Compassion and rebirth are two basic tenets of traditional Buddhism that both came together for me recently as I sat reflecting on how I nearly drove my mother off the road. That incident occurred another night long ago. Irritated by a slow driver ahead of me, I tailgated the vehicle so closely that I could not even see the license plate. I persisted until the car turned off onto a side road.
But that side road was the very road that I intended to take to visit my parents—and the driver was my mother.
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Posted in Dharma, Philosophy | 4 Comments »
I have a new favorite piece of Buddhist snark!
I think a lot about the writing of seemingly uncomposed things—restaurant menus, instruction manuals, catalog copy, and all those things we assume are not the work of artists. They are, of course. I have been moved by a fine and readable terms of service (google writes the best ones) much like a poem describing a summer day. I enjoy good writing, and all the more when it is a type of writing we ask very little of, because such composition is an intense act of caring.
The Seeker’s Glossary of Buddhism, put out by the now websiteless Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada, tries to come off as an uncomposed text: it is a amalgam of entries from different sources, indexed and cross-referenced. The selection of articles is extremely broad, though sometimes lacking in depth, and I keep one by my desk to turn to when more scholarly references works fail me.
If you begin to appreciate the writing of uncomposed things you realize two things: one is that a sentence describing vacuum cleaner assembly can be beautiful, and the other is that everyone, everyone everyone exerts authorial intent, and it is there to see for those who look. Continue Reading »
Posted in Writing | Tagged books, snark, western buddhism | 2 Comments »
Last weekend I participated in a small panel on Buddhism, where a Buddhist student in the audience asked me how I incorporate Buddhist practice into my everyday life. I gave her a fairly lame response along the lines of, “I meditate daily and—gosh, Buddhism practically permeates my life!”
Here is my attempt to give her a slightly better idea of how I have been engaged with the Buddhist community, along with the types of opportunities she likely will have in the Buddhist community after graduation.
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Posted in Community | 2 Comments »
Members of my generation will remember from their childhood the Power Rangers. In fact, the American television series is still with us as I recently found out the original season was being broadcasted last year, and that there are plans to renew the show with a 19th season.
I loved the Power Rangers. I recall watching the show at every chance, eagerly anticipating the two movies as they premiered, and reenacting scenes with my companions. Most tangibly, I remember playing with my Green Ranger action figure. Readers of my generation may disagree, but the Green Ranger was the most badass of them all. Originally conceived as a foil to the five rangers (Red, Blue, Yellow, Pink and Black), he eventually overcame the wickedness gripping through his mind and joined the group in combating evil.
Playing with my Green Ranger figurine meant hours of fun, either by myself or with my friends as we joined forces. This was cool. Even when not playing with the toy, I arranged it to strike a pose as we waited until the next time.
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Posted in Journal, Memento, Silliness | Leave a Comment »
I spend much of my time as a Buddhist Sunday School teacher trying to fit my lessons to the specific personalities of the class. For the three years I’ve been teaching each group of students has been so different that I seldom use a lesson twice. One exception, which I eventually try with any and every group is called the Red Green Game. I love it, and there is almost nothing on the internet about it, so I shall describe it for our lovely readership.
I first played the game in a Psychology class at a community college, and its magic works just as will with third graders as it does with back-to-school Moms: It is a game designed for you to lose, and to have no one to blame but yourself. Continue Reading »
Posted in Buddhist Youth, Education | Tagged altruism, children, games, lessons, psychology, red greem game, selfishness, sunday school | 1 Comment »
During the first week of March, I made a trip with a friend to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Every first Sunday of the month, admission into the museum is free, with the exception of $5 to see the featured exhibit, of which was themed around Bali.
I was quite impressed with the collection of Buddhist items, with entire sections dedicated to Buddhism from different time periods and regions. Of all the historical artifacts, I would say what became most apparent and valuable as a take-away lesson was the diversity of Buddha imagery in Buddhism, again depending on time periods and regions. As I walked from one room to the next, I sometimes found myself not sure if I was even still browsing the Buddhist exhibit in seeing images I would initially associate with Hinduism or other Eastern religions.
Specifically, this statue of the Buddha surprised me. My first impression, as I think yours might be, is that it looks quite like a certain other religious leader popular and dominant in Western culture.
Description of Bodhisattva Maitreya
The description of the statue points out certain details that mark this to be a figure of Bodhisattva Maitreya, namely the princely garments and water bottle held in the left hand. Moreover, with origins inPakistan, it is no wonder that their regional depiction of Maitreya is much different than the Chinese-derived Buddhist images I’m used to.
And though I enjoyed the informative exhibits and felt the museum overall was well worth my time (especially for free), I did notice one detail near the end of the exhibit that triggered a cringe, especially for such a reputable facility.
Asian Art Museum restroom
What do you notice in the picture below? Yes, you’re right. Those are restrooms right across from Buddhist figures that are as much part of the exhibit as any of the other statues. Really? Could they find no where else to put those items? It seems as though in treating the museum items as representatives of history and culture, the curators seem to have forgotten their original function as representatives of religion and faith, a significant factor to consider regardless of whether placed in a temple or museum.
Posted in Art, History | Tagged art, buddhist statues, museum, pakistan, San Francisco | 2 Comments »
Right now I am editing a book of Chinese Buddhist Literature, and as such am chin-deep in Chinese Buddhist lore. I find the stuff immensely fascinating. I think that some Buddhists are much too quick to poo-poo the “cultural” elements of Buddhism. A religion is far more than its scriptural teachings: it is the teachings as read and practiced by its adherents. Buddhism is found in its aesthetics just as much as its orthodoxy.*
That being said, the one thing that shakes me is that, time and time again, it seems like the way to know that a given figure is enlightened, the way to know that they’ve really got it figured out, is when they don’t act anything like one would think an enlightened person would or should behave.
It makes so little sense, but, coincidentally, that seems to be the very thing that such a trope is least interested in making. The concept of the enlightened person as the antithesis of an enlightened person assumes that this latter ideal, the standard and agreed upon garden-variety, halo-wielding enlightened being exists.
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Posted in History, Language | Tagged chan, chinese buddhism, crazy wisdom, hanshan, hermits, imperial examination, zen | 3 Comments »