Shopping around for Buddhism
December 16, 2013 3:10 PM Subscribe
I'm trying to figure out whether my local Triratna Buddhist organisation will be a fit for what I think I want from Buddhism.
posted by aesop to Religion & Philosophy (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've been interested in Buddhism in a quiet way for a few years. I've listened to a lot of Zencast podcasts, done a little bit of reading, and done just enough meditation to know that it drives me nuts but I want to do it anyway. I've never established a consistent practice.
My wife was quite closely involved with Triratna in the 70s and 80s, but for one reason and another became disillusioned with it as an organisation. (She had her reasons, but they're not ermane to my question). She still maintained some Buddhist practices, but lived in a way that was much more 'secular'.
I kind of kept my own interest in Buddhism under wraps - not least because the largely US-based programming I'd been consuming was much less Tibetan-flavoured and seemed to me less cluttered with devotional practice and chanting in languages I couldn't understand. (My apologies if my subjective thumbnail is offensive; it may be that it merely underlines my own lack of understanding). Hence a sort of Buddhism-by-stealth. Not a sustainable thing, obviously.
My wife died a little while ago, and somewhat unexpectedly had expressed a wish to have some Tibetan Buddhist features present in her funeral. This was a bit of a step into the past, I thought, but of course I was ready to support it as much as possible. So I got some help from the local Triratna sangha. I also became a little closer to some of the people in the local Sangha as they helped me plan and officiate the funeral. It was also just nice to meet some friendly people.
Partly it's the sense of trying to find my 'own life' now in the aftermath of my wife's death; partly it's because of the spiritual support I feel I've been offered, but I feel a bit like I might like to find some other people to practice with. The local triratna sangha seems welcoming & I already have a few acquaintances there, though always outside the context of the centre itself (& I think the stealth-Buddhism is holding the cloaking shields fairly steady too: pretty sure they have no idea I'm interested). I'm still unconvinced by more ritual/devotional approaches though. A caveat to that is that in emotional moments I have found it comforting to do some of the practices outlined in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, for the dead person. Which is of course ritual... but I think I can see how the benefit for me is real, because I am undertaking visualizations of purification, release and dispersion that are about me visualising my wife' death in a positive(ish) way.(And of course positively willing a letting go and freeing of whatever of her remains, even inside me.) It makes me wonder about the other practices that I'm shy of and wonder if I'm wrong about them - that they can be 'worked into' in non-literal ways (as if they were parables). But there seems to be so much real reliance on personalisations/ individual boddhisatvas. It looks perilously like worship sometimes. Against that, perhaps I can glimpse how these images of beings are sometimes just coherent forms to give homes to certain practices. I suppose there is some similarity in the presence of formal myths in psychological views of the world. They're resonant forms whose logic isn't to be taken literally, but consideration of them might be helpful to us. That sort of thing.
I don't suppose they go beating their beginners over the head with too much chanting and rupas, but I'm still not sure that this is the way I see Buddhism. It seems a risky business to leave all these high-powered symbolic complexes lying about when one is trying to concentrate.
Do you think it's worth me trying the local/slightly-acquainted-with/possibly not quite what I want sangha (because it seems friendly and is a bit of a link to my community and past)? Will I be able to process the inclusion of image and ritual successfully? Or does it sound like I need a more 'protestant' sort of Buddhism (that would unfortunately take me away from these tiny roots of friendship I see around me)?
I'm still early on in my grieving process, so I won't be doing anything precipitous. I'm also aware of the fact that I'm undoubtedly more emotionally vulnerable, but of course that's precisely the reason why I might seek a community.
I see that I am asking you to gauge my ability to make use of symbolic materials creatively and imaginatively (or, saying the same thing, assess my resistance to concretizing metaphor into dogma). Which is unfair of me. But we could give it a whirl, eh? Thank you.