Hi, all, it's Tania, from The Friendly Funnel. I recently took my Buddhist refuge and boddhisattva vows and was wondering about the experiences of other Buddhist Quakers were like. Personally, I've found that Buddhism complements Quakerism, and vice versa. Buddhist practices allow me to be a better Quaker; Quaker practices allow me to be a better Buddhist.

What are particular Buddhist practices you like? There are some aspects of Buddhist theology I'm ambivalent about (such as reincarnation, but I don't focus on what happens after death--I'm a lot more interested in what happens before), but Buddhist practice (the Eightfold Path, meditation, etc.) has really strengthened my ability to be compassionate and respond to that of God in others.

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Hi Tania.
I'm an Australian Quaker, not Buddhist - was a devout Catholic, studied the Taoist classic I Ching for 30 years, became Quaker about 15 years ago, read many books by Dalai Lama and some other Buddhist books and courses, and through my work studied science of complexity. I currently take a fairly non-theist stance, seeking to reconcile science and religion, theism with non-theism. Like you (and a couple of members of my Local Meeting) I find Buddhist and Quaker practices and teachings support each other very well. I think the long history of Buddhist philosophy and psychology adds depth, while the action oriented Quaker testimonies give vigor.
About reincarnation - for what it's worth I have heard it said that because the amount of air and water in the global system is relatively fixed, and because of the complexity of weather and circulation patterns, it is almost certain if I drink a liter of water or take three breaths of air I will ingest a molecule of water or air that was once part of the Buddha, or Christ - so I can understand the Living Christ and the Buddha Within in physical as well as metaphorical terms. After my death my elements will live in animals, plants and future humans, and traces of my thinking will persist in writing and memory. Though I do not think I will continue as a unified, aware conscious individual, bits of me will be recycled in sentient beings.
In friendship
Ian (Wahroonga Local Meeting, Australia)
There's always Steve Smith's Pendle Hill pamphlet on this.

But it's as hard to know what a person will mean by calling theirself "Buddhist," as it is knowing how to interpret someone calling theirself "Christian." Van de Wettering asked the resident Master at his Zen Monastery whether he was a Buddhist, and was told, "No."

Some good teachings & practices there, some good angles of vision on the Human Condition (whatever it may be) but the basic premise doesn't appeal to me. That is, I'm not ready yet to cop to "Life" being "Suffering." Often "unsatisfactory," sure. But I find a distinct difference between actual "suffering"--which tends to be unpleasant enough for me to want it to stop, and the fear of losing my current temporary respite from annoyance--which is quite nice, thank you! Maybe these other people diving deep into their own heads have found a far more profound description of life than my tinkertoy rules of thumb, but I see no more reason to adopt it as an Article of Faith than any of the Christian notions that have been thrown at me. (What I do like specifically about Buddhism is the tendency not to impose doctrines, but rather to ask, "What do you see when you find yourself doing ____ ? What does that look like? What is that?" The sound of silence : the selected teachings of Ajahn Sumedho was a wonderful example of applying that approach!

Much of the time I do find Buddhist & Christian ideas extremely similar, as in Robert Aitken's writings... and when it comes to psychology, the Buddhists are a lot closer to Jesus than most Christians. When Van de Wettering's teacher found some students had picked up a Bible, he asked them to "read me something" so they read him the Sermon on the Mount, whereupon he said, "That's what I've been trying to teach you all along!"

The difference with Christianity--in basic principles--is the hint that life can be a good in itself, that God manifested in meat--not just in us, but in an ideal human. So that escaping this condition is not necessarily the best that we can do; we may someday be able to live a life where "No one will tell his neighbor, 'Seek the Lord,'--for the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of God."

