Sunday, March 10, 2013

Have it your way

Recently started reading Alan Watts' Buddhism: The Religion of No Religion.  This is one of the early passages, concerning the difference between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

What is the great difference between these two schools?  The Theravada is very strict.  It is a way for monks, essentially, rather than laymen.  There are many ways of living Buddhism.  The Theravada Buddhists are trying to live without desires: to have no need for wives or girlfriends, husbands or boyfriends; not to kill anything at all; living in the strictest vegetarian way; and even straining their water so that they do not eat any little insects with it.  Also in this very strict way, they meditate all the time and eventually attain nirvana, which involves total disappearance from the manifested word.

This branch of Buddhism is associated with Southern Asia, including Thailand and Cambodia.  Which shows you how much it isn't practiced by laypeople, at least if restaurateurs are any guide.  Seriously, a Thai restaurant in almost certainly not a vegan restaurant.

But the Buddhist religion interests me.  Not necessarily as a practitioner or adherent, but certainly as an admirer.  More than any other major world religion it seems to be a way of thinking rather than a set of beliefs.


susan said...

Many people call it the Buddhist philosophy rather than religion but that might be nit-picking. It's definitely true there are many benefits to be gained from meditating and Alan Watts is/was/is an amazing instructor.

Did you know Tibetan people who are Buddhists also move insects and worms out of the way when they build but they do eat meat because little will grow at that altitude? I think they don't worry too much about religious taboos the way Westerners do.

Ben said...

Philosophy or religion, it interests me in that it doesn't seek to impose itself by force. Or at least a lot of practitioners are too wily to try that. There have been some military incursions.

Tibetan Buddhists, from what I understand, are in the Mahayana branch, which is looser. Neat that they manage to thrive in such a harsh environment.