Buddhism, Patriarchy, Abuse, and Violence: We Need to Talk

If you have seen the movie Spotlight, you'll know the lengths to which organizations can go to ignore, avoid, and eventually cover up abuse from within. Or perhaps you have heard of the blue code or blue wall of silence said to exist among police officers in the United States.What may surprise some Western Buddhists is that many of the same beliefs and structures that led to and continue to support abuses in the Catholic Church and American police forces also exist in many Buddhist co … [Read more...]

On the Death of a Teacher: A Buddhist Teaching

The early Buddhists texts contain a treasure trove of teachings. I have not read them all, and perhaps never will. For they are like a great set of tools, to be used as needed. One can touch or handle all of them but understand the depths or purpose of none. The Buddha famously gave teachings specific to the hearer, suggesting that at least some of the teachings should not be taken as universal in their application.It is better, in my experience, to rely on wise teachers to pull out those … [Read more...]

Re-Fleshing Mindfulness with Buddhism, Dr. Miles Neale

My earliest academic Buddhist teacher, Alan Sponberg, had the apt Dharma name Saramati, "one who gets to the pith of things."I remember an exercise he gave to a group of students early on. He had us write down the Buddhadharma in three words. I scribbled something like: "Buddha, Dharma, Sangha."Not bad, I suppose, but still on the surface of things.Dr. Sponberg suggested, "Just. Let. Go."Often, when teaching a new idea or practice, it helps to try to boil it down to its es … [Read more...]

The Dalai Lama Continues to Push Secular Ethics Over Buddhism

Last week the Tibetan spiritual leader offered talks to three groups of students at his residence in Dharamsala, India. The students came from the U.S., Canada, and 25 students from the Tong Len [Tibetan for 'giving and taking'] charitable trust based in North India.Rather than pushing traditional Tibetan teachings or verbatim scripture, the Dalai Lama urged students to pursue peace in the coming century. He emphasized the importance of cultivating reason and the basic human capacity for … [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...]

On Kant, Contempt, and our Buddhist path(s) forward

Karen Stohr, associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and senior research scholar at Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics, wrote a thoughtful piece for the NYTimes this week titled, "Our New Age of Contempt." Her article concludes: Privately expressed contempt may be cathartic. Publicly expressed contempt, however, is perilous. As Kant recognized, it threatens the foundations of our political community by denying the central moral idea on which that community is based — tha … [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...]