Choosing a school


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Eastern United States
Greetings all.

I was wondering this morning how one goes about choosing which school (or path) to follow. I'm American and wasn't born a Buddhist. So I get to choose rather than relying on tradition.

I've leaned toward the Theravadan tradition, which seems to be a more straightforward method (i.e., no extra deities or rituals). But as a woman, and probably as an American, I disagree with some of the traditions of this school, especially the more patriarchal elements. Zen scares me because its harshness, particularly the punishment aspect. The idea of having someone strike me while meditating is repulsive to me; I've had enough physical violence in my life. Tibetan Buddhism seems cluttered with deities and rules, and frankly reminds me of my Catholic upbringing to much. BUT the writings of Pema Chodron and Tenzin Palmo resonate very much with me. I especially admire Tenzin Palmo for her quest to given women into full access to the "deeper" Buddhist teachings.

I know that no group is perfect and that you take the "bad" with the "good". (Such is life.) But how do you know what to chose? Is it bad form to try out other lines of thought? Or is it really just a matter of "chop wood, carry water" and letting it unfold as it may.

I'd be interested to hear other's experiences/views. Is it just me? Or have others struggled with this?

With metta,

p.s. I may have asked this before on this forum. It feels familiar to me, but that could be because it remains such an issue.
Namaste Zenda,

thank you for the post.

indeed.. it can be a difficult choice... however, there are certain things that appeal to a particular being.

the Tibetan tradition, for me, appeals do to its insistence on a proper philosphical understanding of the teachings... whilst the Zen school appeals to me due to it's heavy emphasis on praxis. the seizea stick is a cultural accretion...

back in the day.. it was compulary military service for all males, unless you were a monk. thus, many beings entered the monastary simply to escape from military service and thus, didn't have any intention of practicing.

in any case... there is another school that you may find to be very appealing... started by Thich Nhat Hanh:

as an aside... my personal recommendation is to explore all the traditions and take the practices that resonate strongly with you, leave the ones that don't. there is no real issue with that for a layperson... of course, it does get a bit more complicated if one takes monastic vows.
Thanks as always Vajra. I am familiar with Thich Nhat Hanh and have enjoyed several of his books.

It's comforting to know that sampling from many traditions is acceptable. But I still feel the pull to find a "home" so I can dig in the work in a more structured way. But maybe that is up to me ultimately? (As so much on this path is ... )

Monastic vows. A very appealing thought. Perhaps after my son is grown and my husband has passed on ... My family will really think I've gone round the bend then ...

Namaste Zenda,

recall this from the Kalama Sutta:

"Do not believe in anything because you have heard it.

Do not believe in tradition because they have been have been handed down.

Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumoured by many.

Do not believe in anything because it is found written in religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the account of your teachers and elders.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of all, then accept it and live up to it."