Buddhist Traditions: Which Approach to Go?

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As part of our #MeditationHacks series, Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, founder of the Center for Transformative Change, advises on what to do when too many decisions are made.

Man stands in front of two forest paths

Photo by Vladislav Babienko.

I am drawn to all kinds of Buddhist teachings and practices, so I go from one to the next without sticking to any of them for long. I enjoy trying different styles of Buddhism, but should I just pick one and get involved?

Rev. Engel Kyodo Williams: As the world changes and our consciousness evolves faster, we have more access to information, practices, and teachings from various Buddhist schools than ever before. It feels just as hard to stick to a tradition as it doesn’t to check your Instagram feed.

I myself grew up in a tradition: that is, the central point of reference in my practice was Soto Zen. But my ancestry also has different elements from another tradition, Rinzai Zen.

Through my search for insights that could correspond to my reality, I came to hold the indigenous, abolitionist, black womanist theory of liberation and complexity alongside my Buddhadharma.

When I found out that there were qualities of being that the Zen teachings did not directly address, I looked to the wisdom of the Tibetan schools. And when Dogen’s worries about my faster, non-monastic, modern life began to feel incomplete in the 12th century, I immersed myself in the teachings of Shambhala.

Through my search for insights that could correspond to my reality, I came to hold the indigenous, abolitionist, black womanist theory of liberation and complexity alongside my Buddhadharma. Still, it’s hard to see the Zen paths that time has poured into my bones.

If you truly love, and are healthier by engaging with multiple traditions, you might take a page from an intentional polyamory manual: Have an elementary school, make sure all parties (and teachers of your traditions) agree, and should be A breakup is required, don’t denigrate tradition just because a relationship wasn’t quite right.

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Read more from our #MeditationHacks series …

Author and musician Miguel Chen comforts a practitioner who does not seem to be getting any closer to enlightenment.

Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, founder of the Center for Transformative Change, offers advice on what to do when too many decisions are made.

Author and psychoanalyst Pilar Jennings advises a practitioner who continues to feel unworthy and unloved.

Vipassana teacher Konda Mason answers the question: “Is it okay if I find ways to be meditative other than sitting on a pillow and following my breath?”

Anita Feng, a teacher at the Blue Heron Zen Community in Seattle, helps a practitioner find the path between sleepiness and daydreaming.

Buddhist teacher Mushim Patricia Ikeda suggests alternatives when meditation becomes too painful.

Lila Kate Wheeler, author and trainer at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, answers what to do if you don’t enjoy meditating.

A Mahayana Buddhist who is encouraged to practice for the benefit of all living beings feels that he is only practicing for his own benefit. The Venerable Thubten Chodron answers.

Josh Bartok, a Zen teacher, suggests what to do when meditating leads to an unstable mind.

A reader asks Sylvia Boorstein: “What is the use of practicing if it doesn’t make me a better person?”

A new meditator’s spouse disapproves of his newfound practice. Susan Piver, founder of The Open Heart Project, answers.

Author and lay Zen teacher Susan Moon is asked, “Should I stop meditating when the emotions overwhelm me?”

An isolated practitioner asks Dharma teacher Mitchell Ratner where to look for fellowship.

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