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Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category



Militant Resistance Can Look Like This

Sep1

by: on September 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Last night in Downtown Oakland, supported by dozens of lay Buddhist practitioners, Buddhist monks, and interfaith allies, nine people sat in silent meditation, blocking the doors of the Marriott Hotel, which will host Urban Shield this week. Urban Shield is a militarized police expo and SWAT Team training where police forces from around the country come to learn about and purchase militarized weapons that they will then use on citizenry, as we saw so vividly in Ferguson recently.


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Supreme Court Ruling on Public Prayer Re-enforces Christian Supremacy

May12

by: Warren J. Blumenfeld on May 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

American politicians have prayed before public gatherings since the Founding Fathers crowded into a stuffy Philadelphia room to crank out the Constitution. The inaugural and emphatically Christian prayer at the First Continental Congress was delivered by an Anglican minister, who overcame objections from the assembled Quakers, Anabaptists and Presbyterians. The prayer united the mostly Christian Founding Fathers, and the rest is history.

Indeed, as U. S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy write in the 5-4 majority opinion in The Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway , “…the rest is history.”

Church Ave and State Street intersect in Knoxville, Tennessee. Credit: Creative Commons/ Wyoming_Jackrabbit

While a strict separation of synagogue and state, mosque and state, Hindu and Buddhist temple and state, and separation of atheists and state and virtually all the other approximately 5000 religions and state has been enacted, on the other hand, church – predominantly Protestant denominations, but also Catholic – and state, have connected virtually seamlessly to the affairs and policies of what we call the United States of America, from the first invasion of Europeans in the 15th century on the Christian Julian to the Christian Gregorian Calendars up to 2014 Anno Domini (short for Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi – “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”).

In the court case, two local women from Greece, New York filed suit against city officials for approving invocations with primarily overtly Christian content at monthly public sessions held on government property. However, according to Kennedy, “The town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition, and does not coerce participation by nonadherents.”

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Secular Buddhism and the Illuminated Tenfold Path

May2

by: Phil Wolfson on May 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off

Secular Buddhism — a relatively new development in the world of Buddhist practice — can serve as a resource for people who are seeking to escape atomization and instead create loving connections with each other and nature. The notion of an Illuminated Tenfold Path is a helpful guide on this journey.

I explored the idea of the Illuminated Tenfold Path idea in more depth in my print article on “Secular Buddhism and the Quest for a Lived Ethics” in Tikkun‘s Winter 2014 issue. Here is a quick introduction for the readers of Tikkun Daily

Introduction to The Illuminated Tenfold Path

siddhartha

A mural in Chiang Mai, Thailand, shows Siddhartha, the man who became the Buddha, witnessing death and disease for the first time. Credit: Creative Commons/Akuppa John Wigham.

The Noble Eightfold Path has served historical Buddhism as the ‘way’ – the path leading to the cessation of suffering – as the ‘medicine’ of the last of the Four Noble Truths. It has been the source of the awakened wisdom that eliminates the obstacles to realization of greed, anger, and delusion and gives insight into the true nature of phenomena. Reciprocally, the first of the eight is View, which leads back to the first of the Four Noble truths and their comprehension and application. The Eightfold Path has also been called the Middle Way and is represented by the Dharma Wheel with its eight spokes.

With all of its sanctity and the great devotion given for over 2000 years to the Eightfold Path, there comes a time for its re-examination, modernization – if appropriate and beneficial – and a new languaging that is engaging for its meaningfulness for our time. Within a framework of what is being called secular Buddhism – namely, that which is a pragmatic path for this life without the Absolutes of religious metaphysics, the elements in the Eightfold Path that are renunciative of this life and its difficulties – and its bliss and pleasure states as well – these are removed from the Illuminated version.

