Author Topic: Bringing the Dharma to Others  (Read 4286 times)


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Bringing the Dharma to Others
« on: December 02, 2009, 07:00:26 am »
Often, we hear of people saying that we as 'Buddhists', do not 'evangelize'.

Yet in the Scriptures, we read of how the Buddha often commend us to spread the message far and near, the Dharma.
Not resorting to the calculating or marketing methodologies of blatant and questionable ones

How do you then bring the Dharma to others as 'Dharmadutas' (Dharma Ambassadors)?

This thread is seeking to learn of how Buddhists spread the message of their Founder and even take some ideas here as an added worthy effort for the Dharma. One may include ideas, resources and even statistics.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2009, 07:06:12 am by thornbush »


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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2009, 12:16:20 pm »
Mostly by trying to make my life an example to others of what Buddhadhamma is about.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2009, 01:45:35 pm by David »

Offline humanitas

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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2009, 06:49:25 pm »
During the Buddha's time there wasn't near the amount of "overbombardment" there is today by media/technology.  The values of society and what place monastics held in that society was a bit different.  We can surely spread the teachings by being the teachings, and there's no real evangelizing, we're not trying to convince anyone but ourselves...  ;D  Buddha said spread the message, the message of peace by you yourself becoming peace as well as peacefully interacting with others.  He never said to go preach to people with his message that he is right and the son of god and people would just go "Oh ok." and have blind faith. 

I think the pivotal difference is the motivation that composes the foundation of the "spreading of the message."  For Buddha it was a motivation to help others beings be happy and live well, and be free of suffering.  For the monotheists it is about their prophet/messenger of XYZ divinity giving authority to some people on who will go to heaven and be happy and who will go to hell for being naughty.  Monotheists who "evangelize" or seek to convert all have a "quota" in the back of their mind about who is going to heaven.  Little of the present is spoken for in these systems of belief, since all pivots on "being saved by some divine being at the last minute."  People wait till their deathbeds to repent thinking their whole lives, I'll just repent at death and all will be well.  Whereas the Buddha's message deeply emphasized that there is no time, just the present and your death is inevitable and your deeds will be your judge, no one can save you not even at the last minute on your deathbed.  Your deeds will be your companions that ferry you into the next rebirth.

The motivation being so different between the two definitely creates a distinction between "evangelizing" and "preaching the word of god" and "being the teaching" and "sharing the dharma" (only with those interested or who seek it).  I get asked more about Buddhism than I ever got asked about Christianity.  People are curious when they see the direct benefits of your practice in your eyes, they are so used to rehearsed words out of a bible.

I personally don't have any issue talking about the Buddha if asked, but I don't feel any need to "convert" anyone.  Buddhism, like anything, is something you either come to or you don't. I always feel like everything I say and do will say something to someone about what Buddhists are like.  I kind of feel like an ambassador of the dharma and due to that I feel I should really do my best to both know what I am representing to others and I strive to represent it as purely as I can - by being the teachings and eradicating delusion one sitting at a time...   I think most Buddhists feel this way.  It's the practice that really does it to ya.  Becoming awake and aware. and all the --->  :meditating:
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Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2009, 09:53:43 pm »
First of all, I think to be in the presence of a Buddha (or an arahant or bodhisattva) must be such an awesome experience, that people are inspired to convert.

There's this theory that for those of us who hear Dharma and become inspired by it, we probably had some exposure to Dharma in a past life.

And I agree with leading by example. I am pretty open about being a Buddhist, but otherwise private about my spiritual practices, unless someone asks me for details.

I know evangelical Buddhists. They creep me out.

Chokyi Wangpo

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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2009, 11:41:38 pm »
Broker some kind of dharma deal with the Gideon ninjas that are always sneaking into places leaving bibles.

Offline happycrystal

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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2009, 12:45:15 am »
Hi all,

How do one bring the dharma to others?

Buddha said that life is be enlightened is to reach nirvana.

