Of all the thousands of the Buddha’s teachings, he directed a very few three or four to specific individuals. However, considering the multitude and breadth of his teachings, it is really hard to imagine why more were not in the direction of kids. Hence, one may ask, is it because following his path requires a matured mind and commitment?
Or was it because Indian society twenty-six hundred years ago had the instruction that children should be firmly in household hand?
Nevertheless, it was because the Buddhist teaching will ideally affect a child’s moral conduct. Hence, he directed his teachings to parents and teachers. By so doing, his lessons will be easy for a child to connect his or her life. Moreover, kids learn better when influenced.
In general, this article talks about the impact of practicing Buddhism on children in the western world. That is to say, the effects Buddhism has on the children of western society.
Therefore, to make these impacts more comprehensive, we divided this page into six major areas, namely:
- Origin of Western Buddhism
- Encountered Problems
- Impacts of Western Buddhism
- Inspired Principles
- Lessons of the Four Noble Truths and
- Improvement Factors for Children
ORIGIN OF WESTERN BUDDHISM
What is Western Buddhism Teachings?
Western Buddhism or Westernized Buddhism is a philosophy and practice of Buddhism that came as an inspiration of Buddhism practiced in Asia. Although, it differs markedly by trying to appeal to Western tastes.
Hence, they tone down emphasis on teachings that they believe to be superstitious or supernatural. Then, the practice focused more on practicality and integrating Buddhism in children’s lives. The westerners achieve this through activities like breathing exercises and paid “classes”.
How Buddhism Came to the West
The first Western interest in Buddhism was from archaeologists and scholars. Indeed, it was through British surveys that many important Buddhist sites in India became rediscovered. As a result, a few Western pioneers and adventurers seriously practiced Buddhism with native teachers in Tibet and other countries. But, in general, they saw Buddhism as something interesting. And, not considered a useful way of life.
Furthermore, the first significant meeting of Buddhism and Western popular culture was when Zen Buddhism came to America in the 1950s. The funny and impossible style of Rinzai Zen with Koans (meditation subjects in the form of riddles) such as “What, is the sound of one hand clapping?” made a great impression on the beat generation. Thus, teachers from Japan opened several traditional meditation centers.
Despite its strong cultural flavor, Zen, probably the best known Mahayana school, grew steadily in the US and other countries. As a result, it producing its Western teachers who are fully capable to carry on the spread.
Which Branch of Buddhism Contributed to The Growth of Western Buddhism?
Although, the Theravada had come West as early as the beginning of the 20th century. It is mainly popular among immigrants from Buddhist countries. More so, there still exists the traditional reliance on monks and nuns. Of course, they must also beg for food on a daily alms round and live under restrictive conditions. Hence, making it challenging to integrate into Western society fully.
Basically, there are teachings typical of the Theravada tradition. Such teachings include the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and an emphasis on material renunciation and rebirth. Above all, they are well represented in most popular definitions of Buddhism.
What Is the Major Problem of Western Buddhism for Children?
Actually, studying Buddhism in the West is hard because of the practice already mixed-up together with New Age beliefs, as well as Yoga. Also, Hinduism which entered with the Hippies and the Beat generation and counterculture. Additionally, the influence of Romanticism affected its ideas of religion and spirituality in general.
That said, there are still some Buddhists here in the West that practiced in Asia. Generally, they have no interest in Westernizing the Buddhism they learned in their children. As a result, all of their teachings are free. And, they do not seek fame or profit, nor do they solicit donations.
In addition, the practice of Buddhism is there for all who finds it to be true and real. Therefore, there is no need for changing Buddhism to suit our needs. Instead, we change ourselves by practicing the path of enlightenment. Besides, the same important problems that the Buddha addressed (suffering & happiness) remains the same for every culture and have not “modernized”. Hence, it is also difficult to classify Western Buddhism as a religion. This is because most people do not agree on the definition of religion anyway.
What Is Buddhist Impact Since Its Arrival in The West?
Basically, it is over 50 years since Buddhist teachers started arriving in the West. That is to say, since, the early 60s. Moreover, it was from then that Buddhism collided into the counterculture.
Thus, here are the lessons from the time to date:
Inadequate Approach to Enlightenment:
Many who found Buddhism in the 60s saw nirvana as the vital peak experience. A decade later, these recovering hippies were painfully finding out that Western Buddhism concerns more with reshaping character and behavior. This is in contrast to the significant and mystical experiences. Henceforth, younger Buddhists are often more fired by social action than spirituality.
It Does Not Focus On Monks
In most Asian countries, Buddhist monks are real practitioners of Buddhism. They focus on meditation and study while lay people support them. Certainly, distinctions between monks and lay people do not fit in with modern society. Even more, western monastic orders are relatively scarce. As a result, non-monastic practitioners are often earnest. And, they power the various Buddhist movements.
