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Living and practicing harmoniously with others is essential to Buddhist teachings
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    Letters to the Editor Paid Member

    Skillful ScenesDo Buddhists believe in God? It seems that they do! I read in your recent report on religious leaders’ opposition to the patenting of animals [“In the News,” Fall 1995], that four well known Buddhist leaders: Robert Aitken Roshi, Jack Kornfield, Tenshin Reb Anderson and Stephanie Kaza had signed a statement: “We believe that humans and animals are creations of God, not humans, and as such should not be patented as human inventions.” Clearly we have to wonder if they really did sign the document or, if they did, were they in some way tricked into endorsing a statement which so obviously goes against basic Buddhist teachings? At meetings of “religious leaders” one frequently finds that seemingly knowledgeable and kindly Christian and Jewish participants insist, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that Buddhists too, in their own way, believe in the same God, creator of the universe. More »
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    Life or Death Paid Member

    The one thing I have never fully understood about many Buddhists is why they devote so much attention to the individual roots of greed, hatred, and ignorance, yet so little attention to the manifestations of these poisons in social institutions. Is it simply understood that the real work needs to be done on our individual failings, with social greed, hatred, and ignorance being someone else’s problem? Or is it that Buddhists, like so many people, have been deceived into believing that political issues are “none of their business”? Have they been trained to see problems and solutions solely in personal rather than political terms? More »
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    Buddhism(s)? Paid Member

    EVERYBODY KNOWS there is really no such thing as Hinduism. The name is derived from an ancient word for sea, sindhu, used also for the Indus River. Persians living to the west of the Indus modified it to hind, and used it to refer to the land of the Indus valley. Eventually, Muslims used hindu to refer to the native peoples of South Asia. It was not a term that "Hindus," however, used to refer to themselves. In the nineteenth century, officers of the British Raj began to use the word Hinduism, especially for purposes of their census, to refer to a purported system of religious beliefs and practices of non-Muslim, non-Jain, non-Sikh, non-Christian, non-Parsi, non-Jewish Indians (Buddhism had disappeared from India centuries before). More »
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    Clouds & Water Paid Member

    IT HAS BEEN SAID that without monasticism there is no Buddhism. When the first sangha—group of followers—began to grow around the Buddha there was, of course, no distinctly “Buddhist” form of monastic practice. The monasticism that the Buddha developed took into account the needs of his disciples as well as the realities of his culture and society. This responsiveness to the imperative of time, place, and people is still the defining characteristic of Buddhist monasticism. More »
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    Selective Wisdom Paid Member

    For most of us born in the Western world, remote from Buddhism of any institutional kind, knowledge of the dhamma has come entirely from books and, occasionally, spoken words, some quite excellent and informative, certainly. But this kind of learning still retains a somewhat ethereal air in the absence of actions, traditions, and spiritual observances in which we can participate. That the Buddhist religion has survived so long in the world is a result not so much of the durability of manuscripts as of the power of ideas embodied in custom; and custom, for all our abundant sources of information, is what we lack and cannot in the long run do without. Books crumble easily enough; thought crumbles faster, if not made firm by some sort of concrete practice that holds together believers and sees to the transmission of the teaching to the young. More »
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    Losing Our Religion Paid Member

    Robert Sharf's interest in Buddhism began in the early 1970s, when, as a seeker in sandals barely out of his teens, he hopped from one meditation retreat to the next, first in India and Burma, then back in North America. It was shortly after a three-month Vipassana meditation retreat in Bucksport, Maine, in 1975 that Sharf began to wonder whether the single-minded emphasis on meditation characteristic of much of Western Buddhism was in some way misguided. Over time, doubt and confusion gave way to a desire to better understand Buddhism's historical background, which in turn led him to pursue a career in Buddhist scholarship. Today Sharf is the D. H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. More »