This revision, the Illuminated Tenfold Path, then is a here-and-now vehicle for transformation of the same obstacles, but without the influence of monasticism and with the stress on acceptance of the varieties of humans and sentient beings living together in the complexities of relationships and connection, in a world that is overpopulated and stressed by our human impact on the very nature of life. The Illuminated Tenfold Path is adapted to our time’s focus on sexual/love relationships and our fundamental need to learn to share and nurture each other. The adjective ‘Noble’ has been supplanted with the less aristocratic, more to the point ‘Illuminated’ – as in light on the path of awakening – and other language has been substituted to make meanings clearer and more contemporary.

The Illuminated Tenfold Path is an offering for our times – a guide to our inner life and our connection with community and nature. It is to be further adapted by others like you and presented in the hope that it will serve you and yours.

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5 Big Problems With Compassion-Baiting

Mar7

by: Katie Loncke on March 7th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Unfortunately, we spiritual-progressive types, including but not limited to dharma heads, seem to be particularly prone to something I call compassion-baiting.

General compassion-baiting sounds something like:

Try having more compassion. If you did, you’d see things my way.

And in social justice situations, specifically, compassion-baiting often sounds like:

You’re more upset / loud / angry about social harm than I, arbiter, deem appropriate. You must therefore be lacking in wisdom or compassion.

F**k that noise, for real.

Why so touchy, you ask? Let’s break it down: 5 major fails associated with compassion-baiting.

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Glory, Fame, and Ambition: the Custer Model

Jan29

by: on January 29th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

George Armstrong Custer. "The last thing we need in our homes, workplaces, and national leadership is a Custer," Kurth writes. Credit: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration.

When I was a girl, my father called me a “glory-hound,” and I was embarrassed and indignant, probably because it was so true. Most writers, it seems, long for glory, fame, acknowledgement. Some of that is a human need to be seen and valued, an experience we all deserve. But lately, I’ve been seeing a very real danger in the obsessive pursuit of fame and even the pursuit of achievement.

What could be wrong with “following your dream” or “being all you can be?”

In a radio interview, a spiritual author writing a book about a religious icon, mentioned a key moment when she was allowed to see the icon. At that moment, her companion and guide, an elderly man, was so affected, he collapsed to the floor. Her reaction was something very close to, Oh, that’s all I need: a dead guide on my hands.

Wow, I thought. Doesn’t a spiritual quest draw us closer to others, make us sympathetic to their suffering and possible death? That moment is undoubtedly not typical of the writer’s attitude overall, but it made me certainly made me ponder ambition, my own and others’, and where it stands in the way of humanity. Where do we find ourselves seeing others and even their suffering as mere obstacles to our goals?

Custer: A Far Scarier Example

Soon after hearing the radio program, I watched a PBS feature on Custer, a horrible and disturbing story. My mind kept flipping back and forth between two visions. One was a popular picture of Custer in his time, glamorous Custer, a “gallant” triumphant competitor, a rule-breaker and risk-taker, adventurous, courageous, confident, dashing, a man who dressed with flare and had a passionate romance with an equally high-voltage woman, his wife, Libby. This, I thought, is the archetype of success in our culture, the fireworks person, the Steve Jobs, the important one who drives himself beyond human limits and achieves fame, power, and money – and makes us feel bad about ourselves.

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Occupy the Dharma: How Contemplative Practice Will Save the World

Nov14

by: Jay Michaelson on November 14th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

(Meditation over the Grand Canyon/ Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Moyan Brenn)

We hear it all the time. Meditation is narcissistic. It’s self-centered; you’re staring at your navel instead of out there fighting injustice. And God forbid it actually works, in which case you’re too happy. Dropping out, calming the mind – this only mutes our righteous political indignation. Because angry activists are effective activists.

Not only is this offensive and inaccurate, it’s not even new. Since the nineteenth century, Westerners have complained that Buddhism is pessimistic, passive, and world-renouncing. In the Victorian period, Buddhism was seen as nihilistic, offering no vision of hope, in contrast to Christianity. Contemporary complaints about Buddhist, Hindu, and other “Eastern” spiritualities are part of a colonialist and orientalist discourse that belies any claim to real progressivism.

