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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Jim,

Have you read any of Frances or Bill Taber's writing? There are Four Doors to Meeting for Worship and The Prophetic Stream (Bill's writing), and Finding the Taproot of Simplicity by Frances. There is a recent publication, too, The Witness of Conservative Friends, authored by both. It may be less directly related to your interest, but I think it would be helpful.
My local sangha is a meditation group that is open to different traditions. It's the only sangha that I can drive to. This is the group in front of which I formally renewed my vows.

I personally consider myself a Shambhala Buddhist, which is a lineage started by Choygam Trungpa and continued by Pema Chodron.
I don't believe that God is a being bound by samsara who has been reborn in the godly realm and will eventually fall back when his/her good karma has been exhausted. I believe that God is outside of the entire karma system.

I also think your description of the purpose behind Buddhist meditation is not complete. I believe the purpose is to lessen the hold one's ego has over oneself, by doing so, one realizes that there's no difference between self and others, and this creates compassion. So, it's not about emptying your head, it's about becoming open. And this is useful for Meeting for Worship, because if one's head is filled with ego-driven thoughts, stories, desires, one will never notice that still, small voice within.

As for what I get from Buddhism and what I get from Quakerism, I'll answer briefly that from Buddhism I get a well-defined method for generating compassion and from Quakerism I get a method for communing with God.

Thanks for your questions, Friend. I apologize if my answer is not as detailed as you'd hoped, I'm running late at the moment (supposed to be leaving my house now and haven't even eaten breakfast!)... Please feel free to ask for more details and I'll respond more thoroughly later. :)
I just realized I didn't answer your last question! I'll get to it later today. :)
I also want to talk more about my belief in God. I am open to not knowing what kind of being, if any at all, God is. I don't know if He's the creator of the universe, Jesus, etc. I do know that I've experienced Him (I call God Him out of habit; I was raised Catholic), but I don't know what he is. I am open to the possibility that what I call God is the "buddha-nature" inherent in all of us, or that the buddha-nature (bodhichitta) might be what we Quakers call "that of God". (Note that here I am not equating Buddha with God, though the terms may imply that. Bodhichitta is the inherent ability within all beings to become enlightened and to radiate compassion. It is often described as being our purest form, before ego encroaches and corrupts. This is comparable in many ways to the Quaker belief of that of God, that all humans are born with the ability to commune directly with God and to radiate love, but we sometimes lose the ability over time, as worldly ways and ego's desires gain power.)

Apparently I have a lot to say in answer to your questions. I apologize for the multiple replies!
Excuse me, Friends, for joining your conversation. I would like to ask you, John, to clarify what you mean when you say that "Quakerism is monotheistic." Do you mean that this is your experience of Quakerism, or do you mean to state a general principle or universal rule? I am an Australian Quaker, and in my experience I have conversed with atheist, non-theist, pantheist and panentheist Quakers, including non-theist and pantheist Quakers who are happy to describe themselves as liberal Christians, and non-theist Quakers who also describe themselves as Buddhist and Jewish.
My understanding is that membership and being a Quaker is much less about what I say I believe, or how I intellectually construct my world view, and more about how I live the testimonies, how I express the light within as outward action.
I am not Buddhist, and have not 'taken refuge' but during my wife's terminal illness and since her death I have been greatly supported in learning compassion through the Buddhist practice of Tonglen (from a book by Pema Chodron).
In my understanding, Quakers do not have a creed or doctrine. Wouldn't any practice which genuinely helps Friends to be more compassionate and to live the Testimonies be welcomed by any Quaker Meeting?
On the surface, there are obvious differences between the Quaker and Buddhist traditions, but when we understand both traditions more deeply, don't these differences seem less important?
I'm reading a book by the Dalai Lama titled "Towards the True Kinship of Faiths." I hope this conversation is taking us in that direction.
In friendship, Ian
Thank you Friend John
In quoting from your Yearly meeting Faith and practice, you are not expressing only your own experience or opinion. Thanks for this, it is very interesting.

