A Roundup of Critical Perspectives on Meditation

A guest post by Pierce SalgueroI am not a scholar of Buddhist meditation. My own research has only touched on meditation insofar as it was claimed to have therapeutic benefits in a handful of texts in premodern Asia. But, as a long-time on-again/off-again practitioner myself, I have been following the rise of meditation in American popular consciousness over the past 15 years with interest. More recently, I have also begun following the critiques of meditation that have circulated in … [Read more...]

Daniel Clarkson Fisher offers a “People’s Buddhism” – and B.R. Ambedkar revival

In an excellent article at Political Animal Magazine, Daniel Clarkson Fisher calls for a renewed investigation into the Buddhist liberation theology of the Indian reformer, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. In the article, Fisher points out the rise in progressive social movements in recent years, from Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street to the recent boosts to organizations like the ACLU and the Democratic Socialists of America.Given this, and the rising attention on the religious left, Fisher … [Read more...]

A history of Buddhist Social Engagement

Not long ago, a friend and colleague of mine posted a query in a Buddhist academic group: what sutras or other suitably ancient Buddhist writings could one read today as appealing to something like the social activism we see in America now?The ensuing discussion was lively and, for some perhaps, disappointing. In short, there are none. No pre-modern Buddhist writing can be found that will exhort people to go to the streets, to directly help the poor, or work to overcome systemic … [Read more...]

In the Obituary of a Tibetan Buddhism scholar, some ominous words

The obituary for Elliot Sperling begins as most do, noting the peaks of the man's life: 66 years of vitality, a MacArthur (genius) Fellowship, and a reshaping of our understanding of Sino-Tibetan relations. Of particular note, the obituary's author Tenzin Dorjee, writes: Through his seminal writings on Tibet’s relations with China during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, he became arguably the first historian to extensively use both Chinese and Tibetan sources to bring to light the separation a … [Read more...]

Buddhist Activism in an age of neo-fascism and “alternative facts”

I sit in a basement cafe in downtown Seattle. I worry a bit about finances here, or class sign-ups there. But I'm okay. And odds are, so are you. Who is next? We're in the midst of something, though, that could change all of that. There is a range of wise view on just how quickly that will happen and how severely, from the oft-quoted "we're screwed" to the increasingly pollyannish "wait and see."Already, if you're one of estimated 100,000 people who had your visa revoked due to the recent … [Read more...]

Buddhists in a Democracy: Be Political, but not Partisan

This year's election and the impending inauguration of Donald Trump have drawn out some heated discussions about the role Buddhism ought to be playing in our political system. Two articles that come to the forefront, in part for espousing different views on the topic, are Jiryu Mark Rutschman-Byler's article Buddhism is Apolitical? (Or, Stop Trying to Wiggle Out of the Damn Koan!), updated at Lion's Roar as Isn’t Buddhism Supposed to Be Apolitical? and Brad Warner's Should Plumbing Be Politic … [Read more...]

Buddhist Ethics Today – or can we all be a little more enlightened?

Seth Zuiho Segall has a lengthy and thoughtful piece in the latest Tricycle Magazine, titled, "A More Enlightened Way of Being." The topic is ethics, specifically Buddhist ethics in the contemporary world.Segall's writing is wide-reaching and wonderfully fluid. He mentions Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Kierkegaard, and other luminaries of the West. He also surveys the long history of Buddhism and its developments and encounters with Bon (Tibet), Daoism (China) and Kami worship … [Read more...]

Buddhist Gladness for a Trump Victory

The Bubble Like many inside the liberal bubble, I have had (and continue to have) a tough time with November's election results. Our team lost. Their team won. And by our team, I include the disabled children who now face more bullying, the LGBTQ community who face the possibility of lost rights, Muslims, Native Americans, all people of color, women, and anyone else who now lives in heightened fear of attacks or has faced them already. A fair amount of my dukkha in the last several weeks has … [Read more...]