But I also find an intriguing common thread in William Stringfellow, Alan Lew, and Robert Aitken, (a Christian, a rabbi, and a Buddhist) as to what "redemption" might look like. Robert Aitken: "Zen is the perfection of character. It is not someone else's character." In context, he goes on to say that (as Lew and Stringfellow say in their own ways) our flaws, when we are redeemed (enlightened?) find their proper use and become virtues.
To all three posters on Bhddhism. I believe that Bhuddism considered as a non religious system of morality does not contradict most religions that believe in god or even do not believe in god. To me god is the energy that made this universe and I believe that energy is a positive one. I am still pondering on these ideas as so many people are.
Back to Bhuddhism. I have found that the translation of Bhuddist principles by Thich Nhaht Hahn are a magnificent source of moral principles that do not contradict religious principles.Hahn welcomes all religions and members of all religions. Search the web for (hahn and five precepts). I look forward to hearing your opinion of the translations.

Please go to the site I placed here and read the additional commentaries by T N HAHN

The First Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a commentary on the 1st Precept.

The Second Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a commentary on the 2nd Precept.

The Third Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a commentary on the 3rd Precept.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a commentary on the 4th Precept.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a commentary on the 5th Precept.
On the subject of Buddhist Quakers: There is no such thing, or at least there shouldn't be. Quakers are a Christian group, and it makes no more sense to have Buddhist Quakers than it would to have Buddhist Catholics or Buddhist Methodists. We're not a melting-pot religion where you can stir in any ingredients you want, and everyone follows their own God. Quakers have from the start had definite doctrines, and while we have always recognized that Christ speaks in all, and that one could be a Christian without having any outward knowledge of Christianity, that one who speaks within us and leads us from our sins is still Christ Jesus.

I used to attend a meeting in New York YM, where there was little mention of Jesus, until the time someone came to meeting, and said he used to practice Zen Buddhism, and was so happy to find something like that around here. At first I thought, you're in the wrong place; this is supposed to be a Christian group. But after I thought about it more, I realized that he was in exactly the right place; I was the one who was out of place. So I haven't been back there, but started setting aside time every week to wait on Christ, by myself if necessary.

I suppose this post will upset some, but I hope it is permissible to defend the Christian doctrines of the Society of Friends on a site subtitled, "Primitive Christianity Revived."
Practicing Buddhism allows me to better follow Jesus's teachings. Should I not practice Buddhism because it's not Christianity?
Being Japanese American, I have also wondered about possible meetingpoints between Buddhism and Christianity. I think your question "Should I not practice Buddhism because it's not Christianity?" has struck a chord with me. I apologize for a lengthy response!

It is my experience many of the teachings of the Buddha and those who purport to follow them are beautiful and ring of truth. Many Friends here have already commented on Buddhism as a set of psychological and ethical practices (i.e., they place it in a secular context). As a nonreligious set of practices, it could very well complement our faith.

Where I myself have found difficulty is in Buddhism as a religion. As such, I have found that I can't really understand what a Buddhist-Christian would be. For example, it is my understanding that Buddhists do not wait on God; rather, classical Buddhism doesn't even recognize a God. The focus is on the Buddha, a man who came to understand the illusory nature of the world and thus abandoned all desire. I know that's simplistic, but it seems that Buddhist fundamentals contradict Christian fundamentals. Enlightenment/nirvana is not the same thing as a salvific, close, loving relationship to God. That's why a label like "Buddhist-Quaker" makes little sense to me. It makes it seem like Buddhism is on an equal footing with your faith. If I understand you correctly, you consider Buddhism to be more a way of living than a religion. To me, then, "Buddhist-Quaker" would sound like "Hiker-Quaker" or "Vegetarian-Quaker." Many people use the outdoors and ethical eating to grow closer to God without feeling the need to hyphenate their faith.

