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Thursday
Nov082012

The Path of Gratitude 

The goal of Shin Buddhism’s central practice, nembutsu, is not to attain buddhahood for ourselves, says Jeff Wilson, but to express gratitude for all we have received.

I visit a lot of Buddhist temples and groups in North America, and it’s pretty common for people to ask, “So, what’s your prac­tice?” It’s a sort of icebreaker in the Bud­dhist world. I think my answer tends to surprise some folks, though. As a Shin Buddhist, my primary practice isn’t meditation, sutra study, ritual, or precepts. All of these can be valuable, of course, but in Shin Buddhism our main focus is the practice of gratitude. This sets us apart from many other Buddhists. We don’t practice to achieve anything—not enlightenment, good karma, a favorable rebirth, or material rewards.

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Thursday
Nov082012

Is Meditation Enough?

Introduction by Norman Fischer

The introduction of Buddhism to the West has necessarily involved comparing and contrasting various aspects of Buddhism with our own religious culture, and Bud­dhism has come off quite well. The earliest interested Westerners saw Buddhism as a refreshingly undogmatic psychospiritual approach that was much more rational than the faith-obsessed Christianity of their day. Actual engagement in Buddhist practice exploded in the West in the 1960s. The dharma seemed in perfect accord with an alienated genera­tion in flight from convention and desperate for a wide-open form of spiritual exploration.

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Thursday
Nov082012

Here With You 

“When confronted with a patient’s fatal illness,” says physician Friederike Boissevain, “we are expected to know what to do.” But Zen practice has taught her that being present with a mind of not knowing is sometimes the best medicine.

I leafed through the man’s medical file. A CT scan showed extensive disease, and the histology was unfavorable. He was younger than me, with two children, and worked in the ship industry. He lived in a middle-class neighborhood where the hedges were neatly cut. Symptoms of his illness had shown up a year ago, but he was against further investigation. As I shook his hand in the waiting area and felt his firm grip, I looked into his determined, suntanned face—and the fearful eyes of his wife. In my office, I started with my questions.

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Thursday
Nov082012

No Small Effort

by Gina Sharpe and Larry Yang

On September 19, Spirit Rock Meditation Center held a graduation ceremony for ninety-five leadership train­ees in its fourth Community Dharma Leaders (CDL) training program. This graduating class was the most diverse and multicultural group of teachers Spirit Rock has ever trained in the fifteen years of the program’s existence.

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Thursday
Nov082012

First Thoughts

Behind Door Number Three

When we realize the emptiness of self and the truth of enlightenment, we see there is nothing to strive for. Thich Nhat Hanh on aimlessness, the third door of liberation.

One gatha from the sutra Yogacarabhumi­shastra says that all of us contain a stream and that we don’t have a separate self. It reads: “Living beings is the name of a con­tinuous stream, and all phenomena as the object of perception are only signs. Therefore there is no real change of birth into death and death into birth and no person who realizes nirvana.”

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Thursday
Nov082012

Ask the Teachers

Q: I have two sons, one seven and the other fourteen. I’d like to introduce them to meditation and the Buddhist teachings but it’s difficult to compete with Nintendo games, favorite television shows, and all the other exciting and flashy things kids gravitate to these days. How can I share the gift of dharma with my sons without trying to force it on them and potentially turn them off it altogether?

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Thursday
Nov082012

Let's Talk: It’s Time to Open Our Doors

I spent the year after college in an Ameri-Corps program that placed me in the Task Force for the Homeless in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. During my time there I served at several different transitional homes, emergency shelters, and soup kitchens. It was the end of a string of social-service work for me, which started several years earlier with volunteering at a Latino community center next to my college campus. I spent the summer before my senior year living in an intentional commu­nity that provides homeless services in Boston. Then I went to St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, on my last spring break to prepare meals for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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Thursday
Nov082012

The Tibetan Leonardo

The Treasury of Knowledge
By Jamgön Kongtrul
10 volumes
Snow Lion Publications, 2003–2012

Reviewed by Roger R. Jackson

Addressing a dinner for Nobel Prize laureates in 1962, President John F. Kennedy quipped that never before had so much genius been present in the White House—“with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

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Thursday
Nov082012

East Meets South

Dixie Dharma
By Jeff Wilson
University of North Carolina Press, 2012
296 pages; $36.95

Reviewed by Jan Willis

The world is places,” Gary Snyder famously said. This quote from his essay “The Place, the Region, and the Commons” graces the introduction of Jeff Wilson’s new book, Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South.

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Thursday
Nov082012

Book Briefs

by Michael Sheehy

Sky Above, Great Wind (Shambhala 2012)

Insight into Emptiness (Wisdom 2012)

One Monk, Many Masters (Parami 2012)

Ties that Bind (Oxford 2012)

The Essential Journey of Life and Death (Dharma Samudra 2012)

The Ceasing of Notions (Wisdom 2013)

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