Posts Tagged ‘Trouble With Buddhism’

how to raise a Buddhist child

July 11th, 2011    -    6 Comments

When someone borrowed my post on teachable moments last week they referred to this as a blog on “Buddhist parenting.” I hadn’t thought about that for awhile, so it seems a good time to share these tips on raising a Buddhist child.

1. Honestly, have no idea.
2. Diligently, make no effort.
3. Faithfully, accept what is.
4. Sincerely, pay attention.
5. Be kind.
6. Otherwise, apologize.
7. Raise a Buddhist parent instead.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Fan me • Follow me.


something amazing in the space

June 2nd, 2011    -    13 Comments

Reprinted from the Summer 2011 issue of Buddhadharma magazine.

I’m sitting in what I call the “mommy pit” at the gymnastics studio, the fenced sideline from which I’ve watched my daughter explore the potential of her human form over the last five years. She does a triple back handspring, vaulting backward in three blind spirals until she plants her feet in the unmistakable thwack of a solid landing, raising her arms in a completion salute.

Her teacher stands with arms crossed, her response inscrutable. Is that a slight smile? A frown? A nod? Is that encouragement? Criticism? Recognition? Who can tell?

“Again,” she instructs, and my daughter flips across the floor.

I’m thinking about teachers and what they empower in us, and how different that is from a teaching itself. I’m thinking about this because of the choice it presents to us in our own lives, and because of the crossroads we face in the propagation of American Buddhism.

What do teachers do? And given how difficult Buddhist teachers can be to locate, trust, understand, accept, admire, and follow, are they even necessary? It’s my guess that most Buddhists don’t think so, since by their own admission, so many are “unaffiliated,” unable, unwilling, or unconvinced they need to seek a teacher.

The justifications to dismiss the role of teachers and sanghas are compelling. Justifications always are. It’s inconvenient, for one. You might have to travel. Teachers are few and far between. It takes time. You have to meet other people. You might not like them. It’s frightening. Looks cultlike. And what if you get the wrong one? Besides, we live in the virtual age, when Buddhist information, discussion, and so-called communities proliferate on the web. Shouldn’t we advance the dharma into modernity? Who needs to meet face-to-face when you have Skype?

Once again I glance at the gym teacher standing among her charges. A handspring isn’t something I do, or can teach my daughter to do. What was it that turned her timidity into trust, her fear into freeform flight? A firm touch to her knees? A hand on her back? The sheer persistence of practice? A grin? A shout? The company of her teammates, who amplify her effort with the energy of their own? Perhaps all of that, plus the teacher’s steadfast reassurance that my daughter could do what she didn’t believe she could: go beyond her limits. read more

my sarah palin moment

December 12th, 2010    -    29 Comments

When you come back from retreat like I just did, you find out something. Although you were away from noise, information and conversation for 10 days, you didn’t miss anything that matters. Sure enough, you miss out on the savagery that passes for political and cultural affairs – the insanity, hostility and depravity that we are dangerously desensitized to – but the good stuff comes right on schedule.

So I missed another episode of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

But then right here in my scopes I caught sight of something good. A group of Buddhist bloggers gave this blog Cheerio Road a prize. I’m not usually keen on awards. My approach to them owes much to Groucho’s famous take on club membership. Namely, I’m not that interested in winning an award that would have me as a winner. But this one was meaningful because I’m not well known, and frankly, not that well liked as a Buddhist blogger. Sometimes people tell me that I get under their nerves or disappoint them. They tell me my approach to Buddhism is trivial and inane. More people tell me this every day. There’s a whole discussion board in which I’m carved limb from limb! So I’m normally gun shy around card-carrying Buddhists.

It’s obvious that hatred sells and provocation pays. When you come back from a retreat, you see things in high relief. You see the abject loathing, pious greed and bloodthirsty ignorance that are destroying us. We live in a crazy world, so close to combusting that it’s terrifying. Seeing this, you might decide to let someone else pass by, freely and undisturbed. You might decide to practice passing by yourself, freely and undisturbed.

Thank you for letting me pass by. Thank you for encouraging me in my practice. I accept whatever comes my way, and apply the lessons here.

Special Friends Offer: Save 40% on Two Signed Copies of Hand Wash Cold

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my Monterey retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

more dalai in your lama

September 29th, 2010    -    15 Comments

Warning: Falling rocks ahead.

A few months ago, a young newspaper reporter asked me a very good question, the kind of question that comes from the mouths of keenly observant babes:

“Do you encounter resistance because you don’t fit the stereotype of a Buddhist teacher?”

Honestly, I had never presumed as much, but it makes sense given the human proclivity to idealize and worship images.

Some people might like a little more Dalai in their Lama, I laughed.

