Quaker Dharma: Let the Light Shine

Over a new-to-me blog called The Quak­er Dhar­ma there’s a post call­ing for us to The Let Our Light Shine Bright­ly. He makes some very good points like “It’s worth explain­ing what Quak­erism is” and “true out­reach is an act of spir­i­tu­al hos­pi­tal­i­ty.” He also tells a few sto­ries. Here’s one about pas­sion­ate younger reli­gious he’s known:

I came to Quak­erism from Bud­dhist study. I also worked for an inter­na­tion­al Bud­dhist orga­ni­za­tion for two years. The­se are expe­ri­ences for which I am deeply grate­ful. Teach­ings for which I am deeply grate­ful. I saw twen­ty some­thing year olds who took Bud­dhist ordi­na­tion vows and shaved their heads. This was deeply mov­ing and was a joy to share their sense of union at hav­ing com­mit­ted to a path. The­se kids were fly­ing to India to take teach­ings. The com­mit­ment lev­el was unbe­liev­able. Some of them went on mon­th long silent retreats. Quak­erism, espe­cial­ly now, in the­se times could speak to many. Unfor­tu­nate­ly we hide it and thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple in their twen­ties and thir­ties go with­out a spir­i­tu­al home.

  • Pok­ie mon

    I’m not sure what the point is. If you want Bud­dhism, yes, go to Bud­dhist teach­ers. Why would you go to the Quak­ers for Bud­dhism? The Buddhist-leaning Quak­ers I’ve encoun­tered are very watered down in their approach and dont real­ly seem devot­ed or into med­i­ta­tion. If you want to embrace all paths, fine…but to go into any depth you real­ly need to pick one..maybe two max. It’s also pos­si­ble that young peo­ple are attract­ed to Bud­dhism because its not Chris­tian­i­ty. Soon­er or lat­er, it begins to dawn on new Quak­ers, that Quak­erism, before it became an -ism, was a rad­i­cal way to expe­ri­ence God with­in a Chris­tian under­stand­ing of God, even if it was offen­sive to most Chris­tians at the time. Now, may­be we could attract some young peo­ple if Quak­erism actu­al­ly made some demands on peo­ple. Shav­ing the head is a nice start. It at least shows that you are set apart and dif­fer­ent from the larg­er cul­ture. Next, we would need to have some­thing that peo­ple are long­ing for.. like.. spir­i­tu­al authen­tic­i­ty. An actu­al, defin­able path. Not just…hmmm…read a bunch of the­se books and have head knowl­edge of all the world’s reli­gions, and have intri­cate knowl­edge of Quak­er history…and boy.…girl…you’ve arrived. Ok..enough Q-bashing. What Quak­erism has given me, is a place and space to prac­tice my own (Chris­tian) med­i­ta­tion and spir­i­tu­al path. Unfor­tu­nate­ly tho, I have to keep it kind of qui­et, because, Quak­ers are tol­er­ant of just about any reli­gion except Chris­tian­i­ty. And, good grief, you should­nt be too attached to any of those oth­er paths that we are tol­er­ant of, either. I guess my point is, it seems that unpro­gramed Quak­ers are skep­tics that prac­tice silence. If you get devout, meet­ing can turn into a less’friendly’place.

  • Hi Barb. You might want to rethink that new name, “Pok­ie mon,” I was 95% to delet­ing that post with­out even read­ing it as its such a spam­mish name.
    I don’t think the Quak­er Dhar­ma is say­ing Quak­ers should be teach­ing Bud­dhism. What I took from his name and blog is that he thinks Friends have a _dharma_, that is, a “prin­ci­ple or law that orders the uni­verse”:http://​dic​tio​nary​.ref​er​ence​.com/​s​e​a​r​c​h​?​q​=​d​h​a​rma. I think we do, only of course for Friends its called “gospel order.” We should be care­ful using “for­eign” lan­guage, since _dharma_ and _gospel order_ refer to world views that are sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent, but it’s use­ful to point out that Friends do actu­al­ly have a world sys­tem and to dub it a “Quak­er Dhar­ma” cre­ates a dis­so­nance I find intrigu­ing.

