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Sex and the West, an interview with a Tibetan monk (1 Viewer)

Saponification

Senior Member
The fastest growing religion in Australia…

“You have to acknowledge that there’s a problem before you can fix it,” Tenzin Fedor says.
He’s sitting in the front room of Brighton’s Tara Institute and responding to the concerns of some Westerners that Buddhism comes across as a very negative religion. His theory is similar to that put forward by twelve-step programme groups such as Alcoholics Anonyms.
In fact, many Buddhist ideas are very similar to modern psychological theories. This may explain why many mental health professionals are attracted to it in the West. It may also explain why Buddhism is, at least according to some sources, the fastest growing religion in Australia.
It’s a claim that Tenzin Fedor is somewhat sceptical about, despite the fact the Institute manages to regularly attract over one hundred people to their twice a week guided meditation sessions. He says that Buddhism is growing simply because there have been a large number of immigrants from countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia. These immigrants build temples, centres and institutes, which in turn make the religion more accessible to Westerners.
He doubts that unlike Christianity, Buddhism won’t have to worry about the issue of commercialisation. “Buddhist festivals aren’t really suited to giving gifts,” he says. That and there aren’t enough Buddhists in Australia to make advertising a viable proposition.

The appeal of Buddhism in the West

Whether Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in Australia is debatable. Some sources claim it is, whereas others disagree and point to Islam or “modern” Christian churches. The fact of the matter is that it’s growing, and it’s appeal to Westerners is clearly increasing. One simply has to attend a meditation session at somewhere like the Melbourne Buddhist Centre to see that many people of different races attend on a regular basis. So why is this happening?
According to Tenzin Fedor, Buddhism appeals because it gives people the “tools to improve their lives.” These tools, such as meditation, are accessible to all: someone doesn’t have to consider themselves Buddhist to go to a centre and participate in a guided meditation session. Many people go these sessions to simply relax, rather than increase mindfulness or the level of loving-kindness they put out.
That said, Tenzin Fedor also believes that Buddhism is regarded with a certain amount of distrust within the community. He claims that this is because of what he terms “negative examples of Eastern culture” in society - racially-motivated gang violence being a prime example.

The relevance of Buddhism in Australia

For those that don’t know, Buddhism is older than Christianity. It’s regarded as the oldest universal religion in the world. Judaism, Hinduism and the like may have been around longer, but their appeal is mainly one specific racial group and as such, they are not considered to be “universal” religions. So how is it that a religion so old can be relevant today? This is a question all religions must answer in this age of the internet, digital television and mobile phones. How can stories of things that happened so long ago we can barely imagine them be important to us today?
There are a number of “big issues” within society today, issues that are constantly tackled by the media. W see them dealt with on the news and in current affair shows, we see them in works of fiction such as Hollywood movies. The debate about homosexual marriage is stronger than ever, and the argument about a woman’s right to have an abortion has brought out extremists on both sides who have gone as far as murdering security guards to get their point across.
The only religious involvement we really hear about with this issue is how Christian pro-life groups protest outside abortion clinics, handing clients information booklets in order to encourage to have the baby or at least put it up for adoption once it’s born.
An important thing in Buddhism is non-violence. All sentient beings are to be treated with kindness and compassion, which in most circumstances rules out abortion. The fact that a foetus is not yet considered to be a legal human being does not come into it at all.
But while Buddhism could be considered somewhat conservative when it comes to abortion, it could be called more liberal when it comes to sex and sexuality. It regards premarital sex as a non-issue – sex outside of marriage is no different to sex inside marriage, it’s still a pleasure which can end up leading to suffering.
“Relationships should be based on mutual respect, love and compassion,” Tenzin Fedor says. “They shouldn’t be based on the wrong sort of attachment and desires.”
Then there is the issue of homosexuality, one that often causes controversy when it is dealt with in popular television shows such as Neighbours and The OC. According to Baha’i, Christian and Islamic law, engaging in intercourse with a member of the same sex is a grave sin, but Buddhism doesn’t really seem to care.
Certain Buddhist cultures are or have been opposed to it, but there is no evidence in any of the scriptures to support this homophobia. When speaking about this issue from a religious perspective, many Western Buddhists jokingly point out that Buddha Shakyamuni found this issue so important that in all the teachings he gave he didn’t mention it once.
Tenzin Fedor explains that there are “no exceptions” for homosexuals. No matter what gender(s) someone finds sexually attractive, the same rules apply to them. “Buddhism is non-dogmatic,” Tenzin Fedor explains, which may be another reason why it appeals in a society where it’s becoming increasingly the norm to acknowledge homo- or bisexual fantasies.
While Buddhist scriptures often feature stories of miraculous events similar to those performed by Christ, they’re mostly focused on providing people with the guidelines to live. While this could be said about Christianity as well, Buddhism is even less focused on the story aspect. The story of Buddha Shakyamuni, for example, barely warrants a mention in most of the sutras. It’s something that the Buddha only included I his teachings when he thought it to be relevant.
This means that unlike a lot of religions, Buddhism has the ability to be stay relevant for a long time. While it often comes with some “cultural baggage,” the amount of this within the original teachings is rather small – it is truly a religion that can find a place in almost any culture.
The Australian government, however, have seemingly different ideas. “In Italy,” Tenzin Fedor says, “Buddhism is an officially recognised religion. They get government grants, they can visit prisons and hospitals.” This isn’t the case in our country, however. Buddhism fails to be legally recognised as a religion because it does not acknowledge a god who created the Earth. There are, however, efforts being made to change this, but at the moment they’ve made little progress. It is barriers like these that hold Buddhism back from being regarded as more exotic as it really is and as such, being taken seriously in the same way Judaism and Christianity are taken seriously.

