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Trouble In Texas

Questions:

Hello, I am pretty new to Buddhism, I have been Zen buddhist for a year, before that, I was a Christian, I left due to the people who are conservatives, and I disagreed with it. I was born in California, now in Texas, so as you guess, I get no gain here in Texas.

Besides that, My questions are that, I’m a proud supporter of Gay marriage and I support Stem Cell Research, and I’m pro choice, do my beliefs check out with Zen Buddhism, or is what I believe sinful?

I also am studding Che Guevara, he turens out to have been a great guy, studing the Buddha and Marx, is it wrong to agree with Che or is it okay?

Also I read a great book recently titled, Siddhartha. It was about his life, in the book he states that there is another buddha, Gotma, is that true? Is Siddhartha a true book based on the real life of the buddha?

Last but not least, due to the ignorance of others here in Texas, I get no leverage and I try to remain peacefull, but its very hard, I get frustrated. What should I do to ignore these conservatives and reach enlightment?

Answers:

Wow- There’s lots to work with here. I’ll warn everyone ahead of time that everything that follows is MY opinion. Feel free to add yours in the comment section, especially if you disagree!

1) Let’s start with the easy part. The book Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, isn’t really about the Buddha. It’s about a regular man named Siddhartha who lived in the same region at the same time as “The” Buddha. The “Gotama” character in the book is the person we call Buddha, Siddhartha is just a character in this book of historical fiction. It’s a great book, but none of it is considered to be true.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1934648035/?tag=askdrarca-20

2) I see nothing wrong with studying Marx; he IS one of the world’s major philosophers after all. You’d be cheating yourself to not understand what it was he was saying.

I’m not here to promote my own political beliefs, but Che Guevara is NOT on my list of admirable people– quite the opposite in fact. You won’t be finding one of those T-Shirts in my closet. Rather than turn this post into a rant, I’ll stop there.

3. As far as the acceptability of gay marriage, stem cell research, and pro choice, that varies from Buddhist to Buddhist just as it does with any other group. For the most part, I think the majority of Buddhists are probably OK with gay marriage but against abortion. I don’t really understand the stem cell argument well enough to comment on that. Every individual has their own opinion on these topics.

4. I have addressed the topic of “Dealing with Hatred” in the past. Check out http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1343 for the whole story (and especially the comments) on that post.

17 comments to Trouble In Texas

  • Perhaps I take an overly liberal, loose approach to Buddhism, but I feel it does not prescribe any clear-cut moral boundaries. What is important is to contemplate deeply the question at hand. When we approach a situation objectively and rationally, but with a compassionate heart, we arrive at answers to these questions for ourselves. Perhaps this is a radical statement, but I don’t think Buddhism really posits an explicit “thou shalt not kill”, commandment-esque statement. If one could provide a rationally sound, bullet-proof argument that gives justification for senseless murder, we must accept it. But can anyone provide such an argument? No, of course not. So it is easy to say Buddhists don’t kill. Gay marriage and stem-cell research fall into a far trickier gray area. What’s important is to think hard and reach one’s own conclusions. There is no inherently “correct” answer.

  • Dennis

    I am a little disappointed in your comment you numbered 4 for two reasons; 1: the author did not ask about how to deal with hatred, he asked how to deal with the ignorance of others. 2; I really wanted your opinion on the subject because I have wanted to ask the very same question MANY times as I have struggled with the same subject many times.

    Other than that keep up the good work, I find that your writing stimulates the thoughts of others, and that cannot be a bad thing.

  • Dennis,

    OK, I’ll tackle that one in more depth for tomorrow’s post, although I do believe that ignorance and hatred are very closely related.

  • Timothy Hilgenberg

    I think the easiest way to look at your questions is to understand Buddhism as a path to self actualisation attained through insight into the ultimate nature of reality… so you need to ask yourself where your “issues” come from and then work with them so they don’t hinder you on your path. In a way you are lucky to have such issues as that gives you something to work on – why are you angry with people that you think of as conservatives? How does your anger help the situation? Could you not find something positive that you can use to overcome this anger? How persuasive is an angry person compared to one full of compassion?

    Buddhism is fundamentally quite literally a practical philosophy – it’s about your actions and inactions – being for or against “pro choice” is easy – what are you doing to help those in their predicament? By making a big thing out of “gay marriage” are you helping or are you drawing up battle lines? Most people don’t like being told they have to change, but most people will adopt better ways if they are given the space to discover that there are better ways in their own time.

    My philosophy is to live the example, I follow the five percepts as far as possible – some are easier than others and I let people judge me through their eyes…

    Namaste _/!_

  • Jerry

    I think there’s an important point to be made about sinful ideas. As far as I understand it, Buddhism does not classify things as sinful or otherwise. Harmful acts will result increase suffering and eventually come back to you in one form or another (karma). Buddhism doesn’t have any commandments or tenets, just the idea that certain acts that cause difficulty are to be avoided and others are skillful and should be embraced.

