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Old 03-05-2013, 07:41 PM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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While Buddhism is the predominant religion in SE Asia, Sri Lanka and a major religion in East Asia, it doesn't seem that a lot of people take Buddhism all that seriously, at least outwardly, but I might be wrong. The most Buddhist nations seem to be the most traditional: Tibet (I know not a nation but a region), Bhutan, Sri Lanka, northern India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos. Thailand seems a bit more secular, despite the fact most young male Thais undergo a period of monkhood. The Mahayana Buddhism of East Asia seems to have been diluted by either Communist irreligion, capitalism, not to mention competing with the other traditional faiths such as Confucianism, Taoism/folk religion, and Shamanism. In many cases the Buddhism in these places is less 'pure' and more syncretic with the other religions. In East Asia, Taiwan seems a stronghold of Buddhism, actually, although it seems that it's not a big part of many people's lives. I've heard claims that up to 70% of Japanese are nominally Buddhist but most Japanese seem pretty irreligious.

How important is following Buddhist 'doctrines', like the Eight-fold path, Middle way, practising meditation, belief in re-birth, striving for Nirvana is to most people in South-East Asia and East Asia? Would you say it's most important in Tibet and practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, followed by Theravada in Ceylon and SE Asia, and then Mahayana? Do most Thai people for instance still largely practice Buddhism? Would you say Thailand is more Buddhist than America is Christian?
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:18 PM
kyh
 
Location: Malaysia & Singapore
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What I can say is, a great majority of Thais have great devotion and respect to their faith even if they are not practising it to the core (following the precepts, practising compassion etc) compared to the US where there is a large secular and sometimes militant atheist society. Religion is tied intricately to ethnicity in most countries of SEA while in the West it is viewed as an individual choice. Being Buddhist in Thailand simply means you're upholding Thai culture and dignity, just like being Muslim is a source of immense pride for Malays and many Indonesians. In the West, there's no compulsion to stick to one religion just because you're a 'white' although the majority still nominally call themselves 'Christian' despite not practising it. But if you're adopting another religion, no one would accuse you for betraying your 'whiteness', but the same can't be said for SEA.
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:22 PM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Originally Posted by kyh View Post
What I can say is, a great majority of Thais have great devotion and respect to their faith even if they are not practising it to the core (following the precepts, practising compassion etc) compared to the US where there is a large secular and sometimes militant atheist society. Religion is tied intricately to ethnicity in most countries of SEA while in the West it is viewed as an individual choice. Being Buddhist in Thailand simply means you're upholding Thai culture and dignity, just like being Muslim is a source of immense pride for Malays and many Indonesians. In the West, there's no compulsion to stick to one religion just because you're a 'white' although the majority still nominally call themselves 'Christian' despite not practising it. But if you're adopting another religion, no one would accuse you for betraying your 'whiteness', but the same can't be said for SEA.
That is true. I would say that religion was still more of a cultural identifier a few decades ago, when the Protestant/Catholic divide was more cultural than religious in the US, Australia.etc. The Christians in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India do seem a bit more westernised than the Buddhists or Hindus, although many of them would still consider themselves Easterners not Westerners. Catholicism isn't really much of a part of Filipino identity, I don't think at least, so the situation is different there.
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Old 03-06-2013, 06:55 AM
 
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The Lao are very devout, maybe even more so than the Thai. I'm not sure about Cambodians. They're still recovering from the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, so maybe there it is still more of a cultural relic.
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Old 03-06-2013, 10:41 AM
 
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I think when we use the word "devout" with regard to Buddhism and other schools of Eastern thouyght, we have to remove most of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim connotations from the word. A Buddhist is devout in a way that the West cannot easily fathom and misunderstandings often arise.

In Japan I found that many young people denied that they were followers of Buddhism or Shinto and to an even lesser degree Taoism yet all their actions and their out look on life carried a great degree of these three schools of thought. When pressed they ususally admitted to some degree their beliefs in the underlying thought of their nation but not in the same way that Christians do. Once a month I attend the temple where my wife went. I do not do this out of any kind "religious" belief so much as out of respect for my departed wife and a feeling of nearness to her. This temple also has a lot of Western members and what I notice is that most all of the a converts from some form of Christianity or Judaism and they bring a lot of baggage from their former religion and treat Buddhism in a totally different manner than the East Asians who attend the temple.

The "conversos" take a much more active role in the temple, forming groups for study, taking on an active role as leaders and seeking more outside converts than do the majority of Asians. I have also notice that no matter what the religion, converts tend to be far more zealous than those who are born into the religion or in the case of Asia "thought system" as opposed to the Western idea of religion although I have seen some Asian fanatics as well but generally fewer in number.

The Japanese followers accept my presence although they may not understand my purpose. The Westerners for the most part are perplexed by my behavior. It is not important to me because I am sure of my reasons and purpose.

At the insistence of a friend I attended a couple of "Western" Buddhism events. I could only describe them as something like a revival meeting with an out of tune chorus and a bad piano player. I am sorry if this offends some but if it does, it might mean that the offended person sees what I saw but would perhaps deny it rather than rectify it.




All in all I would say that in Western terms Asian Buddhists within their own societies are, compared to Westerners, far less religious but far more spiritual.
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Old 03-06-2013, 10:50 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Very enlightening (excuse the pun, lol) post Tom9! I think no matter how irreligious a Westerner is, he or she is moulded by the Judaeo-Christian way of thinking from their earliest years until the day they die, even if they be Buddhist, Pagan, whatever. Things like duality, good and evil and linear time, for instance. The very pro-active and personal approach to religion also seems pretty American. The equivalent of 'saving souls' among these Buddhist converts is enlightening people. Some of the Hare Krishna and Ba'hai people here are quite active in promoting their beliefs.
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Old 03-06-2013, 10:57 AM
 
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Sri Lanka hands down. As for Christianity, many do not realize when Christianity first spread it was under the tutelage of the Middle Eastern Church. For centuries in India, Christians practiced under the direction of this diocese. When European colonialists came, they did whatever they could to force ppl to accept the Vatican and Roman Catholicism.
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Old 03-06-2013, 11:10 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Mistertee View Post
Sri Lanka hands down. As for Christianity, many do not realize when Christianity first spread it was under the tutelage of the Middle Eastern Church. For centuries in India, Christians practiced under the direction of this diocese. When European colonialists came, they did whatever they could to force ppl to accept the Vatican and Roman Catholicism.
But the English would have certainly pushed the Anglican church rather than the Catholic church wouldn't they? IN the case of India and the Empire in general.
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Old 03-06-2013, 11:13 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
Very enlightening (excuse the pun, lol) post Tom9! I think no matter how irreligious a Westerner is, he or she is moulded by the Judaeo-Christian way of thinking from their earliest years until the day they die, even if they be Buddhist, Pagan, whatever. Things like duality, good and evil and linear time, for instance. The very pro-active and personal approach to religion also seems pretty American. The equivalent of 'saving souls' among these Buddhist converts is enlightening people. Some of the Hare Krishna and Ba'hai people here are quite active in promoting their beliefs.
Two very good points. The idea of enlightening people and the eternal battle against dualism. These are two concepts that are foreign to Western thinking in general and take some time and study getting used to.
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Old 03-06-2013, 11:16 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Originally Posted by Tom9 View Post
Two very good points. The idea of enlightening people and the eternal battle against dualism. These are two concepts that are foreign to Western thinking in general and take some time and study getting used to.
Yes. This lies at the heart of the Eastern way of viewing the world. The unity of all things, the abstract over the personal, that sort of thing. Both important philosophical strains in Chinese and Indian religion.
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