A question you might ask yourself is: do Buddhist principles and practices allow you to better follow Jesus's *leadings*? For me, they haven't. Only sitting in his presence has done this. If your encounter with Buddhist practices has given you the ability to sit still in the fullness of God, then by all means, use Buddhism as your tool. But if it causes you to mistake Christianity for little more than a set of teachings, it may be helpful to find the root of your faith before getting into precepts, techniques, and eightfold paths that ultimately may distract you. I pray that God protect us all from spiritual distraction (I know I need it)!
This is an interesting post, as are the replies. I came to Quakerism about 12 years ago as an atheist. It may be true that only a Friends meeting could have accepted me as me, and accepted where I was at spiritually, without ever trying to change me. However, I never called myself an atheist or non-theist "Quaker." I was just an atheist who attended Quaker meetings. I noticed a lot of similarities between Friends' faith and practice and my own values as an anti-authoritarian, but I did not really believe in pacifism, and thus, I was not a Quaker, not even a "Free-Quaker." I simply attended Quaker meeting. The reason I did not identify myself as a Quaker is because I had made myself familiar with historical Quakerism, its language, its Christ-centeredness, and the intensity of the apocalyptic nature of the 17th century English worldview. I was who I was, but I did not feel I could co-opt all of Quaker history just to find a comfortable identity for myself without making a commitment to the continuity of a faith and pracitce that was more than four centuries in the making. It was after a significant spiritual experience, actually, a number of them, that I began to identify with the Christ-centered nature of Friends. Then, the language began to take on a real meaning that allowed me to identify in a manner that lent continuity to my experience, not only a continuity that reached back over 400 years, but 2000 years. It might be beneficial to pick and choose admirable traits of different philosophies or religions, but it sort of smacks of spiritual consumerism when one cherry picks individual preferences in faith without attempting to reconcile the negative aspects of those faiths. I feel that I am responsible, not only to live out the teachings of Jesus, but to reconcile the unfavorable aspects of the faith by using the language of the faith, not by incorporating more favorable traits from disparate traditions. Many Friends enjoy the idea that Quakers will accomodate us where we are at, but I humbly ask that we should identify ourselves as seekers, and perhaps not as hyphenated Quakers.
I think the traditional view is, and was, and logically should be, that there is exactly one God, and that anyone who finds that God has found exactly the same God whom Jesus introduced to the Christian world.

Jesus is respected, although seen differently, in a great many religions (even among some contemporary Rabbis.) It is a deep loss that modern Friends have been by-and-large so disinterested in seeking to read and "incorporate" his wisdom, having already decided that "He must have meant what I happen to think, so we don't need to study him!" (Ow!)

"After you get the log out of your own eye, you can better see how to get the sawdust out of your Friends' eyes"?
I've known Buddhist laymen (through playing go in a club at the Japanese Senior Center in Sacramento years ago) who, so far as I understood them, understood "Buddha" to mean something very much like what we would call "the Spirit of Christ".

So what, then, is "Buddhism"? What one Buddhist says, or what another Buddhist says? There are definitely a few practitioners of Buddhism who consider themselves atheists, but the Buddha seems to have left the matter open. Anything he might say about God would not help a person who didn't believe it, while anyone who got his mind/soul/heart clean enough could see for himself.

What's seen by a Buddhist who gets there?-- going by what they say/do, not at all a materialistic world, but one in which everything is spiritually connected and loved. I myself tend to address God personally (being more comfortable with that, being a person myself) but God would seem to have considerable choice, in how to best approach each one.
"Funny" you should post this response. I certainly can't judge how you felt when you wrote this, but if it's anything like I have felt, it is nothing short of frustrated, if not somewhat disappointed. There was a time when I would have posted the same response. Much of that was because I had no clue what Buddhism was. There was a notion I had one time when pondering the question of Buddhist Quakers that it was entirely possible as there are different philosophies within Christianity already. Why not Buddhist Christians since there are so many other kinds already? The idea wouldn't leave me, but I never put much effort into investigating that leading.

Other Friends have already explained Thich Naht Hahn's teachings on Buddhism. He writes in answer to the question on whether one should leave Christianity if they are attracted to Buddhist teachings "Christians who know how to generate mindfulness, concentration and insight are already Buddhist, whether they have formally taken the Five Precepts and the Three Refuges or not. They are truly Buddhist, even if they don’t call themselves Buddhist, because the essence of Buddhism is mindfulness, concentration and insight. There are Christians who are capable of being mindful, concentrated and insightful, and they are already Buddhists; they don’t need to wear the label “Buddhist.” When they express the desire to take the Three Refuges and the Five Wonderful Precepts (Mindfulness Trainings), they know that this practice also strengthens their faith in Christianity. They know they do not lose their roots and they do not betray their tradition, based on the insight that, in their tradition, mindfulness, concentration and insight are also very important. Coming to a Buddhist practice center, they learn methods of practice that can help them generate mindfulness, concentration and insight. They know that in their tradition, these energies are also very crucial. They want to make use of their insight, their experience, in order to renew their tradition so that many young people will know more concrete ways to generate these energies. Practicing Buddhist meditation in that way not only helps them to be a better Christian, but also helps them to renew Christianity in such a way that the young generation of Christians will feel more comfortable. Every tradition should renew itself in the light of the new developments in the world; Buddhism also should renew itself."

