionate Buddhist. I think there is room for this. I imagine that it can be a fulfilling thing to remain connected, but not clinging...I think there is a fine line.

Missy's picture

I find this instruction very, very helpful. It's so easy to criticize Christianity, especially once I've found such peace in the pragmatic logic of Buddhism, but as much as I would like for it to have been different, my childhood and all that I knew was the Protestant church.

So to now shake a fist at it as "a pack of lies" which I can't completely disagree with, I've found that it's painful and alienating to try and part from my own past and the beliefs of my family. And I think there are enough little fires that still burn for me in the life of Jesus Christ and in some of the ideas around the Holy Spirit that I can still support my meditation practice and connect with my family, even if I think the Church itself took a wrong turn a terribly long time ago.

Kirt's picture

Can you please be more specific, Ken? What lies?

Ken Adair's picture

How does one show respect for a pack of lies?