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Living Dharma E-mail: Coming to Buddhism From Other Faiths

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From: Jerry Keaough
To: dharma@livingdharma.org
Subject: gratitude
Thank you for having your website. I grew up in Hacienda Heights, until I was ten in 1980. I moved with my family to eastern Iowa until '83. We moved back to Culver City for a short while until we moved to Walnut where I went to Del Paso High school.
I am a 29 year old Caucasian who lost faith in the Christian church, and have since found Jodo Shinshu by-way of studying most Buddhist schools. The teachings of Shinran Shonin are indeed the true Dharma, and his message of salvation through the Nembutsu should be expanded. This website is a great way to show others the true path. Thank you again.
In Gassho
Jerry Keaough

From: Susan
To: dharma@livingdharma.org
Subject: thankyou
I am a single mother in my twenties. I have had a guilty feeling about my ability to live in the moment. I am Christian and have always felt that my shortcomings overshadow my life as I live it. I have made many mistakes, but I have always rebounded feeling I have gained some strength from my experience. I move on, with a fresh sense and the hope that I will recognize potential hazards in the future. I am often thought of as being "happy" all the time. For some reason, I was made to feel that this was strange—being happy. I enjoy life and hope for the same for others. Your information on the WWW has been helpful to me in that I have a jumping off point for future exploration of Buddhism. I have always felt that my ego is in the way of being a more compassionate human being. Compassion is easily felt, but difficult to practice. Thank you for your website.
Susan Fischer
Austin, TX

From: Anne Palencia
To: "'dharma@livingdharma.org'"
Subject: VERY CURIOUS
To whom it may concern,
For a few years now, I have been reading books here and there about Buddhism. right now, I am reading a fabulous book called Awakening the Buddha Within. I would like to become a more serious student of the Buddha's teachings and to incorporate his philosophies into my life. When I was younger, I went to Catholic ccd on Sundays. I feel silly asking, but is there a school, for a lack of better words, where someone like myself could become a student? I cannot travel to India but I would really love to learn more about the Living Dharma and Buddhism. I would appreciate any guidance you could offer . Thank you.
Sincerely, Anne Palencia
San Bernardino

Dear Anne,
Thanks for visiting our Living Dharma website. Your question regarding becoming a student is an excellent one. The essence of "being a Buddhist" is in fact having a humble, sincere desire to seek the truth, or in other words, of being a true student. Our "What is Buddhism" page explains this concept further. As far as what the "school" represents in Buddhism, there might be many different answers depending on which sect or "tradition" of Buddhism you ask. In our particular tradition, which is Shin Buddhism, our "school" is mainly attending regular Sunday Services at our temple. In addition, our members can attend special in-depth retreats and seminars here and at other affiliated temples. However, although the practice of Buddhism varies depending on tradition or sect, most American Buddhists, as far as I am aware, do belong to some form of a local, community-based "Sangha," or group of Buddhist seekers. Therefore, because we can thank our Asian ancestors who brought the Dharma (the Buddha's teachings) with them to America, it is not necessary to travel to India (actually, Nepal is where the historical Buddha was born).
Regarding the importance for a Buddhist of being a member of a Sangha, please read a very unique article in our Library by Dr. Nobuo Haneda, entitled "What is the Maida Center for Me?." Dr. Haneda explains the significance, for all Buddhist seekers, of the Sangha in Buddhism.
Finally, though I'm not aware of any temples in the San Berdoo area, if you are interested in attending a Shin temple service, check out our "Temple Locations Page." This page has links to Shin-based Buddhist Temples, or to sites with links to them. Also, on the bottom of the page are links to other sites with links to temples other than Shin.
Anne, you are of course welcome at West Covina Buddhist Temple anytime, but check our Calendar for the times we will be there. It would be a long drive, but we do have one family that comes occasionally from San Clemente and another that comes from Oxnard! Good luck, and please let us know if we can be of any other assistance.
Best Wishes,
Peter Hata
The Living Dharma Website
West Covina Buddhist Temple

From: Anne Palencia
To: dharma@livingdharma.org
Subject: Thank You, Peter Hata
Peter,
Thank you, so much for your kind response to my inquiries. I would very much like to come to a service at your temple. How should I prepare, or do I need to prepare? I am going to try and come this Sunday. Also, do you think the discussion class on September 15 is something someone like myself should attend? I don't know that I would have a lot to discuss, but I could listen and learn!!
Thank you, again, Peter.
Sincerely,
Anne Palencia

To: dharma@livingdharma.org
Subject: Buddhism as a world view
Hello, my name is Bernie Terrien I live in Green Bay, WI. I am a Catholic Christian. I am becoming interested in Buddhism for the same reason that I am drawn to the Christian Contemplatives or Monastics. I feel somewhat uncertain about this interest because I am not looking for a "new religion", but rather, I am interested in comparing the teachings of Jesus and the lifestyles of Christian monastics with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama and the lifestyles of Buddhist monastics. I am drawn to the humble, simple and caring nature of both of these "groups". From what I have gathered so far, Buddhism is not a "religion" but rather a philosophy, mindset, or world view. Maybe I am wrong because I do not have much knowledge on this subject. My question is, can one be a Christian "Buddhist"? Do you know of any such people? I once heard of a Catholic Priest who was a Buddhist. I am probably even using the term "Buddhist" wrong in applying it as a label. Another question. If I wanted to learn more about the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and his teachings, would picking up a copy of the Dharma (if there is such a book) be a good idea or would there be a better resource to read?
Peace, Bernie