  • Poke Mis­tress

    Yes — you’ve uncov­ered my bare­ly cov­ered cov­er. I chose ‘Pok­ie mon’ because I was ‘pok­ing’ at Quak­ers, you and yes, our dhar­ma friend. Thanks for explain­ing it all for me, as you see, I’m a lit­tle unso­phis­ti­cat­ed and dull. I dont think Quak­ers are hid­ing Quak­erism. I think they them­selves are hid­ing from it.

  • Rick

    I get con­fused with the idea of a “Bud­dhist Quak­er” or what­ev­er type of reli­gion you wish to put in front of Quak­er. (What I find even more con­fus­ing are peo­ple who call them­selves athe­ists but also con­sid­er them­selves good Quak­ers! That makes NO sense to me.)
    Why can’t Quak­erism sim­ply be based on Chris­tian­i­ty as the George Fox want­ed? What’s with the wishy-washyness that seems to per­me­ate so much of Quak­erism? Have Quak­ers become like Uni­tar­i­ans in that you can believe (or not believe) pret­ty much any­thing you want? If that is the case we will nev­er grow as a denom­i­na­tion.
    I agree with Pok­ie Mon in that you have to give young peo­ple some­thing to believe in & make some demands of them.
    OK that is my 2 cents worth. (By the way, I am a Chris­tian who is very attract­ed to Quak­erism but get a bit turned off by their “believe what you want to believe” atti­tude.)

  • Jean West­on

    I think Quak­ers are not real­ly clear about what Quak­ers are! I may not be one to talk, since I left my meet­ing — but I was told when I joined that ‘if you feel you belong here you do’ and ‘true seek­ers’ are Quak­ers. Well, then, that includes many from all tra­di­tions! I real­ly think it very impor­tant now that we embrace true seek­ers — not ones that join a meet­ing or a church and then stop search­ing — but rather, real­ize that just as there is “that of God in every­one” there is also “that of God in many dif­fer­ent paths”  — and thought Quak­ers are great in some God­ly aspects, they miss the mark in oth­ers. To not rec­og­nize this, is to take away humil­i­ty and become arrogant,and even­tu­al­ly be dys­func­tion­al or die.

  • Hi Jean,
    Thanks for your com­ment! I’m sor­ry to hear you got some­thing of a mixed mes­sage on the qual­i­fi­ca­tion for mem­ber­ship. I think your Meet­ing did a dis-service by defin­ing a Quak­er as any kind of gener­ic seek­er; that’s not much of an iden­ti­ty. May­be your Meet­ing meant it but may­be also they were afraid to talk about the implic­it expec­ta­tions?
    Cer­tain­ly mem­ber­ship shouldn’t indi­cate the search is over. Mem­bers should con­stant­ly be grow­ing into their Quak­erism. I think I’ve been con­vinced as a Quak­er about half a dozen times now, each time under­stand­ing it more than before and each time feel­ing more com­fort­able with Quak­erism as a world view/language/religion. This kind of grow­ing under­stand­ing is pret­ty core to Quak­er under­stand­ings of justification/sanctification.
    It’s true that many Friends have a sort of unex­am­ined smug­ness about being Quak­er, as if the iden­ti­ty implies some­thing unique. We’ll crow about how Friends led European-American efforts at abo­li­tion of slav­ery yet will for­get the Friends who did that were often read out of their Meet­ings or that freed Africans weren’t wel­come at many Quak­er wor­ship ser­vices. Also begged is the ques­tion: “well what have you done late­ly, Friend?” We need less min­istry on “look how great we are!” and more “where do we fall short?” We do miss the mark some­times and need to real­ly pray for divine guid­ance about that.
    I’m sor­ry you’ve left Friends and hope that you’ve found a good home else­where. Thy Friend, Mar­t­in

