I wish to thank Monica Chase for her wonderful and very interesting interview last week. Thanks so much for sharing with us Monica!
Today we have a new interview so please welcome Bill Jiryu Webb. Bill is a Buddhist and I know you will enjoy his interview as well!
Here Is Bill Jiryu Webb's Introduction:I was raised in a strict Catholic family, and tried to incorporate it into my life. However, try as I might I was never able to accept the essential illogic of the whole thing. Eventually I drifted away from the church, and for a number of years dabbled in a variety of New Age ideas. Over the past 20 years I have found that the secular practices of Buddhism seem to fit my needs and provide me with the satisfaction of following a well-defined path.
1) What religion do you practice?
I refer to myself as a Buddhist Ignostic. An ignostic is one who maintains that there can be no sensible discussion about the existence of god until we arrive at a definition upon which everyone can agree. Until that point, we are literally speaking nonsense. A Buddhist, of course, is one who attempts to follow the path and precepts outlined by the historic Buddha about 2500 years ago.
2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I would not call myself a convert, because I do not practice Buddhism as a religion. However, it does not conflict with any other belief system, to my way of thinking. I know observant Jews and Catholics who practice Zen, even a couple of Southern Baptists -- although I'm pretty sure they don't talk about it much at Sunday meetings.
One of the things that first drew me to Buddhism is the fact that it is the only major religion that does not proselytize, nor does it claim to give you something for nothing. One has to seek and work at Buddhist training, and it's a real pain in the ass for a while. Then you start to get the point, and see some results.
To me a religion involves things like beliefs, a metaphysical or supernatural reality, faith, dogma, ritual, prayer, salvation and eternal reward. I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but not religious. At all. I believe in the human spirit: love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, responsibility, contentment and occasional joy. These are things that bear fruit immediately. I don't trust the Big Banker In The Sky to pay me back when the note comes due.
3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
There are substantial degrees of disagreement within Buddhism regarding practice. All Buddhist faiths follow the Four Noble Truths, which culminate in the Eightfold Path, and all serious practitioners take precepts, which are guidelines for living similar to the Ten Commandments, but not mandatory nor punished by gods. Buddhists believe that bad behavior brings its own punishment, right here and often right now.
The differences that arise are principally over the degree to which mysticism should play a part. They range from Tibetan Buddhism, with its great variety of supra-natural beings, to some Zen sects which do not believe in a supernatural component at all (the position that I espouse). It should be noted that following the teachings of Buddha does not require a belief in the supernatural.
4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I don't know how to answer that. It's like asking a Baptist what position he would hold in the Catholic church. I make a real and sustained effort to follow the precepts and the other guidance that Buddhist philosophy provides. I have "taken refuge," (analagous to confirmation in some Western faiths), but my practice is largely solitary both of necessity and preference. I read, meditate regularly, and attempt to live according to my understanding of Buddhist ethics -- with varied degrees of success.
5)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept).
Some Buddhists believe in reincarnation, althouth it was not a teaching of the Buddha. That got grafted on from the Hindu faith, and was tweaked by the Tibetans and the preceding Bo religion that so shaped their practice. Personally, I do not expect an afterlife or any form of survival after death. I believe that there are no dress rehearsals -- this is the Big Show, so you'd better play your part the best you can. That is not to say that I negate the possibility. I am not arrogant enough to believe that I have that answer, I simply find no evidence of it. I am trained as a scientist, and such concepts are not amenable to study, therefore can't be commented upon rationally.
6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
I believe people get what they deserve. If I am a kind, pleasant person who treats others fairly, then I will attract that sort of person into my life and it will be good here and now. That is my reward for good behavior. If I behave badly, I will attract others like myself and will end up having to watch my back all the time, whether or not I become wealthy in the common sense of the word. Whether that extends to an afterlife, I can't say.
7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
It is based on pure logic. Every idea of the basic Buddhist teachings can be examined with whatever kind of scrutiny one likes, and will always withstand the analysis. (I understand that many will disagree with that statement. To that I can only say that it is likely that their study of Buddhism may have some gaps in it.)
8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Buddhis "holy days" celebrate things like the Solstices, the birth and death of the historical Buddha, and a variety of similar things. They are observed differently by various sects. I observe them by making an effort to live up to the precepts as closely as possible for that day.
I should probably include the Precepts I keep talking about, for the sake of clarity:
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from ...
...harming living beings.
...taking things not freely given.
...intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.
If one thinks deeply about those things, it becomes clear that they have a great deal of meaning beyond the simple words that make them up. For example, taking things not freely given also extends to cheating your boss by wasting time at work, and a lot of other stuff. One meditates; one learns; one applies. Sometimes.
These are all things that cloud the mind and prevent a clear perception of reality. The goal of Buddhism, vastly oversimplified, is to see reality and only reality -- to abolish delusion.
9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Some of them. I don't consider a person's faith to bear on friendship at all, unless it causes them to behave in ways that are detrimental to others. I find it difficult to be friends with that sort of person.
10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
I do it frequently. It has nothing to do with me, in terms of practice, and it is an opportunity to be with friends during happy times.
11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I believe that things of that sort are a matter of personal choice, and I have no opinion on them per se. However, when they are forced upon others it is no longer a religious issue, but an issue of politics and/or control. I believe that forcing anyone to do something that they do not want to do is wrong. It is sometimes necessary, but there is always a degree of wrong, even if it is on both sides. The parallel thought to that is that we should all have the right to do as we please, as long as it does not interfere with anyone else's right to do as they please. As the Wiccans say, "And it harm none, do what thou wilt."
12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
I would never belong to an organization that discriminates on the basis of sex, sexual preference, race or other aritificial ways of separating human beings. Some Buddhist sects allow women to attain the highest offices, many do not. In that respect, I believe they are behaving unskillfully. To the extent that I participate in formal religious activities, I do so in a Zen tradition that does not discriminate.
13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
I try to consider it in those decisions and activities where it is applicable, with greater or lesser success. I find no conflicts with those things because while I might deplore them and never consider them for myself, it is none of my business what others do, so long as it harms no one else. (Don't go there; I am a scientist, and I know the difference between undifferentiated cells and viable creatures, human or otherwise. It is not an issue that I debate.)
15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
My children follow their own paths, which is fine with me. I don't consider religion to be a criterion for partnerships, although it can certainly complicate them if the parties allow it to do so.
16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
I think the idea of a loving god and hell is an oxymoron. That said, I don't believe in either.
17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
Buddhists rarely claim to speak for others. They may offer teachings and opinions. In that regard I greatly respect His Holiness The Dalai Lama, The Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn, and I was a disciple and great fan of Abbot John Daido Loori, of the Mountains and Rivers Order, until his recent death.
18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
Not as far as I am aware. I don't live my beliefs in such a way as to draw that kind of attention to myself.
19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Quite the contrary; it empowers me greatly.
20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
That is the whole point.
21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
See "ignostic," above. I don't think the issue can be discussed rationally, so there is no point in contemplating it. Death is a part of life. Life is what it's about. If there is an encore -- and I see no reason to believe there will be -- it will be a pleasant surprise. The whole point is to live so that it doesn't matter. Live a good life here, and it will be a satisfying life. Then if anyone's handing out medals beyond the curtain, you win again.