Dear Bernie,
Thank's for visiting our Living Dharma Website. As to your question, I forwarded it to one of our members who grew up Catholic. Here's his answer:
Having grown up Catholic myself, Bernie’s question "can one be a Christian Buddhist" is familiar to me. As he has already discovered humility, simplicity and caring are common to every genuine practice of faith. Can you imagine them also sharing a common desire for a personal experience of God/eternity?
In "LIVING BUDDHA, LIVING CHRIST" Thich Nhat Hanh does a masterful job of bringing these two "traditions" together and establishing our heritage as sons and daughters of man and the spirit. As brothers and sisters, labels only serve to separate us from that which we share and, I suggest, that which we seek.
Personally, after having explored both traditions, I feel our connection to each other and our personal responsibility to lead by example even more strongly. Seek not man's interpretations; seek the experience itself.
Gassho,
Raleigh Waller
The Living Dharma Website
West Covina Buddhist Temple

From: " Wangden "
To: <dharma@livingdharma.org>
Subject: immoral conversion
Sir/Madam, I have asked this question to many other Buddhists and I like to ask you this also. Question: Christians in particular are trying their best through hook and crook to convert Buddhists and others into Christianity. They usually prey on the poor and sick by offering financial and medical bait to convert them and malign Buddhist faith with lies. I feel that Buddhists should form an organisation to stop this from happening. I don't know what is required to do, but we must do something. Are you aware of this problem? and what do you think we can do to stop it? Wangden

Dear Wangden ,
Thanks for visiting our Living Dharma website. As to your question, I am aware that there may be a tendency for some Christians to look down upon Buddhists. For example, Pope John Paul himself has recently made some very unfortunate remarks about the "threat" of Buddhism to Christianity. On the other hand, one of our ministers who participates in the Los Angeles Interfaith Council, whose members come from all religions, has had nothing but positive things to say about interfaith relations here. Also, at our temple, we have some members who've actually "converted to Buddhism" from various Christian faiths. In any case, I'm not aware of the kind of "baiting" that you speak of. Where has this been happening?
Best Wishes,
Peter Hata
The Living Dharma Website
West Covina Buddhist Temple

From: Esteban Martinez
Subject: question
Hi
My name is Esteban Martinez and I’m studying Buddhism. I just have a question that I think is important to me. Does a Buddhist believe in God, that supreme being who created the Universe and created the men?
Thank you
Esteban Martinez

Dear Esteban,
Thanks for visiting our Living Dharma website. As to your question, it’s one that is neither important nor unimportant to Buddhists. Let me explain. Rather than worshipping a creator God as Christians do, the goal of the Buddhist is to "awaken" to what we call the Dharma (hence the title of our website, "The Living Dharma"). The Dharma, Esteban, is not a god at all. It is the universal truth, or reality which the historical Buddha awakened to 2,500 years ago. The essence of this truth is the impermanent, and also interdependent nature of all life. When we can fully and deeply appreciate this truth, "good" things like compassion for all living things, can arise within us.
So in one sense, although Buddhists don’t share the same beliefs as Christians, it might be said that we share the same goals, that of becoming happier, more caring people.
Read the "What is Buddhism" page for more info.
Best Wishes,
Peter Hata
The Living Dharma Website

From: jaguarlover
Subject: Web Page
Just a note about your informative and well designed web page. The sections "What is Buddhism" and "Common Misconceptions about Buddhism" are very helpful. I also enjoy the links to the various articles which provide everyday applications/approaches to the world from the Shin Buddhist perspective. I discovered Shin Buddhism only recently and was immediately struck that this could be the answer to my lifelong spiritual search. I was raised in a Baptist church but have not accepted Christian theology since my teen years (I am now 55), and was always "put off" by the narrowness of Christian theology. I live in St Louis, Missouri-three hundred miles from the closest Shin temple and at this point have to rely on the internet and books from the Buddhist Bookstore in San Francisco.
Your site has something for all ages-despite my age, I have checked out the "Kids Page" which has been helpful in explaining to my three boys (ages 8, 10, 12) our new religion. Thank you for this visually appealing and informative web site.
David Charlton

Dear David,
Thanks for visiting our Living Dharma website, and for your encouraging comments. It’s always nice to know that our website has helped someone in some small way.
I regret that you don’t live closer to a Shin temple, only because to be a member of a Sangha is in some ways the most rewarding aspect of studying Buddhism. Please feel free to send us a question or comment at any time, or let us know if we can be of any other assistance.
Best Wishes,
Peter Hata

From: Mary Ann
Subject: Buddhism is really me.
Message: Hi. I am a true Buddhist at heart. I'm glad I've found your establishment. Because I've been born into Catholisim, does that exile me from practicing and educating myself on my truest feelings, my learned state-of-mind? I'd like to get your opinion.

Dear Mary Ann,
Thank you for visiting our website, and for your question. The answer to your question is that as a teaching, Buddhism definitely doesn't "exile" anyone. As you may know, Buddhism is unlike religions based on ethics and morality, "right" and "wrong." Buddhism is a teaching based on the Dharma, which is something like "truth" or "reality." The essence of this truth is that all life, even animals and plants, are interdependent. All life is one.
We have many articles in the Library and Real World Buddhism sections of our website. Spend some time there when you can. For example, here's an article (http://www.livingdharma.org/Living.Dharma.Articles/WhatIsABuddhist-Haneda.html) that pertains to your question of who can be a Buddhist and what a Buddhist is.
Please let us know if we can be of any other assistance.
-PH

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