The Schools Are Mixing
Most Asian Buddhist teachers assumed they would establish their existing schools in western countries. Hence, there were western Zen and western Theravada, etc. But, the boundaries for establishing more schools are breaking down. This is because western Buddhists would not note the differences. Consequently, it was not achievable
The Emerging Western Buddhist World Is Essentially Non-Denominational
Certainly, people take what they need, not what they are given. So, for all the talk of lineage, transmission, and the purity of the teachings, children’s needs as much as teachers’ wishes are the driving force of western Buddhism.
Mindfulness Is Where Buddhism and The West Meet
Buddhist mindfulness practices apply to everything from mental health treatments to eating out. Of course, we are now seeing a “mindfulness boom”. Though, these approaches apply core Buddhist insights into modern living. Therefore, this will be the most significant development in western Buddhism since the 1960s. Above all, it will probably shape the further coming years.
Buddhism Effect Is Multi-Dimensional
The mindfulness movement is rising as the “new Buddhism for the west.” But, unless you are following the Noble Eightfold Path, there is more to Buddhism than mindfulness. As a result, Buddhist influence on western culture is active in the arts, social action, and ecology. Also, on the other hand, we have the psychotherapy and practitioners’ lives.
Westerners Can Meditate and Maybe Even Get Enlightened
Numerous Buddhists who have been practicing for several decades have made the teachings their own. As a result, westerners can do Buddhism. And, that is its future.
Western Buddhism Is Secular or Religious
A growing movement wishes to strip Buddhism of “superstitious” elements such as karma and rebirth. Hence, to sanitize a secular Buddhism that becomes well-suited with science. But, that basically raises a big question: does following science mean ditching enlightenment? Is Buddhism an alternative source of authority that challenges the West? The answer is simple and straight “NO”.
How Did Western Buddhism Impact On Children?
Buddhism is a way of life. After all, the Buddha is not a god and cannot rescue us. More so, we each create suffering for ourselves, in our minds and in our way. Nevertheless, Western Buddhism left a template on how children can avoid these negative influences.
Here are essential Western Buddhist-inspired principles that will help your children:
Recognize That a Stable Mind Is a Powerful Mind
According to Western Buddhism, life is always in flux. And for that reason, stability does not come from external circumstances. But, from the way we relate to constantly changing things. So, we can choose to cultivate a stable mind.
Also, most of us have mental states that rise and fall based on daily events. And, these events we perceive as “good” or “bad”. For Example, a hug and smile from your daughter/son are good. But, getting stuck in traffic and being late for a meeting is wrong.
Buddhism, therefore, encourages you to meet all events with calmness. More so, other things are, so as to give yourself a profound sense of power in accepting things. Also, you can teach your children to model their lives themselves. Hence, meditation practice is a great way to develop a stable mind.
Invite the Concept of Impermanence Into Their Life
In most human culture, most people shy away from the idea that things are continually changing. Actually, human beings like routine, habit, and consistency. But, there is great wisdom in the Western Buddhist notion that all things are in constant motion. Thus, by extension, impermanent.
Additionally, not to get you moody, but death is part of this. In general, all living things die. However, it is merely the natural cycle of life. We can teach this to our children, not as something scary. Instead, by acknowledging the natural process of life. For example, whether it is flowers wilting, a pumpkin rotting or leaves falling in autumn.
Lastly, on a daily level, we can learn to accept, rather than fear and change at large. And, we can also teach the children that change is natural. As a result, the best way to work with impermanence is to be grateful for every day because every day is different and unique. Consequently, one can take gratitude as the opposite of entitlement.
Learn to Be Okay With Anxiety
Absolutely, western Buddhists know that because of impermanence underlying anxiety always exists. Stress is not a sign that something is wrong. Rather, it is an experience of being alive in an impermanent world. So, this is not a feeling we can “fix” in ourselves, nor our children. Thus, anxiety is a normal emotion every human feels. Hence, our suffering around it clears away when we acknowledge and accept it.
Pay Attention to Your Child’s Emotions
Buddhism encourages us to pay attention to life’s fluctuations and notice what is. For this reason, emotions are not “good” or “bad.” Buddhists recognize emotions for what they are.
Unarguably, we know that emotions rise and fall away. Hence, we should teach our children to learn to process their feelings in the most natural way. As a result, teach them to stay present and experience their emotions until they pass. Furthermore, parents do not need to interrupt this process in an attempt to fix or change their feelings.
Trust That Your Child Is Resilient
In everyday life, there is loss and disappointment. As such, many parents today cushion and protect their children from the sharp edges of life. And, this is an instinct. However, parents should take up the challenge of allowing their kids to have “safe” struggle.