At some point of our life, we will realize the truth that life is a illusion.....when we suffer, we want to know why we suffer and how to get out of sufferings. This is where buddhism become meaningful, in that it provides the means to suffer less by how to response to situations which are beyond one's control. The two friends whom i brought to listen to Ajahn Brahm's dharma talks, commented that when they listen to Ajahn Brahm's talks. They can feel genuine warm compassion emanating from Ajahn Brahm's heart. I, too felt this way. I think all of us can sense genuity and compassion if it arises from the heart. It's the good feeling , they said this is the nectar of the dharma, it calms and comfort one's mind.

wiith metta

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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2009, 07:00:22 am »
I have read in a couple of places that you should only encourage someone else to investigate Buddhism if they ask you about advice first.

Mabe that is the way it is supposed to be? That the dharma doesn't come to you, but you come to the dharma when the conditions are right? Seekers are ready to receive it when they find it. Others might not "get it" or even find it offensive if they have not inquired about it first.
My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.
What would Buddha do?

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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2009, 12:40:38 pm »
I have read in a couple of places that you should only encourage someone else to investigate Buddhism if they ask you about advice first.

Mabe that is the way it is supposed to be? That the dharma doesn't come to you, but you come to the dharma when the conditions are right? Seekers are ready to receive it when they find it. Others might not "get it" or even find it offensive if they have not inquired about it first.

I think this is very important.  The dharma's approach is based on "receptivity" and "acceptance."  If you're in neither state then the dharma may not benefit you and might actually do the opposite - turn you off for future contact with it.  I would LOVE to share the dharma with my family, but they aren't particularly receptive.  My brother just told me he's suddenly very interested in Buddhism, and in my heart I was elated that he suddenly felt a desire to connect with the teachings.  So I've sent him some resources, but he will come to is as he does, and I will only provide when it is sought.  Otherwise, I practice being a buddha and sharing the dharma that way without any esoteric language or sanskrit words, I try not to sound in any way like I'm using cult jargon.  (many people feel weird when you start using words they're unfamiliar with or that they have all sorts of ill-conceived notions about)  If someone has interest, they usually let you know and if you're paying attention you pick up on it.  So there's no pressure to "seek" for people who are receptive, they either are or they're not.  For example, my therapist has expressed in hearing about what I'm studying and how it affects me, so in a way, I share the dharma with her once a week.  But otherwise, all my Buddhist interactions/discussion occur online.  When I go the sangha here, we study and meditate, and there's little personal interaction beyond that. 

I think that respect of another's timing and receptivity is essential.
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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2009, 08:52:23 pm »
Ok here's Thorny's perspective.... ;D

I have read in a couple of places that you should only encourage someone else to investigate Buddhism if they ask you about advice first.
Mabe that is the way it is supposed to be?

E.g in a general conversation on religion with others, when I bring in the Buddhist perspective, I often drop subtle hints to the other to investigate the Buddha Dharma for further understanding and investigation but go no more than this.
1. When I had some non-Buddhist friends (the open minded ones that is) who were debating and sharing with me, I encourage them in my inter-faith rebuttals and sharing to look up the proper references and materials on the Buddha Dharma on/offline.
2. When some friends came over and saw my altar or Buddhist collection, it often becomes a conversation piece and amongst the more open ones, I give them references and materials for further reading/investigation.

That the dharma doesn't come to you, but you come to the dharma when the conditions are right? Seekers are ready to receive it when they find it.

I interpret (debatable) this statement holding on to 2 assumptions:
1. 'Let someone else do it', 'It's the monk's job, let him do it'
Perhaps (I) felt that my knowledge of Dharma is lacking or that (I) am still a newbie?
So, what am (I) doing about it? Does that mean (I) can't even say anything about it? :D
See this convo between Ven Assaji and Sariputta, when the latter was still a seeker & known as 'Upatissa' and the former was still a 'newbie':
Questioned thus, the Elder Assaji thought to himself:
"These wandering ascetics are opposed to the Buddha's dispensation. I shall show him how profound this dispensation is."
So he said: "I am but new to the training, friend. It is not long since I went forth from home, and I came but recently to this teaching and discipline. I cannot explain the Dhamma in detail to you."
The wanderer replied: "I am called Upatissa, friend. Please tell me according to your ability, be it much or little. It will be my task to penetrate its meaning by way of a hundred or a thousand methods." And he added:
    "Be it little or much that you can tell,
    the meaning only, please proclaim to me!
    To know the meaning is my sole desire;
    Of no avail to me are many words."