About the Tara Institute

Formerly a Catholic nunnery, the Tara Institute in Brighton is home to a fairly large number of people of varying ages and backgrounds. Their twice a week meditation sessions attract over one hundred people, and every few months they do a dharma talks and organise various events. The Tara Institute is located at 3 Mavis Avenue, Brighton East. They can be contacted on (03) 9596 8900. For more information, visit their website at: http://www.tarainstitute.com.au/
 

Saponification

Senior Member
There are a few spelling errors - these don't really concern me. I'm more interested in comments about structure and the like.
 

mammamaia

Senior Member
it would be easier to assess this if you'd put it into proper paragraphs... to do that in a post, you must use line spaces, since indents don't 'hold'...
 

Ted T.

Member
“For those that don’t know, Buddhism is older than Christianity. It’s regarded as the oldest universal religion in the world. Judaism, Hinduism and the like may have been around longer, but their appeal is mainly one specific racial group and as such, they are not considered to be “universal” religions.”
Ummm, this is just plain wrong...in whose opinion is it "not considered universal" in a way Judaism and Hinduism is not? One specific racial group? Christianity covers more races than Buddhism which is Oriental. What racial coverage are you claiming here?

Buddhism is a Hindu heresy just like Christianity is a Jewish heresy...Buddah was a Hindu who found a way off the wheel of life (by denying attachment even to love of family and romantic love), when the Hindus said this was impossible. Hindu: reincarnation is inevitable. Buddhist: reincarnation happens but is not inevitable.

Christianity: Love of God and others will stop reincarnation, (if it is happening), not the denial of love.

There is nothing more altruistic in Buddhist attitude over the Christian attitude. Buddhism, with a strong belief in karma, never fought against slavery...it took Christians to do that.

Thanks for your well written essay - it reminded me to stay true!
 
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"There is nothing more altruistic in Buddhist attitude over the Christian attitude. Buddhism, with a strong belief in karma, never fought against slavery...it took Christians to do that."


....Christians also put alot of those people into slavery. Go God.
 
I

Ilan Bouchard

mike like night said:
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"There is nothing more altruistic in Buddhist attitude over the Christian attitude. Buddhism, with a strong belief in karma, never fought against slavery...it took Christians to do that."


....Christians also put alot of those people into slavery. Go God.

Buddhists never really bothered anyone. They never started or joined any wars.

The idea behind Buddhism is that you help others by helping yourself; by helping yourself you don't hurt others, and thus help them.
 
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