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Thursday
Sep012005

Embracing Conflict

The story of dharma in the West is one of great success, marred by the occasional, but very public, failure. In some cases, entire sanghas have split into warring camps or been torn asunder by the interpersonal conflicts of their members. Over the years, a handful of teachers have been dismissed or disgraced, and countless disillusioned students have moved on. While the vast majority of sanghas continue to thrive, some are finding it necessary to adopt new, non-Buddhist approaches to resolving the conflicts that inevitably arise.

Consider these recent examples:

  • When the teenage son of a resident of Salt Lake City’s Kanzeon Zen Center admitted to stealing money from several residents, the sangha formed a “council circle.” As part of this ancient Native American ritual, everyone in the circle took turns passing a symbolic peace pipe—minus the tobacco—and voicing his or her feelings about the transgression.

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Thursday
Sep012005

In Translation: The Inexhaustable Dhammapada

The Buddha taught a path of liberation. To understand his teachings is to understand how to walk that path. Though he described it as an ancient pathway, hidden and forgotten until he rediscovered it, it remains as relevant today as it was in his time, 2,500 years ago.

By far the most popular text teaching how to walk this path is the Dhammapada, a collection of verses from the earliest period of Buddhism in India. I was introduced to this sacred text when my first Zen teacher gave me my first copy. In the twenty-five years since receiving that gift, I have read and reread the Dhammapada many times. I have found its teachings to be direct, wise, and inspirational. The verses point to a possibility of peace and freedom that I find breathtakingly simple in its profundity.

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Thursday
Sep012005

Trust Practice, Practice Trust

The genius of what the Buddha taught is that waking up does not depend upon his or anyone else’s realization. It does not rely upon a belief system, dogma, or doctrine. He encouraged us to find out for ourselves about the true nature of reality, which is dependent upon nothing whatsoever.

Master Rinzai says, “If your faith is insufficient, you will keep on wandering in confusion. No matter what the circumstances, you will be controlled and led around by others. You will not find freedom. ...Because you don’t have enough confidence in yourselves, you search outwardly.”

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Thursday
Sep012005

Dharma Dictionary: Kokoro

When I moved to Minneapolis from Japan in 1993 to teach at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, my daughter Yoko was five years old. She went to kindergarten and then elementary school there. And while she learned English at school, at home we tried to talk in Japanese. One time, when she was seven or eight, we were talking about the Japanese word kokoro. I pointed to my heart as we usually do in Japan to show where kokoro is. She pointed to her head and said, “Kokoro is here.” I was amazed to discover that she was already translating the Japanese word kokoro into the English word “mind.”

Kokoro is a common Japanese word that carries meanings conveyed by the English words “mind” and “heart.” It is used as an equivalent of the Chinese word xin and covers almost the same range of meanings. The Japanese use Chinese characters to write Japanese, and have also studied Chinese literature as an essential part of both secular and Buddhist education for more than 1,500 years, which has led to a convergence of meaning between Chinese and Japanese for many classical words.

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Thursday
Sep012005

Ask the Teachers

Narayan Liebenson Grady: If you were to choose not to get married, do you think that would do away with the question of attachment? There are charming stories about monks being attached to their one bowl or the color of their robe. Some of us are quite attached to our teachers. One can even be attached to the concept of renunciation. As you can see, whatever form we choose, it’s not so easy. We are adepts at clinging. Attachment is the problem, not the object of our attachment. Sometimes people try to deal with the suffering of attachment by avoiding commitment. This is called fear, not liberation. In this case, the point is not to let go of your partner but of the suffering that arises because of wrong understanding.

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Thursday
Sep012005

Readers’ Exchange: Generational Diversity Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and More

Usually when I think of diversity, I think of ethnic and socioeconomic realities. But there’s another kind of diversity that is crucial for any community to survive and flourish: generational diversity.

As a young practitioner in the Shambhala community—the Buddhist sangha that I grew up in—it was hard to see this kind of age diversity. The rise of my own strong interest in the Buddhist teachings in my late teens meant a very simple thing—while I was studying and practicing in this particular community, I was going to have to give up spending time with many other people my age. Both the teachers and the people in the courses I took were almost all at least twenty years older than me. Luckily, my own interest was strong enough that I could get over the lack of people who liked the same music as me. I didn’t really need to talk about hip-hop with the people I was studying Buddhism with anyway.

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Thursday
Sep012005

Forum Essays

I was born in 1964—the last “official” year of the baby boom. I have found that, in many ways, I straddle a line between baby boomers and Generation X. When boomer Buddhists speak of first encountering the dharma, I am always fascinated by their stories because it was all was so new. The great teachers arriving in the United States for the first time, the first dharma centers—there always seems to be a spirit of looseness to the stories, a spirit that now seems to be missing. Perhaps that looseness was a product of the optimistic spirit of the era. To the post-boomer, it was already being dismissed as impractical by the time maturity came knocking.

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Wednesday
Jun012005

The Haunted Dominion of Mind

In old Tibet, practitioners went to charnel grounds, springs, haunted houses, haunted trees, and so on, in order to reveal how deeply their practice had cut to the core of their fears and attachments. The practice of cutting through our deepest attachments and fears to their core is called nyensa chödpa. Nyensa chödpa means “cutting through the haunted dominion of mind.” It is not that I am encouraging you to go to these haunted places to test yourself, but it’s important for all practitioners to understand the view behind nyensa chödpa, because until we are challenged we don’t know how deep our practice can go.

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Wednesday
Jun012005

In Translation: This Mountain Monk’s View

In Rinzai Roku (The Book of Rinzai), there is a saying that goes, All of them depend on grasses and leaves, like ghosts who cling to bamboo and trees. This refers to evil spirits, but also to those who go through their lives without knowing what to do. It seems to me that modern society is producing such people one after the other, while they themselves are not even aware of it. I suspect that Muishitsu Eido Roshi, the abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo in America was motivated by this recent phenomenon to take on the challenge of translating Rinzai Roku into English [The Book of Rinzai: The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Rinzai (Linji), Zen Studies Society, 2005]. While guiding his monks and lay students, after many years of struggle, at last this project is completed.

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Wednesday
Jun012005

What More Need You Seek?

Followers of the Way: People say, “There is a Way to practice, there is a Dharma to realize.” What Dharma would you realize and what Way would you practice? What is lacking in your activity right now? What is there to be fixed? Young, immature practitioners, not knowing this important point, believe in wild fox spirits and listen to all their deceitful teachings. They allow others to be bound by false beliefs, saying, “Principle and practice are in correspondence. The three karmas must be carefully taken care of. Then at last you can attain buddhahood.” Those who preach in this way are as many as the thin drops of spring rain.

A man of old said, “If you meet an outstanding man of the Way on the road, you must not even mention the word ‘Way.’”

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