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Is there a way where someone (for the sake of discussion) who is Jewish by belief and is actively practicing, could meditate and take up certain Buddhist practices without actually forfitting monotheism

This is just a question to understand theory, not directed to be anything arguementative or offensive

Thank you and Peace!

  • 1
    You can try doing a meditation course under the tutelage of Mr SN Goenka. It is open to people from all religions and the practice does not demand any conversion of sorts. You can remain Jewish yet follow the Sila, samadhi, panna (morality, concentration,wisdom) path as taught by Buddha. The results of which are here and now and the path is universal. – user3743672 Sep 21 '14 at 7:21
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    Let me refer you to "Everything Is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism" by Jay Michaelson. It offers many interesting thoughts on compatibility of Judaism with Tibetan Buddhism. – Andrei Volkov Sep 21 '14 at 20:42
  • I see no problem at the start but suspect that a belief in monotheism will become an obstacle quite quickly. – PeterJ Oct 31 '18 at 12:58
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For the sake of discussion, and (by searching Mi Yodeya) to try to answer from the Jewish perspective,

  • This answer warns that certain practices (e.g. bowing) might be seen as "devotional".

  • And this answer, that worshipping the Buddha or seeing him as God-like would be prohibited.

  • This answer says,

    For a Jew to burn incense in front of a statue is horrifying, no matter what he will say are his inner intents. Similarly, the proclamation, "In Buddha I find refuge" is a catastrophe for the Jewish soul.

    ... but it also (rightly or wrongly) claims that,

    Today, this refinement process is extending to Buddhism. Many Jews began their spiritual trek with the path of Buddha and continued by discovering their own heritage in Torah. A twofold process occurs: Buddhism has evolved more in the past thirty years than in all its history before, to the point that what is presented today in America as Buddhism is already more Jewish than it is Buddhist. And, secondly, when those practicing "Jubus" return to Jewish practice, they reject those aspects that are anathematic to Torah, while making good use of those aspects that are complimentary.

  • These answers suggest that Judaism already has some forms/objects of meditation of its own.

  • The universe is host to a multitude of beings. In order to make connections with the angels and beings you must practice as they say. I am Muslim-Buddhist and I have recited various mantras from so many religions to see which sound feels good (mantrayana). Furthermore, if saying a mantra, burning a candle, is a way to connect to a deity and get their blessings... Then try it! You'd be surprised at real-ness of spiritual blessings. Buddhism is actually the least religious and you can actually follow the Noble Truths, the holy grail of Buddhism and psychology, without any religious stuff. – Ahmed Nov 17 '14 at 7:12
  • As a Catholic Christian I would not be praying to "angels"; and I would also be expected to believe in "one" God, and not in trying to connect to "a deity" among many others. – ChrisW Nov 17 '14 at 14:24
  • The universe is a multitude of beings. Some of them ascended, some realized, most of them not. You can connect to many of them provided you follow their instructions. By saying you believe in a "God" you will be limited to practicing the core psychologically beneficial aspects of Buddhism such as the Four Noble Truths and 3 poisons and 6 paramitas. Nonetheless, to apply the principle that I introduced to you, learn the rules of your God exactly and follow them to the dot. Why? There is esoteric benefits involved. So be a very good Catholic! And become aware of your mind (meditate). – Ahmed Nov 17 '14 at 15:44
  • "Learn the rules of your God exactly and follow them to the dot" sounds like something which Saint Francis of Assisi might have tried to do. But anyway, if you read this question it was from a believer who wants to "take up certain Buddhist practices without actually forfeiting monotheism". – ChrisW Nov 17 '14 at 16:06
  • Exactly. If you could emulate Saint Francis, you'd reach the pinnacle that is beyond religion, the apex where all religions are one. – Ahmed Nov 19 '14 at 18:15
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I think we can split Buddhism in 3 different levels of commitment:

  1. Meditation, Dana (charity) and basic Sila (precepts). In this level, you can easily keep any peaceful religion, you will benefit from meditation and people will feel you are slowly changing, more inclined to a spiritual life, usually your family/friends/priests/bishops etc. will not see it as a threat.

  2. Lay Buddhist Life. Here you may have some conflicts depending on your religion and how orthodox you are. Lay buddhists may prostrate and take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. This is where your previous religion may tell you that you are turning your back on them.

  3. The life of a monk/recluse.

So, as long as you commit to the first level, i.e: meditating; cultivating generosity; refraining from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and intoxicants, you should be fine with your current religion.

Problems will arise if you want to progress in the Buddha's teachings while keeping your current religion, but it is up to you; the path is there, it is your choice.

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From a Buddhist perspective that's fine. The Buddha gave his teachings in order to alleviate the sufferings of living beings, and last time I checked that includes everyone, not just Buddhists. If a non-Buddhist wants to take up certain aspects of Buddhist practices because they feel it will help them, then that is fine.

Are you wondering about any particular practice in particular?

  • Well I really appreciate meditation but if i was to simply think of good thoughts and positive vibrations/healing instead of trying to invoke the Buddha or any sage, would that be acceptable? – ARK96 Sep 21 '14 at 3:39
  • @Arkapur That's totally fine. I myself as a practicing Buddhist don't invoke the Buddha or Buddhist figures either. – Bakmoon Sep 21 '14 at 4:12
  • Good answer. Added a bit more in my answer. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Sep 21 '14 at 5:55
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Monotheism falls under Sassatha Ditti. It is one of the two false views that prevents one from progressing in the path. Such beliefs are called Maggavarana Ditti. But it does not prevent the path to heavens. Then again, you don't really need Buddhism to reach heavens. But if Nibbana is what you are looking for, you have to give up Monotheism at some point. You won't get far as long as you cling to such a belief.

