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Buddhism and Family Support

Dealing With The Family

A Reader recently wrote:

I’ve been a Buddhist for the last 3 years or so after a mentor introduced me to meditation and I started getting more insight on my life. Since then my life has improved about 400% (in ways that I cannot explain) and making it my practice has been a great journey. I have every intention in continuing my practice for the rest of my life and will do so.

I’ve come from a family background that is primarily Catholic. Since I am young and in college I’ve only discussed my decision to be a Buddhist with people who fully support and trust my decisions – mainly my mother and good friends. The rest of my family however isn’t accepting to anything that isn’t based in Christianity and I know that the day will come when I will have to admit that I don’t associate myself with Christianity like they do.

I wanted to know if you had any advice on how to mentally deal with this situation. I know I will be fine and I need to stick to what I am passionate about, but I know I will get some resistance from certain members of my family. How do I deal with this when the time comes?

I know with confidence and meditation I will be fine, but I’m simply looking for some words of wisdom.

And my response:

I think what you describe is a common situation here in the West, especially in the USA. Although the government is required to be religiously tolerant, that doesn’t mean our families have to be. Sometimes families, in their eagerness to ‚Äúhelp‚Äù us, cause no end to additional suffering, especially when there is a disagreement over something so personal and individually important as our beliefs.

I have the same problem. My closest family knows about my Buddhism, but with my aunt, uncles, cousins, and other extended family, it’s never really come up, although I expect that it will eventually. In my case, however, none of my family is really what I would call overly zealous about religion. They probably wouldn’t understand my choice, but they wouldn’t go to any effort to try and change my mind.

Not everyone is so lucky. Many religions, not just Christians, go about things with the “We are right and everything else is wrong” approach to other faiths. Some people will go to any lengths to change your thinking, and that can only lead to conflict.

I would suggest the best approach is to make sure your family sees you acting in the finest traditions of Buddhism (without necessarily advertising the fact). They’ll see and experience you as a good person, doing good in the world, alleviating suffering where and when you can. Be an exemplar of the best ‚ÄúChristian values,‚Äù and when your ‚Äúshocking secret‚Äù eventually comes to light, perhaps, just perhaps, they’ll be willing to talk rather than judge you out of hand.

I’m sure plenty of readers have experienced this themselves. I would love to hear and share your stories about reactions of your family or friends to your Buddhism.

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