Future of Buddhism
To Be Continued: An Editorial Introduction to The Future of Buddhism
At whatever shore the boat of the Dharma has docked, the teachings mingle with the local culture. Without such roots, how can seeds flourish? So naturally many of these articles refer to the Dharma as encountered in specific sectors: psychology, pop culture, prisons, aging, and so on. Of such applications, none may be more relevant to the future than . . . kids. Our children, after all, are our future. And their renewal can teach us, inspiring our own encounters with the wonders of the present moment. Susan Kaiser Greenland brings this home to us in a distillation of her lifelong practice with kids.
Ortega y Gasset has written that generations are the lever of change. Thinking of kids, I'm struck too by how much change the current younger generation will see in their lifetimes. My dad grew up in a world before electric light, and in retirement enjoyed exchanging emails with his far-flung family. I can remember when the medium in which you're probably reading these words was called "the Information Superhighway" (like my dad remembers the car as a horseless carriage); for kids today, this is all like wallpaper; a given. Indeed, where it took centuries for Europe to know of Dante, via the Net I was able to send out a call for entries and interact with respondents, from near and far, in just two months.
Since the internet is obviously a game-changer, in and of itself, it's worth noting how the Net is intrinsically Buddhist -- in its interconnectedness, and unique, many-to-many ability to facilitate community (sangha). I continue to ponder this synergy of Buddhism and the internet. For instance, as the Net seemingly erases geographic borders, different regional traditions of Buddhism are now able to learn of each other. Joseph Goldstein has termed this new path One Dharma. For some, this can mean an opportunity to explore and find a tradition to which to fully commit; for others, an abundance of practices to mix and match.
Ecumenism crops up frequently in these articles. In the light of the Net, I find it telling in the entry from Silicon Valley, "Hahayana," by Chade-Meng Tan. That is, I wonder whether his integration of teachings from three major, differing groupings of Buddhist traditions might stem from not only the globalization of the Net, but also social media's relaxing of single-focus dominance in exchange for a harmonic diversity of voices. In any event, as Philip Ryan makes clear, while Buddhist teachings continue to be face-to-face (f2f), they're also taking place now with teacher and student in separate environments ("distributed education"). But we can no more know all the ramifications of this paradigm shift than a fish can know water.
Science is another big litmus of paradigm shift. (T.S. Kuhn inscribed the phrase there.) Here too Buddhism is part of the equation, be it quantum or biological. As Buddhists incorporate findings of psychology and neuroscience in their practice, Newtonian science is discovering a different empiricism of Buddhism, such as a moving away from trying to tabulate and label things and toward the study of interrelationships amongst things -- what Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls interbeing.
Gary Gach is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buddhism (Nautilus Award) and editor of What Book!? Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop (American Book Award). His work has appeared in such magazines and anthologies as AsianArt.com, BuddhaDharma, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Inquiring Mind, Language for a New Century, The New Yorker, Shambhala Sun, Technicians of the Sacred, Tricycle, Veterans of War Veterans of Peace, Whole Earth Review, and Yoga Journal.