At Old Town Friends, our little small Christ-centered meeting in Baltimore, we have no creed; and so, while we tend to use the North Carolina YM Conservative Book of Discipline which is clearly a Christian document, Friends at our meeting have different experiences of Christ, of religion, of Quakerism. Some are new, some were born into the Society. Some have had direct experiences of Jesus, some only know of him. Together, we study the Discipline, the Bible and Quaker teachings. Independently, we draw from all sorts of sources, encouraging each other to be mindful of going where the Holy Spirit leads, reinforcing the knowledge that through the Word, the Light we baptized, born again, and we are delivered from sin and we grow into perfection.

So perhaps one Friend's experience of God is the same as Jesus' experience: Father God. A personal God that is Love. Perhaps others really have experienced God as a distant being who judges, punishes and rewards. Indeed others experience God through God's creation and see God as the Mother who gives birth to all living things, who embraces us and feeds us. And then there's the Friend whose practice of Buddhism helps him center in worship, to go deeply within to find the Light there, that Love which Fox encouraged us to mind, and through that mindfulness they new insights into Truth are revealed and the Power is opened up for them to walk cheerfully over the earth ministering to everyone through example.

I think the danger comes when I don't understand what I'm talking about. I hate to admit this can happen more often than not. I'm working on it. Not all Quakers are the same, as we know. Conservatives and Evangelicals have their differences, even if they are Christians. This is why it's so hard for is to say "Quakers are .... or Quakers believe ...." The same is true for Buddhists.

Do I think this means that a person can "be anything and still be Quaker?" No. Of course not. I'm addressing the possibility of Buddhism. One need not worship the Buddha to practice Buddhist mindfulness. Indeed, many Buddhists don't worship him, and I'm not convinced that was his intention when he was alive (and some say the same of Jesus).

I share a concern, however, with Geoffrey in this: in many liberal Friends meetings, there is little mention of Jesus and people tend to talk of their individual practices during worship which are not Quaker nor Christian. They do not do what Thich Nhat Hahn said, which is basically to use Buddhism as a tool to go more deeply into their own tradition. They do not educate themselves on Quaker foundations, they do not seek Christ or even try to wrestle with the traditional Quaker teachings of Jesus, the Bible. Conversation about faith becomes difficult because we do not speak the same language, we do not wrestle with the same tradition. It's not impossible, just difficult. And frankly, I can't tell you how many times I've heard Friends from liberal and Evangelical Quakerism say something to the effect of "really? I had no idea Quakers had such an understanding of God/Jesus/Bible/Christianity/Religion" when sharing my understanding of Conservative and earlier forms of Quakerism. At least the Evangelicals center on Jesus and wrestle with his teachings and how to be disciples.

Anyway I digress as usual. Point is, for me anyway, do we mind the Light and live up to what is given? Do we come to know Jesus experientially? Are our hearts and minds being transformed so that our lives speak? Does our faith produce good works? Are we sharing our faith or hiding it? As Quakers are we disciplined? Do we seek God in private moments and deliberately engage the Scriptures and other writings in order to learn and grow? Do we make our involvement in our Quaker meetings a priority, as a central part of our lives, believing that not only is our physical being the temple of Christ, but also the gathered assembly, the church is the body of Christ; when we are absent from it, part of the body is missing.

