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Archive for August, 2009

Robert Wright’s piece on the New York Times’ Happy Days blog has been an immense hit in the Buddhist blogging community (see here, here, here and here). I appreciate his approach of speaking positively about meditation from the perspective of the “converted outsider” (If this sounds crazy to you, you should hear how crazy it sounds to me. I’m not the weed-hugging type, I assure you.)

But it was his mention of a song that struck the deepest chord with me.

Yes, the payoff was huge. But it’s unlikely to be as big this time around. It’s famously hard to replicate the rapture of your first meditation retreat. Last time, during the first half of the week, my apparently prescient unconscious mind kept filling my head with that old song by Foreigner, “It feels like the first time, like it never will again.” I’ve never especially liked that song, and during those first few days it joined the list of things I hated.

On my last retreat I had this song stuck in my head for the first six days. Don’t ask me why (I don’t know!) but Day 7 was truly amazing.

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Lord Buddha teaching

In reactions to his post, Secularizing Buddhism–Making it Accessible or Stripping the Roots?, the first comment to Vince Horn was a quote directly from Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s translation of the Kalama Sutta.
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I overposted over at Angry Asian Buddhist, so I’m continuing over here. Let me just say that I love Vince Horn’s recent post on the One City Blog.

The problem with not seeing how Buddhism has evolved, and in not seeing ourselves as a part of Buddhism’s evolution, is that we can believe we are somehow the holders of the “essence” of Buddhism.  But what is the essence stripped from the practices, realizations, models, and people who have contributed to this living tradition?  Is there really such a thing?  Could it be that the whole idea of there being an essence to Buddhism that is distinct from it’s extraneous forms–those forms that are so irrelevant that we can simply ignore them or dump them–is coming from a set of cultural assumptions that exist here in this place and time?  We need to recognize that possibility, and see that there is a kind of violence in trying to strip something from its historical roots, and also a kind of arrogance in thinking that we can even do that successfully.

Now I have to go read the comments!

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