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Q: How do we retain passion in life and still follow the teaching that we should accept all of life with equanimity?

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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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Wednesday
Jun012005

Forum: Barriers to the Dharma

A discussion of race, class and education, and how they’re limiting who becomes interested in Buddhism. Featuring Paul Haller, Marlene Jones, Charles Prebish, and Guy McCloskey.

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Wednesday
Jun012005

The Problem of Personality

Most of us are very committed to ourselves as personalities. The habit of viewing ourselves as a person is deeply ingrained in us. In Pali, that is called sakkaya-ditthi, which can be translated as “personality-view” or “the ego.” It means that we regard the five khandhas (groups)—body, feelings, perceptions, conceptions, and consciousness—as belonging to this person, as making up our identity. In investigating the personality-view, we do not grasp on to the perception of “no person” either. It is possible to take the concept of anatta (no self) and grasp that, and say, “There’s no self because the Buddha said there’s anatta!” But in that case we’re still grasping a perception. Grasping a perception of yourself as a nonself gets to be a bit ridiculous.

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Wednesday
Jun012005

The Zen Priest’s Koan

The occasion of a priest ordination always brings up questions about what it means to be ordained. We can look at this by examining what ordination has meant in Zen tradition, and also by considering our practice in the present day.

When I was about to be ordained in 1969, I asked Suzuki Roshi what it meant to be ordained as a priest and what I should do. He said, “I don't know."

Then I asked Katagiri Sensei, and he said, "Oh, I don't know."

I hadn't asked to be ordained. Suzuki Roshi asked me to, and I was quite surprised when he did. I thought that since he asked me, he would at least tell me what to do. But he didn't tell me much. At that time there were few American priests at the San Francisco Zen Center; I was only the fifth person to be ordained. The first one had left the center, two were in Japan, and the fourth was out of sight. So I didn't have any role models, except for our Japanese priests: Suzuki Roshi, Katagiri Sensei, Chino Sensei, and Yoshimura Sensei.

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Wednesday
Jun012005

Endless Lifetimes, Endless Benefit

Venerable Tenzin Palmo is best known as the British nun who meditated in a Himalayan cave for twelve years, as described in the popular book, Cave in the Snow, by Vicki MacKenzie. Though she left retreat in 1988, she still finds herself describing that solitary life to others, and sometimes defending it. Her one request in granting this interview was: “Please, let’s not talk about the cave.”

Born in London, Tenzin Palmo was drawn to Buddhism from an early age, and in 1964, at age twenty, she sailed to India. There she met her guru, the eighth Khamtrül Rinpoche, and became one of the first Western women to be ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

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