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Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category



Predicting the Future of Religion: A Thought Experiment

Jun4

by: Ed Simon on June 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

A gloved hand holding a marble reflecting the inside of St. Peter's Basilica.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Heidi.

 

The following is reprinted with permission from Religion Dispatches. Follow RD on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.

Last month’s news from Pew on the decline of institutional Christianity, with its trove of data on the “unaffiliated” and the decline of the mainstream, has stolen the stage from its previous report on the Future of World Religions — a study that concluded that while atheists, agnostics and the unchurched are on the rise in the U.S. their numbers are projected to decline globally. But while Pew’s prediction that Islam will overtake Christianity made headlines, the authors of the study were quick to remind us that their findings are not the direct results of polling but projections.

It would seem hard enough to project something as simple as population growth, but what of the mercurial nature of religious faith itself? It might well be impossible to predict the “turn of the soul” for one individual, let alone that of an entire community.

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Buddhists, Christians, and Godly Prosperity

Jun2

by: Philip Jenkins on June 2nd, 2015 | Comments Off

The Buddhist magazine Tricycle sometimes offers really fine writing, and the past Spring issue included an outstanding example that raises all sorts of questions and parallels for historians of Christianity.

The piece in question was “The Buddha’s Footprint,” by Johan Elverskog of SMU (subscription needed for full access). It’s a substantial article, and not surprisingly it will be the core of a forthcoming book. Elverskog looks at Buddhist attitudes to the environment, and he shows that by no means have they always involved the kind of militant environmentalism and tree-hugging that we might expect of American practitioners today. Contrary to myth, early Buddhists were not necessarily in tune with the natural world, dreamy lovers of untamed wilderness.

Instead, he shows that early Buddhism was very clearly an urban movement: “Of the 4,257 teaching locales found in the early Buddhist canon, for example, fully 96 percent are in urban settings. Similarly, of the nearly 1,400 people identified in these texts, 94 percent are described as residing in cities.” Not surprisingly, then, the faith’s earliest texts showed a definite preference for human domination over the environment. A landscape was good if it was controlled, fertile and working for the human good.

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I Arrived At The White House… And Didn’t Go Inside.

May25

by: Katie Loncke on May 25th, 2015 | Comments Off

1. Black Excellence and Achievement

Mama’s antidote to being born a black boy on parole in Central Mississippi is not for us to seek freedom; it’s to insist on excellence at all times.

Kiese Laymon, How to Slowly Kill Yourself
and Others in America: A Remembrance

[Some people burdened by racism] achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure.

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric

Buddhist Peace Fellowship outside the White House.

One of three Buddhist Peace Fellowship banners outside the White House, above, following the closing of the U.S. Buddhist Leadership Conference, May 14, 2015.

When my father was a boy in the early 1950s, he was selected for a scholarship, plucking him out of the black projects of New Haven, Connecticut, and shipping him off to an elite prep school, where he became a proverbial fly in the buttermilk of white students, white teachers, and white ideas.

As he tried to settle in, my father was startled to learn that students’ academic rankings were posted publicly, following periodic exams, with the highest achiever’s name at the top of the list.

Determined to see his name rise, my father began to break school rules. Nighttimes, after lights-out, he would smuggle his coursework into his bunk, along with a flashlight. Clandestine study under the covers.

And sure enough, his name ascended. All the way to the top.

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Comics for the New Economy: The Art and Activism of Kate Poole

May4

by: Joshua Brett on May 4th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

At first glance, the fields of economics, religion, and comics seem utterly apart; a combination of two of them, let alone all three, would seem incongruous. However, in her innovative work, economist, artist, and activist Kate Poole delivers impassioned yet playful critiques of capitalism from a spiritual perspective.

Illustrator Kate Poole's time with the Buddhist commune Santi Asoke has influenced her art and beliefs. Credit: Kate Poole

While Kate Poole has been publishing comics online since 2013, her exploration of the spiritual dimension of economics started much earlier. Poole was brought up Jewish, attending a Conservative synagogue, but in a family that she describes as scientific and secular, filled with doctors and professionals. In an experience she has recounted in several comics, after her semester studying at a monastery in India in 2007, Poole lived with the Santi Asoke commune in Thailand. Asoke’s radically anti-capitalist Buddhist economics challenged Kate to reconcile her class privilege with her religious beliefs.

When she returned from life on the commune, Poole was inspired to integrate her spiritual values with her economic actions. Since returning from Santi Asoke, Poole has plunged headlong into the often murky intersection of economics and religion, drawing from Buddhist teachings as well as her own Jewish heritage. After finishing her studies at Princeton with a thesis on the economic and religious thought of Santi Asoke, Poole dove headlong into working on building sustainable and local economies. She has worked with the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, conducted research for Local Dollars, Local Sense and most recently, has been working with Friends Rehabilitation Program, a Quaker affiliated group providing housing and social services in poverty-stricken areas of Philadelphia.

See more of Kate Poole’s art in Tikkun Daily’s Online Gallery


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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 | 3 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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