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Thread: Am I Buddhist or Hindu? Does it matter?

  1. Am I Buddhist or Hindu? Does it matter?

    Namaste everyone,

    So I am writing this thread because I have lately come out of my early 20's globalist inspired naivety whereas I thought all religions should be looked at purely from a standpoint of common principles (spiritual not religious philosophy, etc). I realized that in a world of religions taking advantage of one another (*cough* Christian fundamentalism *cough* Islamism *cough*) or simply peacefully and passively competing for space by existing, religious identity matters. There may be emptiness in words or names, but there is also great power in society. So, I am wondering what exactly I am.

    I know this sounds like a strange realization for an adult to be having, but here is my background, and I will try to be brief. I was raised "spiritual but not religious" with two very left leaning parents of originally Christian descent in the USA. They introduced me to several Dharmic teachers including the Dalai Lama and Jon Kabat Zinn, and in college I began exploring both the writings of Swami Vivekananda, Yogananda, as well as eastern inspired/trained new age writers like Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle.

    Since college, three things have happened: 1) I got engaged to my Hindu girlfriend/classmate of mine, who is from India, and have thought about how to best accommodate her background/ belief, 2) I have become more serious about Zen meditation classes and regularly attend the local zendo, and 3) I have read very extensively on the philosophy and history of EVERY religion in my spare time, but have focused on Dharmic traditions because they are in line with my beliefs. Although I know there is a large gap with regards to scripture, I find Vedanta and Buddhist ideals of "god" very similar in respect to non-duality and emptiness (at least to my understanding), and I derive much solace from these concepts. However, as I begin to become more serious about my zazen practice and simultaneously hear her describe how I will have to go through the thread tying ceremony before our wedding, I am beginning to wonder whether this makes absolutely perfect sense or if I am straddling two cultures unnecessarily and that I should turn my primary focus to Sanatana Dharma... This will, I suppose, matter extra because we plan to raise out child/children Hindu when we have them, and I worry about them being confused about the same thing.

    So, from your standpoint,
    -Does it make sense to continue to pursue zazen meditation/Buddha-Dharma while becoming more involved with the traditions and ceremonies of Hinduism?
    -Would it make more sense to identify as a Buddhist or Hindu if people ask? Does it matter at all given that they are both Dharmic traditions anyways, and I have an open/scientific mind when it comes to philosophy. This point makes me a bit frustrated, because I don't feel that Buddha originally even consciously intended to make a separate religion entirely.

    If it means anything, my wife to be is not very religiously involved herself (certainly less than I am), but does care a lot about Hindu traditions and stories, and maintaining them.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    September 2006
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    Re: Am I Buddhist or Hindu? Does it matter?

    hariḥ oṁ

    A few things from my point of view which is neither here or there; that is, I hope only to provide food for thought.

    I do not have an answer for you , as I suspect you are quite capable of making a reasonable decision; and, as it is with many decisions of this nature, there is no ‘lock’ on what you choose in the short term because with real growth we change our minds, values, beliefs and the like as we evolve with more knowledge. So, you have a forgiving decision.

    You mention this:
    • So, I am wondering what exactly I am
    • Would it make more sense to identify as a Buddhist or Hindu
    Instead of wondering what you are, it is who you are that brings resolve to your question.

    If you come to realize ( in full) who you are, it is in fact, ‘I am’ aha. I am in hopes from your readings you recognize this term. It is when one says I am _______ ( fill in the blank: a manager, husband, happy, sad, big , small, smart, ill, aged, young, etc etc) then one has gone past who they really are. If you confuse doing ( a bundle of actions) for who you are you missed the real you. This is in fact at the core of sanātana dharma, unfolding one's core nature.

    This dharma is not about becoming localized with an identity of one thing or another, but about one’s actual universal status. The more localized/individual the less universal. See the point?

    So, the question you may be asking is what practice(s) or darṣana (school) should align to? I would ask: what behaviors should I align to that supports sanātana dharma ( or buddhist) frame of reference. I would ( in my humble opinion) consider the wisdom of patañjali’s yogadarśana and become familiar with the principles yama and niyama. They are highly transferable and most noble. Here one’s actions & behaviors are groomed accordingly and are in line with dharma. This same knowledge is found within our upaniṣads , śastra-s and the like, yet patañjali was kind enough to put them in one place for our kind consideration and are not overly burdensome as I see it.

    Calling one’s self a hindu or buddhist , all well and good, yet it is a label. Action and behaviors that align to one’s unfoldment is at the core sanātana dharma. Sanātana dharma embraces many many views, but the end point for all of them is wholeness, fullness of Being; living one’s full potential in God Consciousness.

    iti śivaṁ
    Last edited by yajvan; 20 July 2017 at 10:54 AM. Reason: corrected spelling
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva


  3. #3

    Re: Am I Buddhist or Hindu? Does it matter?

    I'm first and foremost Buddhist.. Buddhism puts everything into perspective for me. I work with Hindu Gods/Goddesses doin pujas and such.. And I rely on Christianity as well.. So I operate using 3 different religions and I have no problems about who I should be labeled as. The Divine will accept you as long as you are true to the Divine. So be true to the Divine and not worry about what label you should identify with.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    July 2006
    Milwaukee, WI
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    Re: Am I Buddhist or Hindu? Does it matter?

    Labels have the primary function of giving others a quick reference to what my beliefs are. Like you I find much in common with both Hinduism and Buddhism, but, because of 3 very powerful dreams of Ganesh, I call myself Hindu. Like Yajvan I recommend the teachings of Patanjali, the book "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" is one of my favorites.

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