Blending Buddhism ~ A multi-faceted approach to religion

I was very pleased to see this article in the “Religion” section of the local newspaper (Rapid City Journal).   All to often “blending” religions in this area means blending two slightly different Christian denomonations with the rest of us left out in the cold.  This story, however, focuses on a person who…

after growing up in a divorced family with a father who was an evangelical Christian and a mother whose nature-based pagan religion found God in the mountains, the desert and the natural world.

and whose household…

is a diverse spiritual group that mixes Buddhist meditation, personal prayer to a higher source, Sunday worship services, some Bible reading and the celebration of Christmas, despite the fact that none of them are Christian.

Nice to see an article that include the words “Buddhism”, “atheist” and  “agnostic” without belittling any of them.  The community, by and large, out he is made up of Christians with only a smattering of heathens (I use this term jokingly to refer any non-Christian, including myself) because we are seen as outsiders here.  Sometimes even seen as a threat.  Pagans and atheists run around undermining morality and threatening the cohesive, all-encompassing Christian Snuggie.  We are a fringe group out here in God’s Country and we are usually expected to keep our mouths shut about how we choose to live our lives and view the world.  the comments are even somewhat supportive but I expect that is due to the new policy of having to register before commenting. 

For this newspaper to give voice to and even list as a “Feature” a family of Buddhists, pagans, atheists and agnostics is a large and positive step, especially this close to the Holidays.   Actually, it is downright amazing.  A few Christians commented on the fact that they feel “sorry” for these poor folk since they don’t believe in Jesus.  I don’t think it is too far off the mark to say that a few Buddhists would say the same crap since they aren’t practicing solely Buddhism.

Many families are taking a multi-faceted approach to religion and religious practice.  Our daughter is exposed to a (seemingly) wide amount of religious practice in our household.  With a Buddhist dad, a secular mom, pagan aunts/uncles and a largely Christian extended family; I hope that she develops into an individual that can view religion and spirituality unfettered by cultural and familiar restraints.  There should be no guilt if she decided to follow a spiritual path other than my (or my wife’s) own.

Although it did warm my heart when I saw her standing with hands in gassho in front of my zafu.  I can’t imagine where she got that from!




15 thoughts on “Blending Buddhism ~ A multi-faceted approach to religion

  1. As always, well said. I’m still hesitant to openly speak about my attempt to follow the Buddha’s teachings. Here in the south people look at me like I’m crazy for being a vegetarian. Just last week I was invited to breakfast with some coworkers and they want to go to bojangles. I told them no thanks and that I’m a vegetarian and one reponse was, I kid you not, was, “why? What the f&$k is wrong with you? Can’t trust a man don’t eat meat.”

    Makes me happy to see an article like that. Thanks

    • Thanks Mike! Funny you mentioned vegetarianism, since I live out here in “Ranch Country” there is a similar but not as prevelant viewpoint. Mostly peopleexpect meto be vegetarian since I am Buddhist.



      • Not even my local, multi-ethnic dhamma study group assumes that people coming to their meets are vegetarians. It was certainly like you describe where I used to live, though- and I do get the occasional uncomfortable stab at a joke from the men here. Ohio is a fringe state in many ways.

        Reminds me of when my grandfather used to say my husband was ‘unAmerican!’ because he didn’t like to eat raw onions.

  2. I have found that those here in RC who truly follow the teachings of Jesus have no problem in accepting Buddhists or any other folks as long as they perceive them to be good people at heart.
    Hey I like Jesus!

  3. I dunno what to say, John. I live in Texas. At least in the Northern Tier they can get away with a “western populism” of sorts.

    I live on the edge of two worlds. In Houston, it’s an international hub of multiculturalism. However I currently live in a small town out in the ex-urbs 45 minutes from downtown.
    When my mom was a kid there wasn’t even a freeway going into Houston, an dyes she lived in Needville, too.

    Even though Houston is the way it is Buddhism still has a very sparse presence here other than in the Asian communities. There are proabably 30 or so temples but most of them aren’t welcoming to English speakers.

    I’m still campaigning for my family to join a Unitarian Universalist church. They are pinnacle of the blended religion practice.

    I totally rambled all over the place in this comment. This is why I don’t blog regualrly.

    • No problem! Ramble away! I’m sure Texas is tough. I get to visit Austin or Houston once a year for family or conferences.

      There are proabably 30 or so temples but most of them aren’t welcoming to English speakers.

      I would be curious how you did not feel welcomed. Most Buddhist Churches/temples with a large Asian population have been welcoming to me. I have had some bad experiences with small college sanghas where I was told that it was an “Asian youth group” first and a “buddhist group second”.

      Sometimes I am alittle put off by the language barrier. I mean it is difficult to practice when I have no idea what is going on but maybe if you communicated with the temple proper they would be able to walk you through it?



