I don’t like clones or pod-people. I don’t want to raise little pod-people. And that is exactly what I would be doing if I ever tell my children that “We are Buddhists”. It is just as bad as taking little Christian kids and telling them “We are Christians”. Or non-believers.
We aren’t anything like that. We (my wife and daughter) are a family but we are not Buddhist and I don’t want to raise or convert anyone to Buddhism. I don’t want to raise a religion. I want to raise a person. A free-thinker. An individual.
In a recent piece by The Statesman on “How Buddhist Parents Struggle to Pass on their Beliefs”
More-established religions in the U.S. such as Christianity and Judaism provide structured religious formation for children through baptisms, bar and bat mitzvahs, Bible and Hebrew schools. But, Strand argued, Western Buddhist centers are not always as family friendly.
Yes, religious indoctrination at an early age is very family friendly. Western Buddhist Centers that want to provide some child care is fine but when it is something that involves religious indoctrination it makes me ill. I know that this is going to come off as insulting but when I think of anyone of any tradition or religion telling my daughter what to believe it makes me physically ill.
There’s a comfort in knowing — or at least believing — in a religious narrative that provides answers such as the promise of heaven or the threat of hell. And those explanations might be easier for children to grasp.
But Zuniga said his Buddhist tradition embraces not knowing.
If his Buddhist embraces not knowing then why are we talking about telling kids what to believe rather than letting them discover it on their own? My practice is organic in nature. It grew and developed from my own practice. It would not have developed had I had it forced down my throat (or if you want to call it nurturing, fine).
Children also can begin to understand Buddhism at a very simple level by talking about the importance of compassion and mindfulness, said Carlene South, an ordained layperson and member of the Austin community of Plum Blossom Sangha , part of the lineage of Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
The secular aspects of Buddhist practice (wisdom, compassion, concentration) are things that we should empart on our children despite our religious background. I empart these things as well (or at least try to do so) but I will not insist on framing it in a Buddhist context. That is indoctrination of religion into a young mind.
The goal is not indoctrination, David Zuniga said, but rather a spiritual template his daughters can use in life.
“Hopefully (we’re) offering spiritual underpinnings that can be relevant regardless of what path they’re on,” he said. “My position is I want them to choose the path they will follow. I want them to find their own way.”
Well, the article ended on a high note and I hate to commit the fallacy of “slippery slope” but it seems that once you go down this path it leads to indoctrination and as I stated in the beginning of this post….
I hate pod-people. I don’t struggle with rasing my child Buddhist. The decision was quite easy. Raising a good human-being…now that is hard.
I’m so glad this question is never satisfactorily resolved! Whenever we are trying to impose anything – a way of thinking, a belief system, the expectation of an outcome – it is not satisfactorily resolved. We resolve this question only through our own practice, as we let go of the notion that there is anything dogmatic that will benefit either ourselves or our children. Satisfied with things as they are, we can be ourselves, and let our children grow up to be themselves as well, each of us on a path that is entirely our own (Amen, sister! ~ John) Who knows what my daughter will do? Who knows? I will respond with love and acceptance along the way, because that’s how you raise a Buddhist mother.