I know I did, at least when I was starting out. And I know that most of us still do, taking a measure of comfort and even confidence when a teacher appears to be so altogether other, so unattainably spiritual, so removedly saintly. It must have drawn me closer, then, when Maezumi Roshi fit the bill of a short, smiling, impish Asian. He was nothing that I thought him to be, but his appearance upheld my standard of the real thing.

Being Maezumi, being a man, being an American, I once heard him say to describe his life, to no one in the room who believed him. We had a stake in him being a holy man.

Why this comes up I’m not so sure, although it may have something to do with an email I received yesterday telling me about a public talk by a revered Buddhist author. The talks are rare, I was told, and routinely sold out. There might not ever be another one, the message urged. I could get on the bandwagon and even make a little profit from the books I sold through my website.

All those things may be true, but this line of thinking does not sit with me, and so I sit with it. read more

trouble with buddhism

July 30th, 2010    -    10 Comments

When you’re as easily teased by Buddhist discourse as I am, you can see the same arguments over and over. Among the refrains I keep hearing are the ones I call The Biggest Lies in Buddhism. Believing them is serious self-deception and keeps you in a world of trouble.

I’m not a Buddha. You most certainly are; you may not yet realize it. “Buddha” does not equate to a celestial being or deity but to an awakened one. When human beings live in their natural awakened state, undisturbed by delusive thoughts and emotions, they live as buddhas. Buddhahood is your birthright. You claim it every time you wake up to the present moment. And even when we can’t quite convince ourselves, we practice the way Maezumi Roshi admonished: “as if” enlightened. “I’m only human,” we like to assess and degrade ourselves. And yet we have an entirely lopsided idea of what a human being really is. That leads me to:

My ideas are as good as yours. That’s true, however, no one’s ideas are any good at all. The practice of Buddhism is not intended to democratize personal views, as in Oh, you think that way? That’s OK. I think this way? That’s OK too. Buddhism is not a feel-good club that aims to equalize the worth of everyone’s self-reinforcing preferences; it simply transcends them. We practice Buddhism so we will no longer be blinded by what we think, confused by what others think, or stuck in the understanding we feel compelled to express on a Buddhist discussion board someplace. We practice Buddhism to wake up to how things are. How things are is not how you think they are. As Dogen said, “Your understanding of reality is not reality.”

No one is perfect. Everyone and everything is perfect as they are, we just don’t view them – or ourselves – to be so. Imperfection lies solely in our judging mind, the mind that picks what we like and calls it best or right, and labels what we don’t like as worse or wrong. This mind between your ears is the source of all conflict, and even then, it is functioning perfectly. Seeing it clearly, we must unleash ourselves from its mastery over our lives. Only then can we hope to repair the mess we have made of the world we inhabit.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my Boston retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

imprisoned with an i

June 23rd, 2010    -    9 Comments

We are enslaved by our understanding of “I”Maezumi Roshi

We are each imprisoned with an I. The I that you think you are, and the I that you think you’re not. The I that you like on good days, and more often the I that you don’t like. The I you interpret, analyze and diagnose. The I you want and wish for; the I that you want to become. The I in obsession, and the I in addiction. And so on and so on, a life sentence of solitary confinement without release. Four dank walls and a hard cot: call it your “comfort zone.”

Imprisonment begins with an I.

We are enslaved by our understanding of who and what we are. By our opinions and preferences. By our ruminations, fantasies, ideas and values. By our knowledge and understanding. Understanding is limited. But our true nature is boundless. How can we understand something without limits? We can’t even come close, but we keep banging our head away at it, like battering a tin cup against jail bars.

What has shot me off in this wretchedly abstract direction is something simple and concrete: our appetite for information, and the habitual way we confuse information with action. Many of us want to change the way we live, and we start by informing ourselves. I can see the point. It’s why, for instance, you might read this blog. Sorry to disappoint you, but other Buddhist bloggers shell out far more information and explanation than I do! Armed with a self-righteous view, they might even yell and fight! Prison riots are exhilarating in their way, but they always end up lengthening your sentence. read more

Weighing in on the fight

January 7th, 2010    -    4 Comments

Weighed in on the brouhaha over Tiger Woods & Buddhism versus Brit Hume & Christianity over at Pundit Mom, and I’m still 10 pounds over my fighting weight!

Come over and see what happened when I spit out my mouthpiece.

A late entry in the truth category

December 9th, 2009    -    2 Comments


When you’re as easily teased by Buddhist discourse as I am, you can see the same arguments over and over. Among the refrains I keep hearing are the ones I call The Biggest Lies in Buddhism.

