Archive for November, 2008
This post contains an article sent to me by a friend, Rethinking Western Feminist Critiques on Buddhism (original link), by Cheng Wei-yi (鄭維儀). It’s sort of timely since I’ve been ranting about cultural issues in the Buddhist community since… well, since I’ve started blogging here. I enjoyed this article and felt it deeply resonated with my perceptions. But then when I came to writing this blog, I remembered the first thing I was ever taught when discussing something that stirs your emotions: question your assumptions. It was very clear to me that different readers would draw very different conclusions from this essay. So I’m just putting the whole thing out there, typos and all. Take from it what you will.
If you’re interested in modern, transnational Buddhism, feminism and postcolonialism, then you’ll surely want to read on. (But it is long!)
Ven. Thích Thiện Sơn at Chùa Phật Huệ in Frankfurt AM
Several years ago, we had the tremendous honor of hosting Venerable Thích Thiện Sơn at UCLA. Ven Thiện Sơn is the abbot of Chùa Phật Huệ, the major Vietnamese temple in Frankfurt AM. He is an accomplished meditation master, also fluent in German, Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. (He spoke to us in Chinese through an interpreter.) Unfortunately, we did a horrible publicity job, and for such an eminent speaker, we were only able to attract about fifteen students.
On the bright side, even for the very unenlightened group of Buddhist youth that we were, he was able to pass along at least one meditation teaching that I will never forget.
For the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of difficulty keeping meditation at the top of my priorities. Even when I manage to sit every day, my mind has been more agitated than usual. Then the other day, I had a moment that brought me back to the stories of Lord Buddha that I learned when much younger — and this reminded me of an article I read in Buddhadharma.
(I also hope this shows that I really mean it when I say that I appreciate Buddhist magazines, no matter how much I criticize them!)
The Fall 2008 issue of Buddhadharma contained a forum with Glenn Wallis, Judy Lief and Ari Goldfield. The topic was: “Do You Believe in Miracles?” (with the subtitle, “Debating the Supernatural in Buddhism”). I picked up this article during a break at the office some weeks ago, and I remember feeling numb while reading. While deities and ghosts were all a part of my upbringing, I didn’t have any opinion about what these stories meant, or whether I should believe in the “supernatural.” For me the notions existed at one time and then went away, much in the way people let go of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy come a certain age. So it was strangely both deeply interesting and a little boring to follow this epistemic debate about devas, spirits and monks walking through mountains.