The keys to heaven

November 5th, 2009

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!

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  1. Great article. I love your writing. Your words are so soothing. I loved the Q&A bit. Especially – Do you practice very much?
    Practice is the only thing that matters. Have some tea.

    I need an extra dose of Buddhism in my Mormon "tea".


    And Smiling.

    Starting at one again.

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — November 5, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

  2. Living in Thailand I see many Westerners coming here, going to the temples, seeking enlightenment, or some sort of spiritual experience. The Buddhist temples here are old and the monks look so exotically "monk like", that people tend to think there's something more "authentic" about Buddhist practice here.

    Then they are quickly disillusioned when they discover that the flaws and mispercerptions, human foibles and anger and misunderstandings, dogma and wrongheadedness inhabit these holy spaces too – just like anywhere else!

    The only 'authenticity' you have any sort of power over is that within yourself, I think!

    Comment by Lana — November 6, 2009 @ 5:33 am

  3. Beautiful essay. I am learning the importance of releasing judgments about anything in my life, and reading some of the quotes in your essay helped affirm that:

    Did there used to be more hermits?
    There used to be more, and now there are less.

    Is it a good place because it is quiet?
    If people are quiet, they can be quiet anywhere.

    Isn’t it hard?
    After awhile, it’s all the same.

    Isn’t it cold in the winter?
    Winters are a good time to practice.

    Comment by Swirly — November 6, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

  4. Thank you for this one. I struggle with finding proper practice, the fine line between being present and feeling like I'm making up religion as I go along (I'm unitarian). I look forward to rereading it as I search for my happy medium in faith.

    Comment by Melanie J. — November 6, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  5. Red Pine's translations share with your writing the quality of expressing truths in language that is what would be used if one had never heard Shakyamuni's language. One can write about ones own experience in ones native language, or at least you and Hui Neng could.

    I do think that face to face is better for most important things, and it is interesting to see Zen flowing through our US flows.

    The thing I would caution those that want to dump the traditional things are that a danger of a "spiritual" path is self-deception. On the other hand what I have read of the MBSR program that Kabat-Zinn put together sounds totally sound. The traditions have a lot of experience in dealing with our tendency to self deceive (which is harder to do sitting int the same room with another person than sitting alone at home).

    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — November 7, 2009 @ 7:42 am

  6. So glad you spoke up Chris. And isn't it interesting: no one alive ever heard Shakyamuni's language. It's kind of like quoting the King James Version of the Bible because it "sounds like God."

    There is a long thread over at Shambhala SunSpace this week that invites people "who practice without affiliation" to pipe up on their experience of Buddhism. Hordes wrote it saying that they don't live near a sangha, they don't like a sangha, they are afraid of a sangha, they don't see a teacher they like anywhere, they have everything they need right at home at their fingertips thank you very much. All they are doing is reinforcing their separation.

    Buddha wandered. Buddhism absolutely requires forward motion. This is not a metaphor.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — November 7, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  7. Always impressed with your writing. I found the book in a used book store in Maui and read it immediately, I recommend it to everyone. The documentary was powerful too.

    Thank you again.

    Comment by Chris — November 8, 2009 @ 2:34 am

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