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Author Topic: Why Do You Do What You Do?  (Read 3054 times)


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Re: Why Do You Do What You Do?
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2017, 11:29:37 am »
As the title says, why do you practice the religion/path you practice? What is the purpose of your tradition? What good does it do for you and for the world? Why, beyond "it just feels right," have you made the decision to practice *this specific thing?*

Beyond "Saraswati-Devi grabbed me by the neck and wouldn't let go" I'm not actually sure. ;) I'm Buddhist, and trying to say what "the purpose" of Buddhism is would probably start an argument which would derail the thread, since Buddhism is incredibly diverse and I can't speak for all of us. To me of course, it is a religion.

I took religious vows (the upashika vows) 3 years ago. I've been struggling with them ever since. I don't think I had a firm enough grasp on what I wanted, at least not at that time. I'm hoping I do now. I realized my problems were not with Buddhism or the Dharma, but with other Buddhists. I'd lost faith in the Jewel of the Sangha, as it were.

I've returned to Buddhism because it's an incredibly solid foundation, and honestly, it seems to be where My Lady Saraswati wants me to be.
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


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Re: Why Do You Do What You Do?
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2017, 12:11:17 pm »
I'm Buddhist, and trying to say what "the purpose" of Buddhism is would probably start an argument which would derail the thread, since Buddhism is incredibly diverse and I can't speak for all of us. To me of course, it is a religion.

Another religious Buddhist here. As to why, that's actually something I've been thinking on a lot lately (currently in residential training as a Buddhist monk so that's a question I really need to be able to answer!). I'm hoping typing up this post will help me get my thoughts together in a coherent manner.

First, I think it's important to establish what we're referring to under the umbrella of "religion/path". From a Western perspective, "religion" is generally framed as an independent aspect of existence separable from other categories such as culture, politics, and economics. In my personal opinion, this is a false dichotomy for all but the most perfunctory of religions. If we look at European history, religion was only separated out as a distinct entity during the 18th century in an attempt to reduce religious-based conflict by separating religion from the political and economic spheres. For most of the rest of the world that separation occurred even later or not at all. The result of this separation is that we still require a worldview through which to frame our political and economic actions, and so alternative frameworks have arisen to fill this role in place of religious worldviews - the most dominant of which being liberal capitalist materialism. Far from reducing conflict, this has simply reframed the locus of conflict from "religion" per se to pseudo-religious ideologies such as the deification of the market and glorification of consumption as a means to happiness.

This is a long way of saying that, for me, Buddhism provides a framework for reclaiming my worldview from the market. Why Buddhism? Because, the Buddhist teachings both resonate with me as true on an I-can't-explain-it-in-words level and fit with a more logically reasoned view of how I need to act in the world in order to support the existence of the sort of world I want to live in. Buddhist teachings are founded in the concept that we are all made of the same stuff (buddha nature of the universe) - be we humans, trees, or rocks - that we are different from one another only in the most temporary and provisional sense. This frames all of Buddhist ethics such as the focus on compassion and loving kindness as the lens through which to interact with the world as well as the need to let go of attachment and desires since they belong only to that temporary, provisional self and do not take into account the needs of the rest of creation. Of course, this is a vast oversimplification of Buddhist teachings, but to go into much more detail would risk this post turning into a book... Instead I defer to the sutras, and particularly the Threefold Lotus Sutra which forms the core of the religious teachings I follow, for the rest.

As to why I choose an explicitly religious worldview at all (as opposed to turning to an alternative secular framework as a replacement for liberal capitalist materialism), I feel that my perspective on the world is inseparable from the belief in the sacredness of that world. I recently read an interesting book in which the author argues (among other things) that belief in the value of the earth and the need to care for it is insufficient to build a truly sustainable way of living with that earth unless it comes hand in hand with reciprocal love for and from the earth.

Quote from: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, p124
Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.

Not some sort of anthropomorphized concept of love, but love as an action:

Quote from: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, p122
The land loves us back. She loves us with beans and tomatoes, with roasting ears and blackberries and birdsongs. By a shower of gifts and a heavy rain of lessons. She provides for us and teaches us to provide for ourselves. That’s what good mothers do… This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden - so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.

For me, the concepts of "love" and "sacredness", are intricately tied if not the same thing. Religious ceremony then becomes an expression of that love alongside concrete actions like physically caring for land (just as the earth expresses it's love for us in the concrete forms of food and shelter as well as the more ethereal forms of birdsongs, sunsets, and the smell of wet earth after a storm). For me, though a purely secular worldview could support an exchange of those concrete forms of love, it would not recognize them as love nor respect the ethereal. Without love, I'm not sure even our concrete relations with the earth could be sustainable - think of a mother and child going through the motions of caring for one another without actually loving one another... I find there is something missing in a purely secular worldview that would not only limit my own experience of the world but also my actions within it. That is whey I "do what do."

Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss - Douglas Adams
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all - Oscar Wilde


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