Jews and Buddhism

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by Sky Dancer, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    Jews are playing a major role in the growth of Buddhism as the fastest-growing religion in America. More than 30% of non-Asian Buddhists are Jews – and many have become leaders in the spiritual movement. Narrated by Sharon Stone, the Oscar-nominated film Jews and Buddhism: Belief Amended, Faith Revealed explores this growing phenomenon.
    The Jewish Channel -- Connect With Your Culture. Jewish Television on Cable.

    I thought this was interesting. Jews are six to eight times more likely to become Buddhists says Stephen Prothero, Chair of the Religion Department at Boston University. I would love to talk to Jews about this. Jews have a belief in the inherent goodness of people, Buddhists do too.

    Discuss.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  2. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    In The Jew in the Lotus, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi says he would like to request the Dalai Lama: "Give me a dharma talk addressed to Jews." To me, it seemed he was saying, "Give me something of your belief system that speaks to me--that works for me." Judaism speaks to Reb Zalman, of course, but he wanted to expand his outlook. In my case, although I grew up Jewish, I didn't always grasp the real meaning of the familiar traditions. But after I began to study and practice Buddhism, I came to understand in a new way the Jewish rituals I had learned as a child.

    The two traditions share a bounty of common practices. They both emphasize acting ethically and helping others. Each is based on a body of teachings passed on for thousands of years and has have given rise to a flourishing intellectual culture that has fostered debate and a diversity of opinions. Each teaches respect for one's spiritual teachers. Both emphasize that actions have consequences, but that errors can be purified or atoned for. Neither group proselytizes, though both accept newcomers. Jews and Buddhists alike treat their texts and holy objects with great care. Even some of their mystical teachings are similar: that we are reborn after we die, for example.

    Certainly, at the most esoteric levels, many practices are similar. Coming from a Jewish background, I'm naturally familiar with a tradition that sets out guidelines for ethical behavior. Jews have the Ten Commandments and the 613 mitzvoth. Buddhists have the ten destructive actions, the five heinous actions, and the five precepts. The dueling numbering systems in both make me dizzy.

    For me, the key difference seemed to be in the motivation. In Judaism, the answer to the question, "Why?" always came down to what was for me a monosyllabic obstacle: God. Because that's what God said we should do. For the love of God. Out of fear of God. Because we're God's Chosen People. Those answers never satisfied me. I needed reasons that I could relate to in a less abstract way. While putting forth many of the same behavioral guidelines--no killing, no stealing, no adultery--Buddhism outlined reasons I was able to grasp and agree with. Principal among these is that all people--and beyond that, all sentient beings--have the same wish: to be happy and not to suffer. Furthermore, my actions have consequences. When I engage in an action that brings negative consequences to myself or others, that action is labeled negative. So avoiding killing, stealing, adultery, and so on are suggested because following these guidelines avoids harm to ourselves and others.

    Interfaith Insights: Reflections of a Jewish Buddhist
     
  3. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    Jews are a people united by an identity made up of certain ethnic, national and religious elements and who trace their origins back to the ancient Israelites. Since coming to the West, Buddhism has attracted a significant number of Jewish converts. Several outstanding Buddhist scholars, monks, nuns and meditation teachers have been Jewish and have made important contributions to the development of Buddhism.

    Why should so many Jews become Buddhists? Several reasons have been given for this phenomenon. While seeing little to attract them in Orthodox or even Reformed Judaism, many secularised Jews still retain a spiritual yearning. For historical reasons they are unlikely to consider Christianity or Islam to fulfil this need, whereas Buddhism is an acceptable alternative. In Western culture Jews often feel out-of-step thus making it easier for them to adopt something like Buddhism that, at least until recently, was seen as rather exotic. Secularised Jews tend to be well-educated, making it more likely that they will know about and be open to the claims of Buddhism. Buddhism’s humane ethical values are similar to those of traditional Jewish culture and Buddhism is free from the complex ritual requirements that some Jews find meaningless and stifling.
    The Jew in the Lotus, Rodger Kamenetz,1995.


    There are many Jews in my sangha.
     
  4. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    In her book That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist, she describes how excruciatingly difficult it was for her to define herself as a Buddhist rather than a Jew. Even as a Buddhist delegate at a major interfaith conference, when her turn came to introduce herself by name and religion, the best she could manage was: "My name is Sylvia Boorstein. I grew up as a Jew, and I teach Buddhist meditation."

    She writes: "Some friends of mine, aware of my great respect for Buddhist understanding and of my dedication to practice, have been surprised at my renewed interest in Judaism. 'Why,' they wondered, 'would you want to complicate yourself with Judaism?' It's not a question, for me, of deciding to complicate myself with Judaism. I am complicated with Judaism."

    Conflicts of a Buddhist Jew

    I am a Buddhist, complicated by being raised a Catholic.
     
  5. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    A majority of the new American Buddhist Teachers are Jews. Prominent teachers include: Sylvia Boorstein, a practicing Jew and Psychotherapist who co-founded Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Northern California; Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzburg who founded the Insight Meditation Society, Barre, Massachusetts; Lama Surya Das who was born Jeffrey Miller of Long Island; Pema Chödrön, who was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown, is a fully ordained Vajrayana Buddhist nun and popular writer; Ayya Kemma, a holocaust survivor who helped to revive the monastic order for women; Thubten Chödrön, who helped organize the first international Nun’s conference; Alan Lew, Rabbi and writer; Daniel Goleman, psychiatrist, former NY Times writer, and author; and Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert.
    http://www.jewishlibraries.org/ajlweb/publications/proceedings/proceedings2006/rosenzweig.pdf

    Most of the Western Lamas in my Tibetan Buddhist lineage are Jews. I asked my principal teacher why so many Western Buddhist students and teachers are Jewish. He said it was because of the Holocaust. So many of them accumulated merit and wisdom that they were reborn with an interest in Buddhism.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  6. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    After the presentations, on behalf of us all I raise a painful issue with the Dalai Lama, that of Jews who join other religions including Tibetan Buddhism.