In response, the Elder Assaji uttered this stanza:
    "Of all those things that from a cause arise,
    Tathagata the cause thereof has told;
    And how they cease to be, that too he tells,
    This is the doctrine of the Great Recluse."

Upon hearing the first two lines, Upatissa became established in the Path of stream-entry, and to the ending of the last two lines he already listened as a stream-winner.

2. (I) assume the level of other's spirituality based on my own. 
What if the other wanted to know more but never have the chance and we assume they are not ready?
How many have lamented that they cannot find a Sangha in their area and hence the phenomena of online Buddhist Forums is a blessing, like FreeSangha in response to their conditions, in absence of the actual Sangha offline?
When I started off in 1997, online Buddhist Forums were scarce and my main source was and emailing worldwide Buddhist societies to learn as an online correspondence. Today, this generation is spoilt with so many choices.     
Most people never tell on their spiritual seeking quests in today's world and some of them just need the right 'trigger' to spur them on, via us, as 'Dharma Ambassadors'?
On creating causal Dharma affinities for others....
When I was reading through the records and accounts of Indian/Chinese Buddhist pilgrims,  the ancients had this admirable attitude: they were visionary and missionary. They had this diamond resolve to bring the Dharma to China from India, and this was a joint effort of both the Indian/Chinese Buddhists then, at the cost of their life and resources.
And remember, back then, there was no cruise liner, KLM, American Airlines nor a Chevy/Land Trooper to cross the mass expanse of land and sea to learn and bring back the proper Dharma from India, no internet resources, MSN, facebook, twitter, FreeSangha and so forth.
There were 2 options: on foot and rudimentary ships that were dependent solely at the mercy of the winds and sea conditions.
If those wasn't daunting enough, what lies in store ahead for them on land alone was another mammoth hurdle and it wasn't an exotic Shangri-La excursion either. Hard weather conditions, harsh mountain and valley terrains, bandits, despotic kingdoms, strange creatures..of 10 people who started off from China, only 3 survived when they landed in India and vice versa ...such was the normal statistic of such endeavour...
But their Bodhicitta triumped over all these to the point that one's life wasn't an issue at all, for the sake of sentient beings.
There was a famous story of how one Chinese monk, Daosheng, taught that icchantikas (defined as the base and spiritually deluded of sentient beings) had Buddha Nature when the prevailing thought then based on incomplete/poor translations of the scriptures said otherwise. He was reviled and persecuted as a heretic. Later when the complete and accurate Mahaparinirvana Sutra arrived at China's shores and was translated, his view was confirmed as true.
Ripen conditions? One Indian Master was on a ship, with the full set of the Mahayana Brahma Net Sutra, the Code of the Bodhisattvas, a storm came by, lashing the ship and after emptying most of the ship, the sea still whammed them, and then with tears he realised, China was not ready to receive that Sutra yet and when he threw it into the sea, the storm ceased immediately.
Ever heard of blood being used to write the Sutras when the ink ran out or out of gratitude to the Triple Gem for the Dharma? :o     
What we have in our hands today as Buddhists, were the result of the no nonsense dedication and hardwork made of tears and blood of the heroic ones, who offered nothing but their best and handed down the generations, so that we today, can comfortably sit back behind a laptop in the comfort of our homes, reading accessible materials and freely discoursing. The past foundation has been laid, the piling, beams and roof erected, the present now... its maintenance and enhancement for future posterity.
They CREATED Dharma affinities and PLANTED Dharma causes for sentient beings and not merely waited for conditions to ripen.
See Bodhidharma's case:
Bodhidharma sailed to China in 521. When he disembarked at the port city of Canton, he was received with great ceremony by a local official, Shao Ang, who immediately reported Bodhidharma's arrival to Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty. The emperor ordered the official to accompany the monk to the capital, Chienkang (now Nanking).
Emperor Wu was a devoted Buddhist who had spent a lot of money building temples and duplicating Buddhist scriptures, and he treated Buddhist monks with great reverence. Many government officials followed suit, but they were only playing up to the emperor in the hope of being promoted.
When the Emperor Wu met Bodhidharma, there transpired a now-famous conversation between the two.
The emperor spoke to the monk very politely. "I have built many temples and translated the sutras into Chinese. I have also laid down the rules for people who want to join the ranks of monks or nuns. Furthermore, I have ruled my kingdom in accordance with the Buddha's teachings.
Do I gain any merit from all this? Will I eventually become a Buddha?"
Bodhidharma looked at him calmly and replied, "Your Majesty, you have no merit at all."
The emperor, displeased, asked him, "Why is that?"
Bodhidharma replied, "What Your Majesty has been doing belongs to the merit of Hinayana Buddhism, and you will never be truly freed from endless reincarnation."
Emperor Wu asked again, "Then what is real merit?"
Bodhidharma answered, "True merit comes from unselfish giving, spiritual cultivation, and dedication to the Buddha and to all living creatures. If Your Majesty can do all this, you will gain true merit."
The emperor was not happy with this reply or with the monk, and he started to doubt his true identity. In order to find out whether he was really who he claimed to be, Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, "What is the first sacred law of Buddhism?"
Bodhidharma replied, "There is no such law in Buddhism."
Emperor Wu asked very angrily, "Do you know who is standing before you?"
Bodhidharma replied, "No, I don't."

