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    Many is More Paid Member

    Following the failed coup in Russia a cartoon in a New York newspaper featured two people standing in front of the Kremlin. One was saying to the other, "If you miss the one-party system, go to America." As the cartoon implies, new political alliances threaten to recast the United States as, at best, a beleaguered advocate of ideological plurality. Let's hope that American Buddhism doesn't follow the national political trend, especially since diversity is as central to Buddhist history as it has been to the history of the United States. More »
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    At the Crossroad Paid Member

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    Buddhism: For Adults Only? Paid Member

    “How did you come to Buddhism?” It’s a question I’ve asked plenty of Buddhists I’ve met over the years. People often answer that they came to Buddhism because they felt their churches or synagogues had lost touch with their faith’s spiritual ground. Or that they felt they could no longer abide by mores or live by tenets that did not sufficiently address the realities of their day-to-day lives. Attending ritual after empty ritual, they associated key dates of the religious calendar more closely with holiday sales and seasonal vacations than anything else. And yet, when it came to weddings and funerals—and, even among the more secular-minded, baptisms—they found themselves seeking out the local rabbi or priest. More »
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    Death Becomes Us Paid Member

    Imagine that a great sage arrives in the West to give the secret teachings on living and dying. Thousands of people pack the stadium. The master says: “We are born. We die. The sooner you understand this, the better off you are.” Then he stands up and bows good-bye. But everyone gets angry and says, "We already know that. We want our money back." So he sighs and continues. Perhaps the sage quotes from the historical Buddha (p. 20) or from the Tibetan master, Dilgo Khyentse (p. 23). Maybe he discusses particular practices (see Brown, Rosenberg, Sogyal Rinpoche) or suggests contemplating the reminder that Rick Fields repeats (p. 42): “Death is real. It comes without warning. This body too will be a corpse.” More »
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    What Does It Take? Paid Member

    “If you see a greater pleasure that comes from forsaking a lesser pleasure, be willing to forsake that lesser pleasure for the greater one,” writes Thai forest monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu, paraphrasing the Buddha in this issue’s Dharma Talk. The restraint our teachers speak of seems so simple, and yet how often, after periods of steady practice, do we find ourselves relapsing into a life governed by the pursuit of petty pleasures? After all, if we buy the logic of a greater pleasure won through restraint—freedom from the pull of impulse and, ultimately, from suffering itself—shouldn’t restraint be a breeze? More »
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    The Clinton Koan Paid Member

    What is the sound of one hand clapping? What was your face before you were born? These Zen koans have seeped into the English vernacular as "riddles." What characterizes a riddle, however, is to ask a question, then gleefully wait for the (often ridiculous) "right " answer. These days Washington has produced a veritable glut of riddles. Usually smutty, they are told at a pitch that turns elevators, taxis, and street vendor carts into stand-up comedy clubs, In Zen, koan practice primes an awakening to a reality that dwarfs the small sense of "me" and renders senseless one's own socially conditioned, ego-bound habits of linear, logical thinking This environment does not curry favor with hard-edged opinions, condemnation or holy superiority. Yet, oddly enough, for all the humor and irrationality inherent in koans, the right/wrong rhetoric of the beltway—by comparison—looks like kindergarten sophistry; not innocent, but rather too childish to contain contradiction. More »