I've found that the main difference Buddhism and Quakerism is where your energy gets directed. Buddhism tends to focus a lot on the self (while denying the self exists) and Quakerism focuses more on providing for your community. This is a vastly simplified description, and I'll expand on it more later in this post.
Most of my reading was done about two to four years ago, with some high school and college reading in Tantra as an extension of my Pagan practices. I wont go too much into explaining the variations between sects, but focus on what aspects have influenced me specifically.
Two partners I've had in my life are Buddhist - with Christian being more Theravada in practice and the other Soto Zen. During my time with Christian I devoured all the books I could get my hands on, went to meditation groups, and felt inspired to meditate regularly again on my own - I had fallen in and out of practice since high school when it came to keeping a regular schedule, and it was nice to feel driven again.
Most of the books I read were amazing. Stories of modern Buddhists getting by in a western capitalist civilization balanced with meditative practices, mindfulness, and philosophy of the self. You can read about the noble truths, the story of Siddhartha, and do Yoga all you want, but for me it was the personal stories I could relate to. Chicken Soup for the Buddhist Soul, as it were. I also enjoyed reading how a lot of Hindu gods crossed over with Bodhisattvas in various myths, and still keep a little Tara statue with me on days I need a reminder in compassion.
How to Not be A Buddhist
It criticized consumerism fairly at first, but didn't take into account the quality of live provided by having more money for food and healthcare. There was a blanket perception that since most people in the modern world spend their money frivolously that anyone who works hard to earn money is doing something very Bad and your time is better spent meditating. Instead of teaching the reader to focus on being in the moment, finding contentment in your life without the need for stuff, and reflecting on why you buy things, it made a very "buying things is bad" statement that made me wonder if the author judges the laymen who feed him at the temple.
The author condemns anyone who strives for more by stating they will never be happy with who they are in the present. Human nature drives us to explore, grow, and find something more to do or create. Humans would have stagnated at a very early stage without this drive. But just because people work for more doesn't mean we're not happy with what we have. In a capitalist mindset I can see this perception, but it felt like another blanket statement from someone wishing against the advancement of technology.
Finally, the author promotes a level of non-attachment akin to cruelty. One line in particular stands out with impermanence as the lesson:
"There is no doubt that Prince Siddhartha's heart would have broken to see the tsunami victims washed ashore. But his heart would have been even more broken by the fact that we were taken by surprise, proof of our contact denial if impermanence."
I don't even have the patience to explain why this sentiment is fucked up.
I wonder if the inside joke was "This guy is not a Buddhist" and that's what you should take away from the read.
Paganism before the new millennium had largely been very dual-focused. Black and White. Male and Female. I saw the shift at Pantheacon several years ago when more trans members wanted to be included in traditionally female-only events. A large debate started among the Dianic Witches (cause of course) when a female-identifying person with a penis showed up to a nude ritual. It was only then that I started to shift away from this dual-thinking in Paganism, myself.
Buddhism helps you remove yourself from that way of thinking. Nothing is separate from anything else, therefore the concept of "opposite" doesn't exist. The sky is not separate nor opposite from the earth. Death is not separate from life. Varying philosophies will explore this differently, but largely they're either more linear or all happening at once. Its a heavy subject to unpack.
Buddhism taught me a greater depth of mindfulness and self-reflection, far more so than most Pagan practices or books I've read. I almost feel a wave of excitement every time I realize I'm doing something worth analyzing - and stop to figure out why I'm behaving the way I am. Whether I'm feeling intimidated by a situation, critical, or recognize that I may be displaying some kind of negative behavior, I enjoy having it pointed out to me so that I might pause and parse out the probable causes.
The philosophy of "there is no self" is attributed to limitations in definitions. A more accurate translation in my mind, would be "there is no permanent self." How you exist, think, and perceive is constantly changing. Therefore by the time you've contemplated what you "are" - it has already changed. Its as intangible as a rainbow - existing in perception but not something within reach. The illusion of existence. With so much space between each atom composing our bodies, we're barely even here in a physical sense.
The main aspect of Buddhism I do no get along with is the desire for Nirvana. The view that our lives on this earth are defined by suffering, and the only way to remove suffering is to escape it and never be reincarnated again. The anti-dualistic nature of Buddhism reminds me that its not to mean our world is *only* defined by suffering, but I cannot agree with the view that suffering is an aspect one should move beyond. Desire may be the root of suffering - I can agree with that to a point. But isn't the desire not to suffer a desire in itself?
Life is not confinement. It is simply a different form of freedom.
I'll never understand why so many religions and philosophies long for the promise of an afterlife.
Its this dichotomy why I find appeal in a Tantric practice. It teaches you more to lean into your desires and your suffering - not suppress them or work to negate them. Suffering is indeed a part of life, and while the goal is still to remove oneself from that, its with the acknowledgement that desire is a part of life. Desires are still something to be questioned and evaluated, and its important to understand your motivation behind your desires. The goal is to reduce your superficial desires and impulses - to really contemplate what motivates you.
Tantra by far has the most positive philosophy to me, as well; focusing on balance between the body and the mind. It still contains the same emphasis on reaching Nirvana, but its methods to obtain enlightenment feel different than other forms of Buddhism. Yes, the goal is to "escape" your earthly prison, but it also tells you to enjoy it in while you're here. Not in the corrupted western way, but in a sense that promotes your mind as part of your body, and not as a separate entity. Stay healthy, do yoga, and practice self-love. Its not about sex or base pleasures, but true immersion within your body - and thus, within this world.
Tantric practices and meditations have largely been responsible for my ability to be confident in my body - just as it is. To accept that I am perfect as I am now, and its not a thing one can strive for. That you can love yourself, be perfect, and yet continue to improve. Individuals have no need for anything or anyone outside themselves. We are already complete on our own. We're all gods here.
I believe it is this influence that has helped me to maintain a more grounded Pagan practice. I meditate regularly (well, when I remember) and evaluate my own self when I can. I practice energy transference because its something I can feel. I celebrate the change in seasons because I can see how they affect me and influence my life. I keep a hoard of crystals, magickal fetishes, and a tarot deck - not because I believe they are inherently magical, but because they have a meaning I have imbued into them. I keep symbols and give tokens to the gods - not because they exist outside myself, but because they represent something within me that I wish to see fulfilled.
I long to experience all life has to offer, because the method of worship to which I hold most dear is the Charge of the Goddess: "All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals." What better way can there be to practice one's faith?