In 527 AD, 32 years after Ba Tuo's founding of the Shaolin temple, Bodhidharma crossed through Guangdong province into China.
In China, he was known as Da Mo. Da Mo arrived in China practicing a form of Buddhism known as Da Xing Buddhism.(Mahayana)
When Da Mo arrived, he was greeted by a large crowd of people who had heard of the famous Buddhist master and wished to hear him speak. Rather than speak, Da Mo sat down and began meditating. He meditated for many hours.
Upon completing his meditation, Da Mo rose and walked away, saying nothing.
His actions had a profound effect upon his audience.
Some people laughed, some cried, some were angry and some nodded their heads in understanding.
Regardless of the emotion, everyone in the crowd had a reaction.

The Story of Bodhidharma

Others might not "get it" or even find it offensive if they have not inquired about it first.

Again, circumstantial.
So far, I have only known one in life who is insanely hostile towards any kind of philosophy and religion stuff  :D
Other than that, the rest that I know of are capable of handling from a light convo to a full scale debate on religion and Buddhism with me thus far.

So far, my strategy has been like this and sharing it here:
1. Supporting printing and distributing complimentary Dharma materials to be placed in public places, mainly on free racks.
2. Keeping a stock of such materials in case someone wants a copy.
The most Dharma materials that were given away from my experience were copies of the Dhammapada booklets (Ven Buddharakkhita's translation) and bought The Heart Sutra/Chant of Metta CD's (Imee Ooi's version). Surprising results....they came back to me saying they had only praises for the effects that these materials had on them. I still recall my ex-Supervisor coming to me saying that after listening to The Heart Sutra and Chant of Metta, she felt her deep depression was being lifted off and noted so because everyone in the dept felt her change of lifestyle and behaviour. At times, if I find abandoned statues of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, I would restore them back to give away to those who cannot afford a statue, even giving away from my own collection.
3. Encouraging and inviting people to join in various Dharma events, whether they are talks, welfare efforts and charity drives. Amazing responses from non-Buddhists is all I can say. And in turn, when they invite me to their houses of worship for the same reasons, I am there for them.
4. Knowing fully that my own life is far from pristine as per the Dharma, hence I hope to compensate back via points 1, 2 & 3. At least better than doing nothing. Saints often start from the bottom up...they realise the power and value of small things done, how it matters for that one starfish...

Note, that in not one point asserted thus far, have I ever mentioned 'converting' anyone...that is only done by oneself...nor even that I am suggesting anyone to follow what I do, understanding fully, that everyone have their own capacities, commitments and responses. No effort is too small for the Dharma, the ocean, after all is made up of little water droplets, accumulated over time, becomes a mighty ocean.     

Am I making sense?  ;D Thanks for reading  :namaste:

Offline pickledpitbull

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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2009, 09:00:27 pm »
I was once told by a teacher that if I'm asked, share.  Otherwise, keep my dharma to myself.
You've been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn't and you're not.

~ Cheri Huber


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Re: Bringing the Dharma to Others
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2009, 10:09:22 pm »
Some examples from Scripture, Buddhist history and personal bringing the Dharma to others...or standing up for it...
A Buddhist Encounter with Taoists in China
Padmasambhava and Tibet
Angulimala Sutta
Alavaka Sutta
My Story


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