To be fair, there are challenges in pursuing a spiritual practice concerned and engaged with problems of justice. There is a tendency in any contemplative practice to focus on one’s own “stuff,” because that’s what contemplatives do: we turn inward. And within Buddhism in particular, one can find world-renouncing and quietistic teachings, especially within the Theravadan tradition; the Buddha warned monks to stay out of politics, for example. Indeed, the very notion of a monastic community implies some degree of retreat from the problems of the world into a cloistered existence focused on other things. These tensions are present in all of us who take seriously the mandates to cultivate both wisdom and compassion. Often, one has to focus on one or the other.

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Torah Commentary: Beshalach- Eating and Abjection

Jan24

by: on January 24th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

In a previous essay, http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2012/02/01/weekly-torah-commentary-perashat-beshalach-on-the-madness-of-creativity/ , we discussed the transcendent nature of the creative experience, how one must reach a unique overcoming of normal consciousness in order to transform a religious experience into an artistic act that can itself be counted as Torah.

In the latter sections of this week’s Torah reading, we have the presentation of two pivotal events; the miraculous feeding of the populace via the “Man”, and a reminder of the never ending cruelty of people against people, as represented by the Amalekite attack on the newly freed slaves.

A brief summary of the narrated events: despite the remarkable event of the splitting of the sea, which was, as the Midrashim point out, gloriously experienced by even the least ‘conscious’ member of the people, very rapidly the people start complaining about the lack of food on their journey. The people kvetch for food, and God provides them with a miraculous food from heaven, a food form which was not recognized by humanity prior to this moment (much like Tang in the 60s, I suppose), which the people named Man, from the Hebrew ‘man hu‘, which literally means: ‘what is this?’. It is clearly described as some sort of supernatural food, which had to be collected daily, as its shelf life was only a day, except for Shabbat, when a double portion collected Friday would stay worm-free and edible through Shabbat. Afterward receiving the man, the people demand water, and this time, the tone of the response is a bit more hostile; God has Moshe hit a rock, and water is procured through this violence. Why does the first request elicit a positive response and the second one elicit a response suggestive of violence?

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Nonviolence, God, and a Theology of Not Knowing

Jan10

by: on January 10th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

The result is that they are hungry all the time, yet itI’ve been somewhat haunted by the notion (or perhaps concept, or metaphor) of the hungry ghost since the early 1990s, when I learned about them during a time that I had some significant exposure to Buddhism through a community of writers I joined. Hungry ghosts, according to my own limited understanding, are mythical creatures characterized by an emaciated body with a huge and empty belly, combined with narrow necks and tiny mouths. ‘s almost impossible for them to feed themselves, or even to be fed by others who care for them, because the passage is so constricted. This image keeps coming back to me because it symbolizes so dramatically in a physical way the emotional condition of our time: profound hunger for love and connection that cannot be satisfied because we have been trained in isolation to such a degree that most of us cannot receive sufficient love, even when it’s offered.

Recently, I’ve been plagued, again, by the tragic nature of this pervasive condition. Caring for the hungry ghosts, wanting to find a way – personally and collectively – to leave no one behind, has been one of the consistent motivating factors in my continual efforts to do my work. Although I believe that just about any of us has some degree of this affliction, some people, for reasons we may never know, are so extreme in their insistence on being given what they cannot receive, that they become self-fulfilling prophecies: every community they join eventually discards them; every relationship anyone enters with them eventually ends; and they remain isolated and in extreme agony, often without understanding why. If they happen to be people in positions of power, they may be surrounded by people who do what they want and say “yes” to their requests and demands, and yet their experience doesn’t become better, because they know it’s done without really wanting. Since I am in essence working for the possibility of a world where everyone matters, the hungry ghosts are of paramount importance to me.

The other day, being particularly agonizing over one such person, someone I care deeply about and have enormous tenderness for, and yet do not know how to support at all, I put the question forth to a friend who is somewhat of a Buddhist scholar. “The hungry ghosts,” I said, “how are we ever going to get into a future that works for all people if we cannot find a way to generate sufficient love for the hungry ghosts to be able to receive it and heal?