    Some things, like abortion, are not so easily categorized and, in my opinion, should be considered in every aspect – suffering for a potential human being vs. suffering for the mother and people around her.

  • Barbara

    I am a Texas transplant. I also struggle with the conflict coming from the conservatives here. It feels like some get up every morning with the sole purpose of creating issues with anyone unfortunate enough to get in their way. It starts with what I call the “fish trucks and suv’s” who test me the moment I begin my commute. I call them fish for their jesus fish on their bumper. In single lane traffic they drive 15 under the speed limit then floor it to any speed to stay ahead of you when there is a passing lane. I try to remind myself that perhaps I am avoiding an accident by not going the speed limit and move as far from them as possible. And that has become my general tact, avoid them. They are not open to discussion and I am not interested in having anyone else force feed me their beliefs, all of which I have heard before and have decided are not for me. I am not sure what the correct way to be a better Buddhist would be since I am new to the practice but that is what I do. I try to keep my annoyance in check and not ask the parking lot jesus recruiters if they want to hear about my lord satan when they approach anymore and I’ve stopped offering the DARE people crack when they agressively follow me out of the grocery store for extortion, err, a donation. I also have begun to remove myself from work or school settings where there is an agenda based on christian beliefs and have no family pressures to deal with so that makes it much easier. Texas is truly a different world.

  • Joe

    As a Cuban, I find it extremely troubling when people say that Che Guevara was a good man. He was a murderer and nothing more. As for him studying Buddha, I have no knowledge of that. But if he did, he certainly did not apply Buddhism to his way of life in any way. I hope this doesn’t seem angry or like a personal attack, because it is not intended like that at all, but as the writer of the question said they find it difficult to deal with ignorant conservatives, I find it extremely difficult to deal with ignorant liberals who think Che is cool because he is on t-shirts and people think he is “a revolutionary”. This is the only political issue that I let other peoples’ opinions upset me, perhaps because it is personal to me, because of what my family has been trough. I will be greatly looking forward to tomorrow’s more in depth post on ignorance.

  • Z

    I’m a proud supporter of Gay marriage.

    By support, what exactly do you mean? If you mean that you believe other individuals should be able to choose for themselves in the pursuit of happiness, that is an admirable philosophy. To seek to control the actions of others who are peaceful would be “grasping” in my opinion. It is the difference between tyranny and liberty. To have the latter for yourself, you must also allow others to also have it.

    I support Stem Cell Research

    By support, do you mean that you fund this research or that you believe people calling themselves government should confiscate the fruit of someone else’s labor to pay for it? The latter would cause needless suffering. To take what is not yours, even for an admirable cause that may cure cancer or feed the world, is still stealing.

    Stem cell research will change the world, but it should be funded voluntarily by those who believe it will be beneficial to themselves and their fellow man.

    I’m pro choice

    If by this you mean that people should be able to decide for themselves what they do with their own bodies, that is admirable.

    The difficulty here for most is the current choices seem to be either the death of the fetus or forcing the mother to give birth against her will. Neither of these choices is acceptable, in my opinion. And so long as they remain the only choices, the debate will continue to rage.

    Perhaps science will someday offer new choices like being able to safely remove and preserve a fetus or develop new methods to help people take more responsibility for the choices they make before pregnancy becomes an issue.

    Che Guevara and Marx

    If you wish to believe what these men say, that is your decision to make. I do not agree with them. The problem with socialism and communism is that, historically, they do not work and have caused much suffering. While it was admirable of Guevara to want to do something about the suffering of the indigent, using violence and coercion on others — regardless of their financial status — directly causes suffering. Alleviating the suffering of one group at the expense of another group only shifts the suffering, it does not end it. Both of these philosophies are flawed and instead of helping people, they always end up harming more than they help.

    I would suggest instead that you Google “The Philosophy of Liberty”. Perhaps you will find it more in line with the teachings of the Buddha than these other philosophies. I wish you luck in finding the path that is right for you.

    Last but not least, due to the ignorance of others here in Texas, I get no leverage and I try to remain peacefull, but its very hard, I get frustrated. What should I do to ignore these conservatives and reach enlightment?

    Let go. If you do not agree with their opinions and they do not agree with yours, walk away. Cease your grasping. Cease your need for control or agreement. You can only control one thing in this life: You. It sounds like your desire to change the minds of others is causing you unhappiness. End your suffering by realizing you do not need the concurrence of others.

    If you wish to ignore them, then do so. Either do not associate with them or do not discuss subjects with them that cause you consternation.

    Good luck to you.