Finally, an anecdote: When I came to Quakers as a kid, I was more influenced by the Baptist faith and the culture around me. I had read Fox's Journal and being a somewhat ornery child I identified with his confrontational, oppositional (and perhaps self-righteous) zeal. You can imagine being a teen how that mix went over in a liberal Quaker meeting. Oh the confrontations, the wounds (they weren't alway nice, either) ..... Yet after a few years of worshiping there, I never once changed what I believed God to lead me to do or say. I probably out ran my Guide way too often, and spoke in worship more than I should have (but without elders, how is one to learn to grow in ministry?). I know now that I had not been grounded in Love and didn't always speak from it (and boy the difference in reactions from others to Christian ministry when I learned to do this). Still, my meeting threw me a huge going away party when I left for Guilford. Some time later, a Friend who considered herself a Universalist Friend sent me an letter thanking me for being faithful to Christ; he had finally reached her somehow and it had been from whatever it is I had done. She reminded me never to stop being faithful to him.

So, for years later, I would find myself at Evangelical and Liberal meetings (mostly liberal). I'd be The Gay that some Evangelicals had to hold their nose and learn to love, and the Christian that Liberals would have to do the same. I stayed at Homewood from 2002-2010 and it was HARD. But, I learned a lot there. God led me there, and God did not release me until late 2009. It was while there that I learned how to speak from a place of Love, to be humble (FLGBTQC Friends also played a large role in this).

I am very grateful that God gave me a leading to start a new group, and that while we struggle to meet our rental obligations, and we are a meeting of mostly young grad students and professionals who are paying back loans and are broke, we seem to be making it. We don't have support from local Friends, though we've reached out. It's frustrating. We are learning what it means to live in community, to encourage one another to grow in Christ, to share each other's burdens, to not isolate ourselves, and to confess and forgive. I love my new meeting, and don't miss the difficulties of being a Christian in a liberal meeting. I'm also aware that this may be a temporary thing, and one day God may lead me back to another meeting; and we've already experienced difficulties in ours so it's not all pie!

So, I hope that Friends will gain something from my experience. Be faithful friends and seek that Love. Otherwise, not matter how true our words and insights may be, they will be nothing but a distraction, a noise and perhaps even keep people from finding the Truth. That would be a great sin.

I no longer label myself. My experiences have changed, and I think labels have their uses, but also their dangers. I am a Quaker. I lean Conservative, have Evangelical stripes, and a universalist world view. I've been all over the map, and have worshiped with all sorts of Christians, Jews, Quakers, and even pagans. I got so distracted by trying to "find myself" that it became a problem. What a joy to finally just release it and pay attention to what Friends have been teaching all along: GO WITHIN YOUNG MAN! BE MINDFUL! PRAY! How Buddhist! (I don't practice Buddhism at all). How Quaker!
I really love your comment. Thank you for posting it. I'd actually never read that long quote by Thich Nhat Hanh before, so I particularly want to thank you for sharing that.

Since posting this on here, I've actually taken my Buddhist vows (Refuge, Bodhisattva, and Precept). You can read details on my blog, if you're curious. But I agree that even if one is Buddhist and Quaker, one needs to understand the language of Christianity and Quakerism. I make a point to read the New Testament once every year, because Jesus was my Teacher years before Buddha was, and continues to be my Teacher. It's been a while since I've read Fox's Journal, though, so I plan on rereading that again soon.
Regarding: "On the subject of Buddhist Quakers: There is no such thing, or at least there shouldn't be. Quakers are a Christian group, and it makes no more sense to have Buddhist Quakers than it would to have Buddhist Catholics or Buddhist Methodists. "

Thee must feel free to speak for yourself, but please be sure to preface such a statement by,
"I am only speaking for myself"

because surely all the Buddhist Quakers, Methodist Quakers, Catholic Quakers, Muslim Quakers, Atheist Quakers, etc did not blink out of existence as a result of thee's assertion. As far as I could tell, the original poster was making no claims against Christianity or Quakerism that needed to be defended. She simply asked if anyone else found that Buddhism made them better Quakers.

To answer the poster: I find that all my previous religious experiences have made me a better Quaker. I was born into the Anglican church, pursued Paganism in college, became a Bahai and read a bit on Buddhism, and indeed all have made me the non-theistic Quaker I am today.

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