The latest draft of Australia Yearly Meeting Handbook of Practice and Procedure (which may be adopted in January 2011) includes these requirements for membership: "There is no test of doctrine and no outward observance imposed for Membership. Instead, applicants are expected to be open to inner spiritual experience, and be willing to share in the responsibilities of the Meeting. Members try to attend Meetings for Worship regularly, as a joy and a way of spiritual refreshment, as well as a contribution to the life of the Society. Members are expected to attend Business Meetings whenever possible, and to support the Society financially as they are able." When I was interviewed for membership many years ago I had not completely left the Catholic Church, and while I no longer consider myself Catholic, I have not done anything to formally relinquish that membership. A couple of years ago my late wife and I became 'Members in Association' of the Uniting Church in Australia. This is a form which recognizes concurrent membership of two religious communities. I am interested to see that Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has a different practice. Personally, I welcome this diversity within Quakerism.

I don't see liberal Quakerism as 'watering down', but rather as a two-fold movement of going to the roots of our spiritual experience as Quakers and at the same time learning from a range of sources, including recent developments in science and technology. To me, Quakerism is about seeking truth. As you say Quakerism is not Unitarian Universalism, but if the truth leads us close to Unitarian or Baha'i or any other tradition, that would not worry me.

I am not trying to persuade you to accept my world-view or my way of being Quaker. I enjoy being a member of a tradition in which accepts people as different, and I guess a difference between us is that while you seek unity among Quakers, I enjoy diversity,

In friendship, Ian
Good Friend John:

Your summation of the difference between Buddhist meditation and Quaker worship reflects my own experience and understanding. This applies particuarly strongly to Tibetan Buddhism and its underlying madhyamika philosophy; from this perspective emptiness is considered to be the highest realization. Not all Buddhist traditions share that view, but it is pervasive in Tibetan Buddhism and in the Shambhala tradition specifically.

I think there are also differences on the ethical level when it comes to Tibetan Buddhism and the Quaker tradition. Transgressive behavior is lauded in the Tibetan tradition (in contrast to other Buddhist traditions) and Trungpa, as well as his successors, was notorious for these kinds of behaviors. I think this diverges from a Quaker understanding of the role of ethics in life and how ethics functions in the spiritual quest. I am not questioning the commitments of any of the members of Shambhala. On the other hand, I do think that it is worthwhile to note how seriously the founders of the Quaker tradition regarded ethical norms; it is one of the distinguishing features of the Quaker heritage, and transgressive behavior was not viewed as somehow mysteriously redemptive.

Thanks again for your summation.

Best wishes,

Jim
RE: ""Applicants who are members of another religious body are expected to give up that membership as they join the Meeting, formally advising the other organization of their intent to join the Religious Society of Friends, and endeavoring to obtain a letter of release from their previous religious affiliation."

I am really glad I wasn't subject to that when I became a member of my meeting.
Thank you, Friend Raye. I am not aware of these. I will take some time to look them up.

Best wishes,

Jim
I should also clarify that Shambhala Buddhism is the simplest way to answer this question, but I based my vows off of Tibetan Buddhism (I used many quotes from Milarepa and Shantideva) in a more general sense and Zen Buddhism as well. My favorite modern Buddhist authors are the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Pema Chodron.

I hope this helps clarify some things? I may not have a complete understanding of Shambhala; I do suffer from the lack of a relationship with a teacher in my lineage. The leader of the meditation group is a Theravadan Buddhist.
Part of the problem is that "Quaker" is a rather old religious term now, and the groups using it have diverged so much from each other as to be mutually unrecognizable. Originally, Quakers were monotheistic Christians who believed in the Bible as an authentic revelation and who had definite doctrines. Somehow over time, many people were admitted into membership who didn't share Quaker doctrines, and the original doctrines have now been largely forgotten by most of those who use the term "Quaker" to describe themselves. Both traditions still exist, and tend to irritate each other when they come in contact, or when they are mixed together in the same meeting. This can be very confusing, especially to newcomers. Perhaps the best course would be a complete separation, so that while still talking to each other (as we might with members of any religious group to which we don't belong), we would not have to keep demanding that others conform to our definition of what "Quaker" means.

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