  • Abe Simpson

    I do not see how any human being studying and practicing loving kindness could find The Butcher of La Cabana a “great guy”.

    As someone who has lived and traveled all over the world, I have chosen to live in Texas and have lived here a long time. I am not a conservative, but I will respond to your comment the same way we respond to all of those who are new to Texas. You are welcome to be here, you are also welcome to go back where you came from. Texans, despite religious and political differences are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Maybe y’alls difficulty working with them is because y’all are working against them.

    As for the rest of comments, I agree with Z’s assessment. I am also suspicious this is a troll.

  • Abe;

    I, too, suspected he was trolling, but whether or not that is the case, there are other people who share in his thinking. Regardless of his intentions, it’s worthwhile to address the questions he posed. If it comes right down to it, I strongly suspect it’s not the Texas conservatives who were being hostile and aggressive in this case.

  • Danny

    I find that ignorance is often a two-way situation. Someone may be ignorant of your belief system which is unfortunate. Are you certain you are fully aware of their beliefs? Go beyond what they say they believe; ask them why they believe it. Be non-judgemental if you ask. In the most hopeful situation they will ask you about your beliefs, both of you will learn. In the least you will have learned something about them.

  • ttiros

    How many people did Che kill? Either in South America or Africa? A Buddhist would not make a killer one to admire.

  • Barbara

    Danny, in my location the majority of interactions with conservative christians come in the form of street prophets. Anywhere you stop to conduct business, the grocery store, bank parking lot, laundry mat, Home Depot, they are hanging around and follow you very agressively from the building to your car. They certainly are not interested in learning my beliefs. They are there to recruit souls in the form of cash offerings. As a small female when I am alone it makes me quite afraid at times. I almost maced two of them because I didn’t see the fliers in their hands. Often they are homeless and give the fliers as a way to get money and they could care less about what it is for as long as it makes you pull out money. I just don’t think there is a learning moment in that and stopping to talk to them is dangerous.

  • Upon first reading this post created feelings of irritation and anger other unwholesome feelings. I am native Texan and I’ve lived in Houston my whole life. Houston, TX is the most ethnically diverse city in North America. I have personally counted well over 30 Buddhist Temples in the Houston area and there are probably more than that. To say that “the conservatives” in Texas have no compassion, I disagree. While right-wing evangelicals with their “jesus fishes” emblazoned across their black smoke belching SUVs and pick-up trucks can test one’s compassion. There are many others who live here who practice metta everyday even if they do so under the guise of another religion. Take a look at a broadcast of Lakewood Church someday and you’ll be sure, as I am, that Joel Osteen reads the sutras. Truth is truth. The Buddha recognized this and many since him have as well take Thich Naht Hanh or HH the Dali Lama both have written books showing the similarities. The monks at my temple participate in inter-faith activities and speak at non-Buddhist events. I believe anyone who looks around Houston, or DFW, San Antonio or Austin and not find a sangha community then they aren’t looking very hard. It can be trying to live in an “energy city” where beef is king and Eternalists are numerous, but we’re certainly not alone and just because they are Eternalists doesn’t mean they don’t practice the dharma in their own way.

  • Abe Simpson

    Barbara,
    You described interactions with fish-cars and street prophets and extrapolate that to all of Texans? I think you ARE missing the learning moment.

  • Jami

    Texas and Che do not go. Underlying this opposition, perhaps, is a MEX-TEX issue. The answers are predictable.

    Marx did not kill no one but his philosophy did-and much more than the Argentine. But the idea that he is readable bc he is a philospher- is debatable, since the man himself liked ‘action’ more than ‘interpretation’.

    Since Buddha allowed Kings their armies, we can not say he ws against the ‘just war’.A just war implies ‘just soldiers’. Can it be said Che ws fighting an unjust war? Oh my! I sound like a little commie, on the side of the Burmese & Chinese regimes, who hv given the Monks a rough ride. But perhaps we are confusing men: Che comes out of a Cathlico-Hiberno-Hispanic heritage. There is nothing in that makes him a bad buddhist or bad Texan (smile).

  • Abe Simpson

    Jami,

    If Che had not become the very thing he stated he was fighting against, then I might be able to consider your argument. But Che’s actions were akusala.

    I do not think we can say that Buddha identified “just wars”. His teachings have been twisted and corrupted to excuse killing. Observed from historical context, these manipulations of his lessons are inexcusable corruptions of dharma, and any “just war” theory that arose from them were the products of delusion. War is akusala, regardless of the justification.

    Buddhist are taught to look beyond the dichotomy of simple right and wrong. Marx may not have killed anyone, but may have sowed the seeds that resulted in many deaths. These are his actions, many interpret his actions as akusala, I do not know the intent of his teachings so I don’t know if he was evil or not.

    I do know that hate never removed hate from this world and violence never removed violence.

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