The Buddhadharma Magazine - fall 2011

After the Honeymoon

Amour by Ligia BlatFalling in love is easy, but staying in love takes work. Thich Nhat Hanh offers advice for cultivating a relationship that’s loving and strong.
To commit to another person is to embark on a very adventurous journey. There is no one “right person” who will make it easier. You must be very wise and patient to keep your love alive, so that it will last for a long time.
The first year of a committed relationship reveals how difficult it is. When you first commit to someone, you have a beautiful image of them, and you commit to that image rather than the person. When you live with them twenty-four hours a day, you begin to discover that the reality of the other person doesn’t quite correspond with the image you have of them. Sometimes you’re disappointed.

The Real Path 

Norman Fischer explains why it’s suffering that gives us the incentive, vision, and strength to transform our lives.  
On January 12, 2009, my dear friend of forty years, my best friend who was more than a brother to me, Rabbi Alan Lew, died without any warning or any known illness. I won’t go on about our long friendship; there’s too much to say. Suffice it to say, we were as close as people can be; we were spiritually linked. We knew each other before either of us had started on our religious paths, and then we began practicing Zen at the same time. We studied for many years together at the Zen Center in Berkeley and went to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center where we were monks together. As time went on, we created our own version of Jewish meditation and together we founded Makor Or, a Jewish meditation center in San Francisco. We practiced there together, side by side, for more than a decade.


Illustration by Keith Abbott The job of the dharma teacher, says Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, is to help students see deeply into the nature of things. But what happens when the teacher gets lost along the way? 
Main Case
One day Guishan sat in zazen, and after sitting, he pointed at the straw sandals and said to Yangshan, “All hours of the day, we receive people’s support. Don’t betray them.”

The Face of Western Buddhism 

Image by Katherine Streeter According to the latest research, Buddhism is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States. Sociologist James Coleman looks at the emerging Buddhist population and who will shape the new public face of Buddhism.
Like it or not, Western Buddhism is heading into the cultural mainstream, and it may well be a rough ride. Although the population of American Buddhists has been growing rapidly for decades, to this point Buddhism has remained something of a stealth religion, virtually invisible to most people outside our cosmopolitan coastal enclaves. It has, for example, become commonplace for politicians to include Islam in their rhetoric about American cultural diversity, while Buddhism is seldom given a mention, though by even the most conservative estimates there are almost twice as many Buddhists as Muslims in the United States.

The Challenges Ahead

Two Hundred Teachers Gather to Discuss the Future of Buddhism in the West
Introduction By Tynette Deveaux
This past June, about two hundred Buddhist teachers from across North America and Europe gathered at the Garrison Institute near New York for a three-day conference that had been several years in the planning. In his opening address, Jack Kornfield, one the key organizers, pointed out that this “Buddhist Teachers Council” was part of a tradition of councils that have been held since the Buddha’s paranirvana, most recently in the West at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in 2000.
Despite the responsibility that such legacy implies, the goals of the conference were modest: to deepen friendships and collegiality across traditions, strengthen honest dialogue and learning across generations, create bonds for the work that needs to be done in the future. You get the idea.

A Sane Life

American Zen pioneer Charlotte Joko Beck died in June at the age of 94. In this teaching she reminds us that having a sane and satisfying life comes from having a sane and balanced practice.
My dog doesn’t worry about the meaning of life. She may worry if she doesn’t get her breakfast, but she doesn’t sit around worrying about whether she will get fulfilled or liberated or enlightened. As long as she gets some food and a little affection, her life is fine. But we human beings are not like dogs. We have self-centered minds which get us into plenty of trouble. If we do not come to understand the error in the way we think, our self-awareness, which is our greatest blessing, is also our downfall.
To some degree we all find life difficult, perplexing, and oppressive. Even when it goes well, as it may for a time, we worry that it probably won’t keep on that way. Depending on our personal history, we arrive at adulthood with very mixed feelings about this life. If I were to tell you that your life is already perfect, whole, and complete just as it is, you would think I was crazy. Nobody believes his or her life is perfect. And yet there is something within each of us that basically knows we are boundless, limitless. We are caught in the contradiction of finding life a rather perplexing puzzle, which causes us a lot of misery, and at the same time being dimly aware of the boundless, limitless nature of life. So we begin looking for an answer to the puzzle.

In Memoriam: Joko Beck

By Barry Magid
It is not an overstatement to say that Joko Beck transformed the face of Zen in America, not in the least by making it the face of a woman. She was among the first generation of Westerners to inherit the dharma from their Japanese masters, at a time when a focus on the experience of kensho, or awakening, led to a dismissive attitude toward problems that were “merely” psychological. Having fully mastered the traditional koan system, Joko worked to restore a sense of emotional reality to a scene that had become increasingly plagued by scandal and misconduct by our allegedly enlightened role models. She had the courage to say that her own teacher’s training had done little to curb his alcoholism or deal with his character problems. Furthermore, his wasn’t an unfortunate exception, but pointed to a deeply ingrained tendency to enshrine emotional bypassing into the very heart of traditional Zen training. She put dealing with anger, anxiety, pride, and sexual exploitation of students into the center of what we must deal with in our practice.

The Taste of Thusness

Photo by Renshin Bunce Hoko Jan Karnegis explains how nyoho, or the dharma of thusness, guides the menu at a Zen kitchen.
It was the last day of sesshin, and something about the teacher’s dharma talk puzzled one of the members of my kitchen crew. “If we are supposed to avoid picking and choosing, and not have opinions, how can we go to the grocery store?” he asked.

The Daughter I Love

Photo by Sharon Holoviak With the help of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings on emptiness, Stephen Holoviak realizes that to fully know and accept his autistic daughter he must let go of his hopes and dreams for her.
Our daughter, now thirty, is autistic, nonverbal, and has pervasive communication issues. She was an infant when diagnosed in 1981. Back then there was little knowledge of autism, even among health care professionals, and not much in the way of support.
As we worked to find ways to help her, my wife and I realized we needed to find a source of strength and spiritual support in our daily lives to stay positive for her and the many other responsibilities and relationships in our lives. Above all, we needed to find a way to love our autistic daughter as much as we loved our other three children.

What Kind of World Do We Want? 

By Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi 
For many of us in the West, Buddhism first appears on the horizon as a path to inner peace offering relief from the tensions of daily living. This perception is reinforced by popular culture, which pictures the Buddha as a man sitting motionless with crossed legs and closed eyes, seemingly lost to his surroundings. Seldom do we think that Buddhism might hold out practical clues for resolving the complex problems that weigh so heavily on our planet. The problems seem just too big for an ancient system of contemplative spirituality.
Yet, I believe, if we as Buddhists are to adequately respond to the needs of our age, we will have to rise to the challenge. It won’t suffice for us merely to adopt Buddhist teachings as a route to deeper self-fulfillment. A predominantly personal approach to spiritual growth falls short of Buddhism’s ethical ideals and misses half its message. Greed, hatred, and delusion are not only in our mind but in the food we eat, the gas we put into our cars, and the movies we turn to for entertainment.