As a result, safe struggles are usual disappointments and setbacks around homework, sibling conflicts, friends, rules, chores, and so on. When kids struggle on their own, they are more likely to begin to solve problems. Most importantly, they build up resilience to life’s ups and downs. This is mostly without needing or wanting a rescued by a parent.
Furthermore, there is excellent Buddhist teaching by Shanti Deva, an eighth-century Buddhist Monk. He said: “When you walk on the Earth, your feet may get cut. You can either lay down hides of leather wherever you walk, or instead wrap leather around your feet and make a pair of moccasins“.
With this, parents do not need to hover around their kids to always protect them from life. Rather, it is most advisable to teach them to stand for themselves. Thus, they would be able to make their moccasins so they can navigate their obstacles. And, above all, build up their natural resilience.
Four Noble Truths of Western Buddhist
Even while there are variations in western Buddhist culture, the basic Buddhist teachings remain the same. These include the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. Thus,
The First Noble Truth: Dukkha
Life is full of suffering. Dukkha usually in translation means suffering. In life, we have an illness, poverty, disease, old age, and death. We cannot keep what we like and cannot avoid what we do not like. In all, we know we suffer. So, our children should learn this from the onset.
The Second Noble Truth: Samudaya
There is a cause for suffering. And, this cause of suffering is desire and illusions. They based mostly on ignorance. Therein, because of unnecessary wants, we go into clumsy actions. Thereafter, we go into suffering. Wanting life, wanting death, wanting things, wanting pleasure – all lead to suffering.
The Third Noble Truth: Nirodha
There is a state of mind free from suffering. Thereby, stopping the cravings, the suffering goes to an end.
The Fourth Noble Truth: Marga
There is a way to end suffering. Therefore, to end suffering, we must end our cravings. Thus, the way to ending cravings is through the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path
Truth is found through the Middle Way by way of the Noble Eightfold Path. The path involves:
Right Viewpoint – To view things as they are. So, in the end, the result always turns out better and you will never get disappointed (samyag-dṛṣṭi, sammā-diṭṭhi).
Right Values – Commitment to mental and ethical growth in moderation. (samyak-saṃkalpa, sammā-saṅkappa).
Right Speech – Ability to teach children how to speak in a non-hurtful, not exaggerated, truthful way. (samyag-vāc, sammā-vācā).
Right Actions – Wholesome action, avoiding action that would harm others. (samyak-karmānta, sammā-kammanta).
Right Livelihood – Having an emotional ability that one’s job does not harm him or others. Thus, directly or indirectly (makers of weapons, drug dealer, butcher, etc.) (samyag-ājīva, sammā-ājīva).
Right Effort – One makes an effort to improve. (samyag-vyāyāma, sammā-vāyāma).
Right Mindfulness – Mental ability to see things for what they are with clear consciousness. (samyak-smṛti, sammā-sati).
Right Meditation – States when a child reaches enlightenment. And the ego disappeared (samyak-samādhi, sammā-samādhi).
Other Factors of Improvement for Children
As a course for its continuous development in every kid, western Buddhist makes sure every child:
- Develops ethics, mindfulness, calm and insight meditation and wisdom
- Endorses widespread inquiry through knowledge, discourses, ancient texts, dialogue, and diverse methods. And, environments such as monasteries, centers, and forests for the practice of meditation.
- Explores relative/ultimate truth.
- Knows the importance of the divine, namely love, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity as a location of the divine.
- Points to awakening and liberation. Through seeing the emptiness of self-existence of ‘I’ and ‘my’ and inquiry into dependent arising.
- Recognizes a kid has the potential to abide as a god (Brahma vihara) through love, compassion, etc.
- Figure out mara (the power of temptation, the power to deceive, shadows) and karma (unsatisfactory or harmful influence of the past on unfolding processes). Also not that karma is also about the potency of wholesome action with blind spots.
- Recognition of the five domains for consciousness – heaven, human, animal, hungry ghost, and hell – dependently arising on causes and conditions.
- The essential teachings and practices (the Dharma) stands free from the limitations of Western categories. For instance, theism, atheism, agnosticism dogmatism, philosophy, theology, psychology, and any clear view of materialism/matter.
Summarily, this piece discussed the influence of Western Buddhism on every kid. As well, it mixes the dominant philosophies of Buddhism into everyday parenting. As a result, parents should note that one of the principal goals of western Buddhism is to enable children’s emotional maturation. Above all, improve emotional resilience. While on the other hand, making the daily life of being a parent a whole lot easier.
Most noteworthy, this does not mean being peaceful and calm all the time. It is about impacting fully in the growth of every child towards his approach to spiritual things!