I’m not a Buddha. You most certainly are; you may not yet realize it. “Buddha” does not equate to an imaginary celestial being but to an awakened one. When human beings live in their natural awakened state, undisturbed by delusive thoughts and emotions, they live as buddhas. Buddhahood is your birthright. You claim it every time you wake up to the present moment.

My ideas are as good as yours. That’s true, however, neither are any good at all. The practice of Buddhism is not intended to democratize personal views; it does not aim to equalize the worth of everyone’s self-reinforcing preferences; it simply transcends them. We practice Buddhism so we will no longer be blinded by what we think, and wake up instead to how things are.

Continue reading and leave a comment on Shambhala SunSpace

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

Straight on faith

November 29th, 2009    -    2 Comments


My teacher gave a talk the other day and touched on a topic that has coincidental significance to me: whether or not Zen is a religion. He said that a group of scholars once deliberated this and concluded that Zen was a religion because of its use of faith. Of course, it’s not the faith you might be familiar with; not a faith in something or someone or somewhere else. It’s faith in yourself.

I’m sharing this post on Shambhala SunSpace today.

***

From time to time I’m asked this question: What do Buddhists believe?

I don’t know what some Buddhists believe, but I like to respond that Buddhism requires no beliefs. That’s rather hard to believe. And so I offer this solely as my own testimony.

I believe in love. Not the love that is the enemy of hate, but the love that has no enemies or rivals, no end and no reason, no justification and no words. Love and hate are completely unrelated and incomparable. Hate is born of human fear. Love is never born, which is to say, it is eternal and absolutely fearless. This love does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

Continue reading and leave a comment on Shambhala SunSpace

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

The keys to heaven

November 5th, 2009    -    7 Comments


Recently I ran across a new Buddhist blog that says it is for people who “are interested in meditation but don’t want to pretend they live in ancient Asia.” I try not to get too worked up about how people characterize Buddhism, but that line about pretense got my attention.

If I have your attention, please hop over to the web magazine Killing the Buddha, where my newest essay, “Grass Huts and Hermits” is up this morning. I’m looking into the future of American Buddhism, and it seems an appropriate way to sum up this week’s explorations of faith.

You have the keys. Get going!

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

Buddhists and gardeners raise your hands

September 14th, 2009    -    No Comments


Shortly after my husband and I moved into our house with its old garden, we invited the experts and academics over tell us what to do. Some would say that our backyard is Southern California’s oldest private Japanese garden, dating from 1916. Some would say that it isn’t; that by virtue of geography, topography, plant selection and cultural anthropology, it can’t ever be Japanese. We were twisted into a fit by these and other debates about the right way to care for the place. Heaven forbid we make a fraudulent move when we were already paralyzed by ignorance from the get go!

You might not fall victim to this kind of dialectic. You might be able to sweep it aside with the simple observation that the Japanese garden originated in China and the Chinese garden originated as a Persian pleasure park, and that a garden is a garden no matter what you call it.

One day we stopped asking the experts. That was the day we got dirt under our fingernails. Conventional wisdom holds that our garden isn’t the real thing, but try telling that to the pine tree.

Read the rest and leave a comment on “The Laundry Line”
my blog at Shambhala SunSpace

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

To be continued

July 23rd, 2009    -    3 Comments


Buddhist scriptures, Buddhist doctrine, and Buddhist philosophy are no more than intellectual formulations of zazen, and zazen itself is their practical demonstration. From this vast field I will abstract what is most essential for your practice.

Buddha devoted himself exclusively to zazen for six years and eventually, on the morning of the eighth of December, at the very instant when he glanced at the planet Venus gleaming in the eastern sky, he attained perfect enlightenment. He spontaneously cried out, “Wonder of wonders! Intrinsically all living beings are Buddhas, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but because men’s minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this.” The first pronouncement of the Buddha seems to have been one of awe and astonishment.

The first declaration of Buddha is also the ultimate conclusion of Buddhism.

I hope to have succeeded in conveying to you the importance of zazen. Let us now talk about practice.

Select a quiet room in which to sit.

This can only be continued by you.
Earlier entries in this series are here, here, and here.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat

Just sayin

July 9th, 2009    -    9 Comments


“I often see those who are trying to study Buddhism just use their worldly intelligence to sift among the verbal teachings of the buddhas and ancestral teachers, trying to pick out especially wondrous sayings to use as conversation pieces to display their ability and understanding. This is not the correct view of the matter. You must abandon your worldly mentality and sit quietly with mind silent. Forget entangling causes and investigate with your whole being. When you are thoroughly clear then whatever you bring forth from your own inexhaustible treasure of priceless jewels is sure to be genuine and real.”

Zen Letters: Teaching of Yuanwu (1063-1135)

A practice without a practice is not a practice.

To settle the matter, settle the matter.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat

Pages: 1 2 Next

archives by month

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.