Photo by Felicity Tillack
Is it possible to be a part of liked-minded group of people without being converted?
I mean, for example, to join a golf club to be with liked-minded people one doesn’t need to be converted.
The word “convert” I guess would imply some more profound meaning than just joining a group. What do you mean by converting?
To me, the word to convert implies a change from one to another, just like with currency.
Now, would there be any change required in terms of values and beliefs?
If yes, which ones? If not, who can convert and why?
I understand your point and it makes sense. When it comes to religion, though, converting means, really, to accept the creed of a religion and adhere to its teachings totally. By doing this, you publicly declare yourself an adherent of that religion.
For example, converting to Christianity would imply getting baptized, and believing in whatever your chosen sect believes in.
The baptism is a public declaration of accepting Jesus as your Lord and savior. The 10 commandments are the rules, along with the others in the New Testament, you are expected to follow.
To take your analogy of golf, I would say that for Buddhism, it is not necessary to join a club to play golf. One can play golf at home, alone, or sometimes buy a day pass to play with friends.
So is with Buddhism. You can practice and believe in Buddhism without being part of an organization or even adhering to the religion completely.
I guess that is where we would separate Buddhism the religion and Buddhism the philosophy.
The advantages of joining a group is that you can get guidance and support in your practice. You will be taught some prayers, sutras, ceremonies and techniques to enhance your practice. Also, practicing in a group will enhance your experience ten fold. There is something about the harmony of a group that multiplies the energy put out during a ceremony or practice. The results are, when everyone participate, always rewarding.
If you want to get the benefits of the group interaction without having to convert, many temples or organizations will have public classes.
Zen dojos (a dojo is a place to practice the way) are often secular and do not expect anyone to “join” the religion. They are just a place for people to go and practice zazen.
You will sometimes learn some ceremonial gestures like bowing and paying respect to Buddha but this is a Japanese custom also observed in martial art dojos around the world.
I hope you find what you are looking for.