Buddha preached the Dhamma to non-Buddhists, but they gave up their false views once they've embraced the Dhamma. Nobody attained enlightenment while still retaining such misbeliefs. It's not even technically possible.

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    I think your argument for saying that "Monotheism falls under Sassatha Ditti" is that Sassatavada is (wrong) belief in an eternal/unchanging Self, and, that monotheism claims that God is a Self who is eternal/unchanging. – ChrisW Sep 21 '14 at 13:39
  • @ChrisW, Yes, exactly! – Sankha Kulathantille Sep 21 '14 at 13:44
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Buddhist training is around:

  • Morality
  • Development of a controlled mind
  • Develop true understanding of reality and wisdom

There would be no religion which is incompatible with this.

Also, Buddhist meditation revolves around how to get out of stress and misery. Any religion will not be opposed to someone seeing a psychologist. Likewise, there is no issue with someone taking up Buddhist Meditation.

As you see things for yourself, any wrong views will be abandoned as you see things at the experiential level. The main thing is getting started, not worrying about theoretical aspects which you have not seen at the experiential level (In Buddhism, any theory not put into practice is of little use). What you see at the empirical level is what you should consider as reality (Dhamma). Also, care should be taken not to jump to conclusions when you have seen things partially, either at the experiential level or through logical deduction. You are in the best position to judge this when you have reached the final goal, i.e. liberation of your mind from stress.

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There are a lot of Jewish Buddhists. There is even a slang term for it (Jewbu or Jubu).

Wikipedia's Jewish Buddhist article says.

A large demographic of Jewish Buddhists, constituting its majority, still maintain religious practices and beliefs in Judaism coupled with Buddhist practices and perhaps beliefs.

Since most Buddhists do not consider the Buddha to have been a "god", Jewish Buddhists do not consider Buddhist practice to be "worship". In addition, many Buddhists (particularly Theravada Buddhists) do not "worship" the Buddha but instead "revere" and "express gratitude" for the Buddha's [...] accomplishment and compassionate teaching [...]. In Mahayana Buddhism (the dominant form of Buddhism in the world today), the Trikaya (three bodies) Doctrine, and praying to Buddha as savior in Pure Land Buddhism significantly blurs the issue for Jews of whether Buddhism is a religion and whether Buddha is considered a God.[citation needed]

There's more information ("Further reading", "External links", etc.) in the Wikipedia article.

I believe the best example of a "Jewbu" is Leonard Cohen who is a Zen practitioner.

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Meditation as a healthy practice of "spiritual hygiene" is not limited to Buddhist practitioners though the language used to teach meditation is easily accessible through Buddhist teachings. Contemplative practice is part of Judaism and other religious traditions. Jewish Buddhist retreats combining practices from both traditions in the setting of competent teaching and supportive community are available. See www.truenorthinsight.com for further information.

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There is a misconception that Buddhism is a religion, and that you worship Buddha. Buddhism is a practice, like yoga. You can be a Christian and practice Buddhism. I met a Catholic priest who live in a Buddhist monastery in France. He told me that Buddhism makes him a better Christian. I love that.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

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First of all, for anybody who wants to remain a practicing Abrahamic, I would recommended that they steer clear of any kind of Buddhist sect that features a "living" Buddha. (And, likewise, anybody who wishes to renounce Abrahamic theology should avoid converting to a "living" Buddha-sect -- the similarities are too strong, and you would end up practicing Abrahamism by another name.)

A living Buddha is one whose spirit is said to still exist, and be accessible to to humans by means of petition, holiness and sacrifice, and who can influence events in ones favor, in the afterlife or possibly in this life. Aside from being idolotrous (from an Abrahamic perspective), it is a gateway to superstition, and a form of attachment, wholly incompatible with the early Buddhism revealed through the Pali canon.

A non-returner Buddha, however, is much more compatible with monotheism, with atheism, with secularism, with almost any -ism you can throw at it. This Buddha never promised people a destiny of luxury and bliss; he taught others how to think rationality about the inevitability of suffering, in this life, in previous lives, even in the afterlife, so long as you continue to exist as an individual with its own wants and needs. That is the first (and second) noble truth. He taught people that suffering can be greatly reduced, if they control themselves and discipline their minds. Mindful meditation clears the mind; it eliminates unskillful motives, like boredom, loneliness, empty fantasies, and desire for control over the future. It can even help with dependencies and additions. It can be practiced with religious, superstitious, secular, even atheistic intent, depending on what is most effective for you personally.

How does this relate to Abrahamism? It does not directly attack the most valued Abrahamic orthodoxies. Although the Buddha himself was not a monotheistic worshipper (he knew better), he would not argue with you about mysticism and metaphysical questions. He would want to advise you, like he did his contemporaries, on how to make the most of your situation, in your day-to-day life; and he would ask you whether you are spending your time and mental energy most effectively.

Another way to think of it--this may be very controversial--would be that the historical Buddha himself would never take up arms in defense of any country or system of government; but there is no reason why you, as an ordinary person, cannot attempt to study and contemplate the Four Noble Truths, and practice mindfulness, even if you were drafted into the military in a country with universal military service. If your spiritual journey is such that you haven't yet given up the household life; if you, unlike the Buddha, have property and family to protect; there is no reason why you shouldn't defend your possessions, your family, and the regime that makes your profession, property claims, and civil rights possible; and honor your ancestors, who died defenseless, in so doing.

  • Thanks for the advice. Yes I find the only last paragraph quite controversial -- I'd imagine that the first precept might require a practicing Buddhist to be a "conscientious objector" ... though I realise that there are Buddhist countries too which have more-or-less universal conscription into military service. – ChrisW Oct 28 '18 at 21:55

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