Today, on my weekly walk with my one friend with whom I talk theology (funny, given I live in a god-less world), I brought up with her the startling response I got from my Buddhist friend: “According to Buddhism there will never be a future that works for all people. There is radical acceptance there of the suffering inherent in the lives of humans, animals, hungry ghosts, etc…” I wanted to talk with my friend about this because, although she is a practicing Christian who does preaching, and I am a non-practicing Jew who doesn’t believe in any god, we nonetheless have a compatible theology. I thought, given this unique conjoining of the Buddhist, the Christian, and the Jewish, and with the lens of nonviolence shining light on our conversation, we will get somewhere. And we did.

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Why the Dalai Lama is Wrong to Think Meditation Will Eliminate Violence

Nov15

by: on November 15th, 2012 | 22 Comments »

This quote by the Dalai Lama is going viral on the internet, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Marianne Williamson shared this quote via her Facebook account and it received a tremendous reception. Google the quote and you will find tens of thousands of web sites, Facebook pages and twitter feeds where it has appeared. Needless to say, the enthusiasm over the Dalai Lama’s statement is profound. It has struck a cord for sure.

His words reflect the more widespread belief that spiritual practices can provide grounding for more ethical and wise action. One could substitute meditation in the quote with yoga, prayer, chanting or sacred dancing and people would generally agree that these types of things will inspire compassion, kindness and generosity. Through meditation one can hopefully gain a better realization of the interconnectedness of all things. Many believe, or at least hope, like the Dalai Lama, that this renewed sense of awareness will inspire us to take action against injustice in the world.

While for much of my life I’ve also shared this popular sentiment I’ve now come to see it much differently. Based on years of research and writing as well as personal practice of yoga, meditation and Chi Kung I’ve discovered some very strong flaws in the Dalai Lama’s argument. Furthermore, I actually see these types of statements are very irresponsible as they mislead the public about the causes and solutions to violence. The real conversations about these very challenging issues that need to take place could potentially be minimized by these types of statements.

The first and most obvious problem with his statement is the ambiguity of what violence actually constitutes. Takes these few examples: spray painting over a sexist billboard, using violence to defend against rape, eating meat, the prison industrial complex, throwing tear gas canisters back towards the police who fired them, the capitalist system, racial microagressions, stealing food to support oneself…etc. Many would argue that abortion is violent. Would this be eliminated with meditation? There are so many forms of violence and ways that we all participate in systems that are violent that it would be nearly impossible to reach a consensus on who’s criteria of violence gets to be used. How can one eliminate something if we can’t agree on what it is that is being eliminated?

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Leavening and The Oneness of God: Spiritual + Cultural Paradigm Shifts

Aug20

by: on August 20th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

 

In my last article I discussed The Wild Goose Festival as a paradigm shift. Now I want to explore the shift in a greater, and lengthier context as I lead into describing (in coming articles) the way it is informing and being informed by a larger global culture, a larger spiritual and religious culture, and shifts within all which also lead to increased conversations within and outside of all current contexts of identity. We are restructuring the world, in tiny steps so small that it is often hard to see at the micro-level.

I think the greatest piece of this is the understanding that there is something bigger and better in God than we ever before conceptualized. We are beginning to see that within “my Christianity,” “my Judaism,” “my Islam,” “my Buddhism” there is a small sliver of God we are allowed to see, illuminated both through our own personal sacred texts and our visceral experiences of God in relationship to the faith we have learned (or as I sometimes call it, “faith of origin”). The second half to this is that we are realizing that my sliver of God-light and your sliver of God-light emanate from the same source and that saying that is no longer easily poo-pooed as heretical within my tradition but enhancing the basis of my traditional understanding with a God greater than we have ever been able to see or frame in our world-view before.

We are able to see that God can be many things to many people and to say that doesn’t make me a heretical Christian but makes me a Christian able to see God’s light from many different angles–like a prism refracting and dividing the sun’s light and sending it outward in millions of different directions.

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