QUESTION: Most weeks I visit a local temple in my town, where Theravada monks have a brief service before spending about 45 minutes meditating. This then makes me feel that maybe I should have made the effort to travel to the temple of my own form of Buddhism in a more distant town for the service there. It is quite difficult for me to travel so far at the moment due to work and other commitments. I suppose the problem I have is clinging to one practice rather than allowing myself to absorb all of the Buddha's teachings. However, as the Buddha that I am devoted to is never mentioned in the Theravada services I feel as though I’m not staying true to my faith. The alternative is that I don’t go to any service and don't meet with other Buddhists. Meeting with others with the same or similar beliefs helps me. I learn and feel a warmth that only my faith gives. I’m trying to be a good person and to learn about my faith and I am learning the way that others celebrate. I hope that this is a right action.

SHORT ANSWER: Mix and match.

LONGER ANSWER: All Buddha's teachings are good and there is value in having flexibility in one's practice. There is nothing wrong with singing hymns in a Christian church. At the same time, there is a great value in associating with those who have a similar form of practice and faith to oneself. The 'solution', therefore, is to do both. Sometimes go to the convenient temple and sometimes make the effort to go to the one that has the best fit. One can learn everywhere and, as a Buddhist, one can practise devotion to the Buddha in any Buddhist temple. The presentation of the Dharma may vary from place to place. Some presentations may go deeper than others and none is perfect. As a lay person, the bast course is to learn everything you can from every opportunity that presents, but also align oneself with a sangha that, as best one can judge, most truly represents the path in a manner that works for you. I have often been in this position myself. There are not so many Buddhist temples and the nearest may not always be the one you need most, but that does not mean that one cannot make excellent friends there and participate in the good spirit, even while, whenever possible, going elsewhere in order to cement one's main sangha connections.

Here in France we have the reverse situation. Each week I hold a Pureland service and give a teaching at Oasis, a Buddhist community nearby where most people follow Tibetan Buddhism. When they can they go to see Tibetan teachers who live further away. Last weekend they went all the way to Strasbourg to hear the Dalai Lama. This is all fine. Buddhism should give an example of friendship to the world and this means friendship between sanghas as well as between individuals.

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Blog Posts

Running a Course in Korea and Elsewhere

Posted by David Brazier on August 3, 2018 at 1:40 2 Comments

I am currently leading courses on Buddhist psychology here in Seoul, Korea, but as I am putting the course onto this site as we go along, members of La Ville au Roi (Eleusis) are also responding so it is a bit as though the course is going on in several countries at the same time which is nice.

Varlam Shalamov

Posted by Geeta Chari on July 16, 2018 at 0:00 1 Comment

From The Paris Review:

For fifteen years the writer Varlam Shalamov was imprisoned in the Gulag for participating in “counter-revolutionary Trotskyist activities.” He endured six of those years enslaved in the gold mines of Kolyma, one of the coldest and most hostile places on earth. While he was awaiting sentencing, one of his short stories was…

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The Buddha, Season 1, Episode 1

Posted by Geeta Chari on June 29, 2018 at 9:21 1 Comment

I have been watching The Buddha on Netflix, and although I came well-prepared to scoff, there is a surprising amount of food for thought from a Pureland perspective. What follows is a review of the Pureland touches in the episode, coloured inevitably by my upbringing in India, although I have now lived in Britain for more than half my life.

The scene opens in the republic of Kapilavastu, depicted as a green and pleasant land, with the Himalayan mountains as a backdrop. (I was…

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Nembutsu Question

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on April 20, 2018 at 8:22 1 Comment

I found this in a book that I'm reading. It has challenged my current "understanding" of the Nembutsu. I tend to think of the name itself as salvation and the bridge to the Pure Land...

"...Nembutsu is not a means to gain salvation but a reflection of it. Shinran acknowledges there is nembutsu without true entrusting because he lived in an environment where nembutsu was recited for benefits and merit. By itself it cannot produce true entrusting. Nevertheless, they are inseparable as…

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