I was posed this question by another blogger a few months back and the answer alluded me for some time. My own religion upbringing was open but the emphasis was on Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism. My own difficulties stemmed from the fact that religions placed so much emphasis into the minutia. The Greeks were huge on explaining that statues were bad (false idols) and icons were fine but the Virgin Mary was just Mary. Okay….
The Catholics were pretty big on statues and the Virgin Mary. Fine…
But I could give a hell about either the statues or the Virgin Mary. Whether one places emphasis on either aspects of those specific religions – neither had squat to do with my spirituality or personal growth but had everything to do with creating spiritually abusive dichotomies to push an agenda and keep the numbers high and the coffers heavy.
Organizational Buddhism functions in the same way. They exagerate the differences and expouse certain methods. They place one way and viewpoint over all the others. People are answerable, not to their own development, but to a Board of Directors.
Why would I want to be the Board of Directors over the spiritual growth of my child? Why would I want to place the same trappings that I impose on myself (for whatever reason) on a slate of a completely different experience and story?
Of children raised Buddhist, half do not continue to practice when they reach adulthood, 28% percent stop practicing any religion, and 22% change to another faith. Buddhists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are the two religious groups showing the lowest retention rate. (from Buddhism by Numbers – Tricycle Magazine)
Pushing a child into one particular religion is just as bad when it comes from a Buddhist perspective as when it comes from a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ perspective. Holy shit! Pushing is pushing – whether the drug is crack or cocaine – it does the same damage.
I was given the opportunity to grow and develop a spirituality that worked for me and my personal experience. It was form-fitted and adapted to what I have seen and done, not to what I expect my daughter to see and do. I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a bit of Buddhist practice and philosophy simply through osmosis and proximity to my practice but her growth is her own.
In the end I just hope that I can impart the “bigger picture” aspects of my practice. The secular ones to be specific – Mindfulness, Compassion and an understanding that all fingers point to the moon but only from the viewpoint of the pointer. It would be great if I could help her point to the moon but I would never expect that her vantage point be the same as mine.
Be a compassionate and mindful Buddhist or secular humanist or Christian or Hindu or (fill in blank here). Just don’t insist that yours is the only finger that points at the moon.
But I’ll worry about that when the time comes. Right now I am just glad she falls asleep on my zabuton rather than the dog’s bed.