My question relates to the view of and position on feng shui harmony by Buddhist traditions in general, and specifically in gemstones (which some believe have physical/metaphysical properties). How do Buddhists regard feng shui; at any rate, practically speaking, would a belief in the Chinese philosophical system by the meditator potentially enhance his or her meditation practice? My understanding is that Buddhism is not a belief system but rather an education, and I lean towards an integral philosophy which integrates in a pragmatic way the best each culture and tradition has to offer, so I would appreciate answers without a binary, dualistic perspective, unless of course Buddhists are wholly antagonistic towards feng shui, then I can accept that as accurate.
My question relates to the view of and position on feng shui harmony by Buddhist traditions in general
On a first impression of feng shui (which I know almost nothing), they seem unrelated.
As far as it concern disposition of things in space through some kind of theory and not with ethical and religious doctrines, there is no relation. In that respect, feng shui is unrelate to Buddhism as much as architecture is unrelated to it.
In other words, the metaphysical aspects of feng shui and its theory being correct or not will only provide one with a correct or incorrect understanding of its domain (as much as a physics theory will only provide one with a correct or incorrect understanding of its domain).
and specifically in gemstones (which some believe have physical/metaphysical properties).
That might be more controversial, as might be seen as lucky charm or similar.
The problem with lucky amulets, I think, is that they add to the explanation of why something -- otherwise unrelated -- good or bad happened: say, because one was wearing (or not) such amulet. Therefore, wearing an amulet start to become a religious practice, something one does for his or her good fortune and spiritual well being. Then, it slowly obscures the ethical nature of the mind (specifically, of intention), and the laws of kamma, ultimately substituting real practices (meditation, study, striving for good/virtuous behavior) for mere usage of amulets -- it is so much easier after all.
As a religious practice, then, it might figure as Wrong View, specifically "attachment to rites and rituals". In Buddhism, the rituals, carry its own usefulness and practical purposes, but have no spiritual value by themselves. However, attachment to them is considered very harmful to oneself, likely because rituals may end up substituting the real practice (by looking like it's something important), and because clinging to it opens the door to all sorts of bad mental qualities.
Now, reading about that feng shui energy, Qi, I found the following:
The retention or dissipation of qi is believed to affect the health, wealth, energy level, luck and many other aspects of the occupants of the space.
The claim to affect physical health might be OK (and we are all too familiar with invisible things to the eye that actually exist and causes harm) but luck, as I discussed above, might be problematic.
How do Buddhists regard feng shui;
I imagine chinese buddhists probably dig it.
at any rate, practically speaking, would a belief in the Chinese philosophical system by the meditator potentially enhance his or her meditation practice?
"enhance meditation practice", in Buddhism, is understood as something that is effective in bringing one closer to permanent destruction of suffering, to nirvana. This may involve, for instance, attaining absorption concentration (jhana), but ultimately is concerned with:
- understanding and seeing the rising and cessation of body/materiality, feeling, mind and dhammas.
- penetrating the three marks
- eradicating the ten fetters (belief in a self, doubt or uncertainty, especially about the teachings, attachment to rites and rituals, sensual desire, ill will, lust for material existence, lust for material rebirth, lust for immaterial existence, lust for rebirth in a formless realm, conceit, restlessness, ignorance [of the four noble truths])
My understanding is that Buddhism is not a belief system but rather an education, and I lean towards an integral philosophy which integrates in a pragmatic way the best each culture and tradition has to offer, so I would appreciate answers without a binary, dualistic perspective, unless of course Buddhists are wholly antagonistic towards feng shui, then I can accept that as accurate
While Buddhism doesn't fit well as a "belief" (in general, it does not promote faith and the act of believing to any distinguished role as in other religions, though some schools assign more importance to it), there are beliefs, however provisional. Its virtue lies not in absence or presence of beliefs, but in instrumenting one with skills to investigate and see clearly beyond deceitful appearances. Thus, the full responsibility to not be fooled by one's mind and the world rests entirely in oneself.
Summary Culture does not go out of the window upon joining a religion. The religion invariably adapts to the culture, provided it does not prove too conflicting. Humans are a product of their environment - they are not born, raised or allowed to live in a vacuum. They have to make their beliefs fit into the existing world to some degree. Intention and effort trumps tradition every time.
I've seen crystals as well as the practice of acupuncture, ancestor worship and feng shui in Vietnamese Buddhist monasteries.
Culture like language is a vehicle, and people can sometimes get attached to their favorite views. There are some who believe the Dharma cannot be practiced in any language other than Pali or Sanskrit. Likewise some believe one can only get enlightened by living in the forest and walking barefoot. In both cases, learning to read Pali or to managing to walk barefoot in the forest will take a few years, but isn't directly related to understanding dharma. It may help, but it is obviously not a precondition for enlightenment.
There is a story in the Dhammapada (I can't remember the verse) where an old man ordains as a monk after hearing the Buddha and decides given his advancing age he doesn't have the time or mental faculty to memorize the suttas, so he chooses to solely practice meditation and nothing else despite the pessimism of other scholarly monks. He too becomes an Arahat.
Breaking from all culture and adopting an ancient or foreign tradition may help some, and hinder others, who may give up Buddhism as too difficult.
The Buddha broke from Indian monastic tradition of his time - he didn't sport a long flowing beard, or dread locks or clutch prayer beads. I believe he was sending a message that dress code and other superficial things don't make one a monk. However, he warned his followers away from rites and rituals, luxuries, alcohol and other intoxicants.
Yet, Sake is an allowed drink for Zen monks in several Japanese monasteries, as is the propitiation of forest kamis (demi gods). Tibetan Buddhism too uses alcohol in certain ceremonies, as well as the worship of the Bon gods with rituals. Plus, the post of a Dalai Lama traditionally came with a palace with lots of luxuries and guards.
We must cross the river by building a raft with whatever materials we have at hand - as long as it doesn't sink, it doesn't matter. One design may build a raft that never leaks, another design may include a bucket to bail out the bilge. As long as the raft crosses the river, it's okay. Some may choose to never stray from the original design, no matter what the trouble, and others may try to improvise.
Enlightenment is a very personal responsibility - a great teacher or monastery or tradition or country maybe excellent to practice Buddhism, but even then there is no enlightenment if we don't put in the effort.
Modern technology is bringing different traditions with their cultural quirks together, and making us ask such questions. This is the time for Buddhism to evolve to the digital age. Perhaps if the Buddha was alive today, "don't post selfies or photos of your food on facebook" would have been one of the minor precepts.