  • Jamie Don­nel­ly

    Hel­lo every­one. Since the top­ic of attract­ing young peo­ple has come up, I thought I’d add some per­spec­tive as a young per­son. well, 25 isn’t so young, but I’ll imag­ine that ‘young’ refers to any­one under 30. At any rate, like the author of the Quak­er Dhar­ma, I came to Quak­erism after learn­ing the sim­i­lar­i­ties between their prac­tice and the bud­dhism I’d been prac­tic­ing (dodged­ly) since I was a teenager, fol­low­ing the lead of my moth­ers prac­tice. strange­ly, my moth­er had attempt­ed to raise me… Protes­tant?… but after years of being “wishy-washy” (as Rick puts it), liv­ing more of an agnos­tic than chris­tian lifestyle, she con­vert­ed to Bud­dhism.
    for me, I was put off by chris­tian­i­ty for no oth­er than political/cultural rea­sons, and it wasn’t until I met some Quak­ers, did some research, and attend­ed a meet­ing, that I began to won­der if chris­tian­i­ty could be a pos­si­bil­i­ty after all. I still have cold feet about the idea of resign­ing myself to the path of a quak­er, and the rea­son isn’t that there isn’t more offered or expect­ed. it actu­al­ly has more to do with the lan­guage. grant­ed Quak­er text frees up a lot of that con­scern, but con­sid­er that, despite this, chris­tian­i­ty, by lan­guage alone, is so heav­i­ly laden with the political/cultural bag­gage of… well, the lifes­pan of the church itself, that to expe­ri­ence a fuller rela­tion­ship with God through the chris­tian per­spec­tive becomes almost impos­si­ble. it’s as though a veil has been placed between peo­ple in my posi­tion and the depth to which the texts and prac­tice is intend­ed to lead.
    for myself, the only way I can over­come this obsti­cal of syman­tics is by par­al­lel­ing Quak­er (chris­tian) con­septs with those that I under­stand, and have lit­tle to no bag­gage attached, in Bud­dhism. what the con­tin­ued prac­tice in bud­dhism becomes is a medi­a­tor, a bridge that leads past the mêlée, to the very essence of Quak­er thought. sud­den­ly, the ini­tial frus­tra­tion I find when pon­der­ing chris­tian con­cepts fades, and in it’s place, not just an empa­thet­ic stance, but real­iza­tion of their neces­si­ty. with­out the aid of this strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar, yet cul­tur­al­ly sep­a­rate reli­gion, Chris­tan­i­ty is inac­ce­si­ble to me.
    Mary Rose O’Reilley has a book out called The Barn at the End of the World: The Appren­tice­ship of a Quak­er, Bud­dhist Shep­herd. I havent read it just yet, but reviews and inter­views sug­gest she has a sim­i­lar rela­tion­ship with her dual (well sheep hus­bandry makes three) path. oth­er text I’ve come across on the web con­veys the idea that jean brings up when she says, “though Quak­ers are great in some God­ly aspects, they miss the mark in oth­ers”. Here’s what Rho­da Gilman has to say in her essay called, “Thoughts From A Quaker-Buddhist”, found here: http://​www​.uni​ver​sal​ist​friends​.org/​u​f​0​4​0​.​h​tml
    “…So in today’s glob­al world we see the­se two tra­di­tions drawn togeth­er and strength­ened by each oth­er. It is not only the obvi­ous par­al­lels — their rejec­tion of divi­sive creeds and dog­mas, their shared pre­cepts and tes­ti­monies of peace, com­pas­sion, sim­plic­i­ty, right liveli­hood, and right speech. Quak­ers turn­ing back to their own mys­ti­cal roots have been drawn to Bud­dhism by the vital­i­ty of its prac­tice and its direct link with liv­ing silence; Bud­dhists pulled from monas­ter­ies by the mod­ern world have turned to Quak­erism for its exam­ple of com­pas­sion in action and viable spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty. In the West and in mod­ern soci­eties across the East, the move­ment toward “Engaged Bud­dhism” reflects this. Here in the Unit­ed States, the Bud­dhist Peace Fel­low­ship joins with Quak­ers in pro­claim­ing that peace is not only the goal, but the way. Here Quak­ers take as much inspi­ra­tion from Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama as from any Chris­tian lead­er, and in Sri Lanka Quak­ers, for their part, provide prac­ti­cal guid-ance toward meet­ing non­vi­o­lent­ly the flames of eth­nic hatred that Bud­dhists deal with there.
    Silence. Equa­nim­i­ty. Com­pas­sion. Com­mu­ni­ty.
    If there is hope for today’s crum­bling world soci­ety, with its mate­ri­al­ism, its run­away tech­nol­o­gy, and its reli­gious fanati­cisms, that hope lies in the shared strength of the­se two tra­di­tions. ”