Buddhism and the West

Interesting article sent to me by an old friend- <http://info-buddhism.com/Buddhism_in_the_West_Jay_Garfield.html&gt;

A sociological study of the transmission of Buddhism to the other areas of the world, comparing the nature and effects of this in different areas.

We know as Buddhists that nothing gets preserved unchanged and pure even from moment to moment, so that rhetoric of Authenticity has to be subjected to a certain amount of critique. Sometimes, that is, you really have to be a heretic in order to be authentic and orthodox……the transmission of Buddhism to the West is in one sense completely continuous with what has happened throughout the history of Buddhism: that Buddhism has entered cultures, transformed those cultures and been transformed by them, and that when we look at the multiple lineages of Buddhism in Asia, we do not want to be asking the narrow, parochial question: »Which one is authentic?« Rather we want to ask ourselves in which ways has Buddhism developed productively in all of these different directions. That’s a sign of the vitality of the Buddhist tradition, not of its weakness.

….we should expect as we see Buddhism develop in the West that it will penetrate slowly, that it will penetrate in many diverse forms with many different translational ideas, inflected in very important ways by different ideas from the West. And just as Buddhism is alive and well and thriving in China, Korea and Japan, because it draws nourishment not only from its Indian roots but from its East Asian rain and fertilizers, it’s going to be alive and well in the West for years to come because it draws nourishment not only from its Indian roots but from the rain and fertility of Western ideas, and that needs to be a cause for celebration, not for anxiety, as we go forward.

… see the effect of this multiple simultaneous transmission on the shape of Western Buddhism… — And so Western Buddhism and Western-inflected Asian Buddhism are born at the same time and they are born in the same interaction, and that birth gives rise to a history of Asian Buddhism adopting Western ideas in the course of its confrontation with modernity, and the West adopting Buddhist ideas at the same time—and this is the deep tension that runs through modern Buddhism—it must at the same time be ancient wisdom tried and true and passed down through an infallible lineage, and completely modern!

And this is just the introduction. This is an amazing article, full of insights into this whole process. One more quote: (!)

Buddhists in different traditions are learning from each other because the insights that are available in the Tibetan tradition are often needed by people in the Zen tradition but the insights of the people in the Zen tradition are often equally needed by people in the Tibetan tradition and all across the Buddhist traditions. People have been doing good work in Buddhism in every one of these lineages. But they have been hermetically sealed from one another for a long time. And it has been this reflection through the West that has broken down those walls.


Lojong #15 Four practices…

Four practices are the best of methods.

The challenge here is remembering what the four practices are! They don’t have simple, easy identifiers, and they’re fairly complicated as well as involving a lot of Tibetan traditional ideas, so it’s difficult.

Practice one is accumulating merit: Trungpa emphasizes the sense of veneration of the practice, being grateful for whatever comes up, and learning to let go of possessiveness. It also includes the idea of ‘no hope, no fear’ so that we are just welcoming everything and not hoping to get something out of the practice or fearful of it not working out for us. This involves the very difficult notion of giving up our scheming to get pleasure and avoid pain.

Practice two is laying down evil deeds: this is done by looking deeply into your own life, seeing your mistakes clearly and surrendering to the truth of your life. “Evil deeds” is better understood as ‘neurotic crimes’ of a psychological nature.

Practice three is offering to the dons (feeding the ghosts): the idea of the dons is the source of all one’s misfortune, and the practice is to welcome these attacks because they show us that we have slipped from the path of mindfulness.

Practice four is offering to the dharmapalas (protectors of the teachings): this is asking for the things to happen that will remind us to stay on the path and show us when we’ve slipped.

Though these seem a bit obscure and complex, they are ideas that grow in one’s mind over time and help deal with difficult life situations. Understanding them, seeing them clearly, is not likely to happen quickly, but we just keep working with them and the truth of it seeps into our hearts so that when needed, the understanding arises.