    "Your Holiness," I say, "I must speak with candor. There remains one issue which pains us. You have seen our deep sense of family. It is very painful to us, therefore, when one of our family chooses to leave us. On one hand, it is clear that Jewish people who adopt the Tibetan path benefit greatly as individuals. On the other hand, we suffer from a brain drain on a community level. Many of our finest, most intelligent, most spiritually-inclined people are leaving us. I am not asking you a question, nor am I requesting you to make a statement. But on behalf of my coreligionists, I must tell you frankly how we feel."

    The Dalai Lama is taken aback somewhat by my comments. The Buddhist attitude is not to seek converts, but at the same time it makes no distinction among peoples. Anyone who wants the teachings of the Buddha is entitled to them; religion knows no national boundary. He explains further the Buddhist belief that the Buddha offered differing teachings to students of differing personalities; therefore, no one religious doctrine could satisfy everyone. His advice, however, is both understanding and sage: If you want to keep your people in your religion, then you must open your doors to spirituality. If you have an esoteric tradition to offer them, then they will not want to leave."

    "As a result of our meeting," he continues, "to speak quite frankly, I developed much more respect for Judaism because I found there a high level of sophistication. I think it is very important that you make these teachings available for everyone, especially intellectual people. Sometimes there is a danger in too much secrecy. Often qualified people are excluded from the practice, so I think the best thing is to be flexible. I have seen many similarities between your tradition and ours. If you make these teachings available, why would your people want Buddhist tantra? You have your own tantra! Many of your people have keen intelligence and very creative minds, and if they are not personally satisfied with what you offer them, then nobody could stop them from leaving and taking a new religion. Provide them with all the materials, all spiritual teachings. If you have these spiritual values, then there is no reason to fear; if you have no such values, then there is no reason to hold on. If you cannot provide spiritual satisfaction to others and at the same time insist on holding on to them, then that is foolishness. This is reality." He is entirely right, of course.

    Joy beautifully chants the Jewish prayer for scholars, and the lamas respond by "dedicating the merit" of the prayer to the welfare of all sentient beings -- a Tibetan "amen." We tearfully take leave of the Dalai Lama and his entourage, ennobled by the encounter and stirred by his challenge that we open our doors widely.

    A Meeting of Ancient Peoples: Western Jews and the Dalai Lama of Tibet by Nathan Katz
     
  7. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    Dharamsala – His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited the Aadas Israel Congregation Synagogue in Washington yesterday and met with the congregation's worshippers. The Tibetan leader shared amusing stories of Israeli tourists who flood into India, where he has been living in exile since he fled Tibet in 1959.

    The congregants were just in the middle of doing Kiddush – the ceremonial benediction over wine in honor of the holiday – when the Dalai Lama entered the sukkah.

    He told the crowd he has "a lot to learn from the Jews" who were in exile for generations. He said he would like to learn how the Jews survived so long in exile as an example for his own Tibetan people, who have been in exile for 50 years.

    Dalai Lama wants to learn from Jews how they survived in Diaspora - www.phayul.com
     
  8. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    The Jewish Attraction to Buddhism

    Fields was also a Buddhist who came from Jewish stock. His book, How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America, was published by Shambhala Publications, the Western world's leading publisher of books about Buddhism. Sam Bercholz and Michael Fagan--also Jews--started Shambhala in 1969 in Berkeley, California, where they owned a metaphysical bookstore.

    It's fair to say that many who feel the pull toward Buddhism are profoundly alienated from Judaism and in search of a new spiritual home purposely far from whatever patina of Jewish culture they have know. But why Buddhism?

    One major reason is Buddhism's non-theistic nature. Buddhism says there is no God in any Judaic sense of the word, thereby making it easier for Jewish agnostics and atheists to embrace it without having to undergo a fundamental shift in their theological worldview.

    Also making it easier is that Jews and Buddhists have no history of communal conflict, and that the charge of ingrained anti-Semitism has never been leveled against Buddhism.

    Moreover, one does not have to formally convert to Buddhism to accept Buddhist thought or engage in the most common Buddhist practices, such as sitting or walking meditation. This allows those suspicious of any religious affiliation to in a sense have their cake and eat it too. It also allows those who remain connected to Judaism and Jewish culture to avoid the taboo of conversion while satisfying a desire for exotic spiritual exploration.
    The Jewish-Buddhist Encounter - My Jewish Learning

    I find this topic fascinating. I am leaving Christianity discussions behind and would be interested in talking to anyone with an interest in exploring the phenomena of so many Jews becoming Buddhists.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  9. William Joyce
    Offline

    William Joyce Chemotherapy for PC

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2004
    Messages:
    9,693
    Thanks Received:
    1,135
    Trophy Points:
    190
    Location:
    Caucasiastan
    Ratings:
    +1,349
    I've read that the combination of Judiasm and Buddhism enables one to have an eight-post discussion thread with himself.
     
  10. Mini 14
    Offline

    Mini 14 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    3,947
    Thanks Received:
    570
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Ratings:
    +570
    LMAO!!!
    :clap2::clap2::clap2:
     

Share This Page

Search tags for this page
jews into buddhism
,

why do jews practice buddhism