Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly - spring issue

A Torch Lighting the Way to Freedom (Shambhala 2011) is the Padmakara Translation Group’s translation of instructions on Tibetan tantric preliminary practices given by the late Nyingma master Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje (1904–1987). In the same genre as Patrul Rinpoche’s classic The Words of My Perfect Teacher, this text details practical guidance on how to engage in the ngöndro meditations that prepare one for the main Vajrayana practice of deity yoga. Like a coach prepping an athlete for heightened performance, Dudjom Rinpoche leads the practitioner systematically through the stages of preparing for tantra. The instructions begin with the routine reflections on turning the mind toward what is meaningful and proceed to give direction on how to set one’s intent on enlightenment, purify negativities, successively gather favorable conditions, and train in visualization. This extensive explanatory manual is complimented by the short recitation text on the Heart Essence of the Dakini for those who wish to seek out this transmission from a qualified master and engage in these practices.

Walking With Buddha and Christ

Buddhist and Christian?: An Exploration of Dual Belonging
By Rose Drew
Routledge, 2011$140; 288 pages

Reviewed by Paul F. Knitter

Rose Drew’s Buddhist and Christian? joins a growing lineup of scholarly studies on “religious dual belonging.” But it does so in a distinctive manner: it draws not only on theological and Buddhist scholarship, but on living, struggling practitioners. It is not only assuring in its careful scholarship, it is inspiring as it gives voice to women and men who are trying to figure out what is going on in them as they live out a spirituality that is both Buddhist and Christian. While she records carefully, Drew also assesses creatively. One senses that she is a dual belonger herself, trying to understand her love of both Jesus and Buddha.

Journeys: Don’t Get All Butt Hurt!

Illustration by Kim Scafuroby Kiley Jon Clark

The five years I’ve been spreading the dharma among the homeless grew out of hitting rock bottom myself in a dingy apartment in Texas. Hung over after losing yet another battle with the bottle, I headed into San Antonio, intent on staying sober. There, in a used book store, I found a cheap Zen manual, and I couldn’t put it down. That was the start of my journey into building supportive sanghas among the homeless. Some of the folks on the street joined me to talk and practice in parks, alleys, and under bridges, and we started calling ourselves the HMP, for Homeless Meditation Practitioners. Soon we were granted access to two downtown interfaith chapels and attracted some media coverage, including an article in
Buddhadharma (Summer 2011). And HMP Street Dharma groups keep on growing even though it’s obvious to me and everyone else that I have no idea what I’m doing. On top of all this, I’m with the love of my life, all our kids seem to be doing fine under one roof, and I’ve got a job at a homeless facility.

The Radical Thinkers of Pure Land

The Promise of Amida Buddha: Honen’s Path to Bliss
Translated by Joji Atone and Yoko Hayashi
Wisdom Publications, 2011
504 pages; $39.95 (hardcover)

Cultivating Spirituality: A Modern Shin Buddhist AnthologyEdited by Mark L. Blum and Robert Rhodes
SUNY Press, 2011
256 pages; $75 (hardcover)

Reviewed by Mark Unno
In the past two decades, there has been increasing awareness in America of Pure Land Buddhism as a major development of East Asian Mahayana Buddhism. While Zen Buddhism is still better known in the West, Pure Land Buddhism and the practices involving the Buddha of Infinite Light, or Amida Buddha, have long been far more prevalent in East Asia, and also widespread in other areas, including Tibet and Vietnam.

My Practice Without Meds

Illustration (detail) by Kim ScafuroAfter years of treating her depression with medication and therapy, Kiera Van Gelder turned to Buddhist practice to heal. But when her depression and suicidal thoughts returned, she was forced to reevaluate her view of an unmedicated spiritual path.
When I lived at the dharma center, I slept in a room directly above the kitchen. Our center also had a meditation hall, a shrine room and a dining room on the bottom floor, but it was here, in my room above the kitchen, that I felt the deepest pulse of the community.

I Vow to Be Political: Buddhism, Social Change, and Skillful Means

Photo by Kelly DelayIntroduction by Melvin McLeod
If the Buddha ever ran for political office, I think this would be his platform:
May all beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.
May they be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May they not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering,
May they dwell in the great equanimity free of passion, aggression, and ignorance.

Breaking Through

Photo by Amy YeeAfter twenty-one years of intensive study, Kelsang Wangmo, a German-born Tibetan Buddhist nun, has become the first woman to receive the prestigious geshe degree. Amy Yee reports on her unlikely and courageous journey.
The courtyard thronged with the commotion of more than a hundred red-robed, foot-stamping, hand-clapping, logicshouting Tibetan Buddhist monks in Dharamsala on a brisk afternoon in March 1994. In the midst of this cacophonous debate in northern India was Kelsang Wangmo, a Germanborn Buddhist nun. She was twenty-three, it was her first debate—and she didn’t speak Tibetan. Had she felt nervous or overwhelmed? Not at all, she recalls, exclaiming, “I loved it!”

Waking Up to Patriarchy

Photo by Michael Seto One helped transform American society, the other is helping to transform the lives of Buddhist nuns. In an event at the Rubin Museum of Art, feminist trailblazers Gloria Steinem and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo talk candidly about the personal challenges they’ve faced, the progress they’ve seen, and why there’s still more to be done.
Gloria Steinem: In reading about your life, I’ve been astounded by the degree to which we share certain parallels. We both had mothers who were very supportive of us and also very interested in spirituality. My mother was a theosophist. And so were both of my grandmothers. We both went to India, though in very different ways. I went to India for a couple of years after I graduated from college, mainly because I was trying not to get married.

Two Great Paths

Samantabhadra Buddha (detail), Tibet Collection of Rubin Museum of Art (acc. #2003.25.3) Dzogchen and Mahamudra, the Great Perfection and the Great Seal, are powerful meditative systems for revealing the nature of mind, explains Adeu Rinpoche. While their methods may differ, their essence is the same.
The meditation approach of Mahamudra as found in the Tibetan Kagyu tradition and the Dzogchen approach from the Nyingma tradition are identical in essence—you may follow one or the other—however, each has its own unique instructions. In each system, Mahamudra and Dzogchen, various methods are used to reveal the nature of bare awareness itself.

The Genjo Koan

Calligraphy by Kazuaki TanahashiDogen’s seminal teaching, translated by Robert Aitken and Kazuaki Tanahashi
1 When all dharmas are buddhadharma, there are delusion, realization, practice, birth and death, buddhas and sentient beings.
2 When the myriad dharmas are without a self, there is no delusion, no realization, no Buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death.
3 The Buddha Way, basically, is leaping clear of abundance and lack; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms just fall, and in aversion weeds just spread.