      • Well just one example is one of the Vietnamese temples in town that has a large sign near their entrance gate that reads:

        “Vietnamese Only”

        Admittedly we haven’t tried many of the other ones. Our own temple drove our Texas native monk to leave by its latent racism. They would have sangha meetings all in Mandarin. They would print the monk’s schedule in pinyin, with no English translations.

        It’s weird. Individuals in our temple do try to be multicultural. Our group the English Dharma Group, was started by a “regular” member nearly a decade ago. He rarely comes but he does do dharma talks every once in a while.

        Yet sometimes it seems as if other elements in our larger sangha are trying to make us feel unwelcome. At the Temple fundraising bazaar our sign was only printed in pinyin while every other sign was in both.

        Perhaps it’s our own cultural biases that make us feel uncomfortable at the Asian temples. It’s hard to say.

        We do have a Zen center which is, predicatably, staffed by a white Zen priest. Zenfant goes there. I’m thinking of checking it out if for no other reason than to hang out with Shane.

        The funny thing is our group (EDG) has many blenders from the Shamanistic Native American hippie healer, to the devout Christian exploring other systems of belief, to the martial artist looking for more focus and authenticity to his practice.

        • Thats a shame!

          “Perhaps it’s our own cultural biases that make us feel uncomfortable at the Asian temples. It’s hard to say.”

          That is what I fought with but I never had the insistance upon not speaking English. Usually (and this is true of any religion that has a primary language ~ like Greek Orthodox) there are two sessions/liturgies one in traditional language and one in English.

          I would also feel like an ass asking if they could do everything in english but I don’t know.

          RE: Hanging with Zenfant! Awesome! I think your path is clear.



  4. My son will be lucky enough to have a good exposure to other faiths/beliefs. My family ranges from atheist-asatru-pagan-buddhist-agnostic-catholic-lutheran. Though his Christian family all lives back in Michigan, so he probably won’t be exposed to it that much until he goes to school.

    Also, he has started putting his hands together and babbling while we chant. Pretty cool that he’s already picked up on that, and he’s only 1.

    I’m actually going to be posting on my own religious blendings today or tomorrow.

    And as always, well written.

  5. Yes, I know what you mean. My stepmother is a hard-core atheist and my father supposedly baptist but I didn’t know anything about it until I was well into my ’20s. With my fundamentalist mother and stepfather, it made for an interesting blend of attitude.

    Fortunately, they’re all being really cool about my choices. I didn’t expect that, but maybe I should have. Perhaps I am just as prejudiced, when I determine the attitude of ‘outsiders’ in thought? It goes both ways.

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  7. If I had to definite my spirituality in one word it would be: Enlightenment. I seek authentic Dharma in many different areas, from Christianity, Hinduism to Buddhism. The subject of Enlightenment dominates in all areas of my exploration in those faiths. I’m guided more by intuition, if I feel I need to learn from a particular field, then I do my research and add it to the toolbox.

    My own Native background didn’t steer me in this direction or my family or friends. This quest for Truth has been pretty much of my own initiative. My partner thinks I’m crazy, my friends don’t understand my drive and I’m not bound by the ties of blood relatives or children.

    So, even in the simplest of terms, I’ve been ‘out there’ by myself for some time now. In the non-dual sense, no one is really alone, we’re all interconnected, every sentient being has been our kind parent.

    The school of the universe has given me an All-Access Pass in this life, so I’m going to utilize to the fullest and seek Truth, Enlightenment for all sentient beings. Who cares what other people think? Be kind, be loving, seek Truth and lead by the strength of your spiritual practice. 🙂

  8. John,

    I’ve been really enjoying your posts since I discovered your blog (Thank you Google Reader!).

    I am a longtime (30 years+) practitioner. Heavy into Zen and Tibetan Buddhism for most of that time, but have dabbled/explored Wicca, Native American Spirituality, Free-form ritual in the “Robert Bly” men’s movement days, hindu tantra, etc.

    My first Zen teacher was a student of Suzuki Roshi’s at the original ZCSF. When I met him, in college at Dartmouth, he was running a place called the New Canaan Academy. It was an interesting blend of Soto Zen w. a down-home flavor.

    Later I studied w. Kapleau Roshi in Florida, but had a falling out which I attributed to the “rigid cultural trappings.”

    15 years later, I have been thinking about starting some sort of Unaffiliated “No-Zendo” here in Ft. Lauderdale. Basically a space for group sittings where anyone would be welcome to practice as long as there practice wasn’t disturbing to the other members. Sort of a “Do As Thou Wil’t, long as none are harmed” ethic.

    “The Highest Form of Victory is Winning Without Contention” ~ Sun Tzu

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