Reviewing and Renewing the Buddhadharma on This Little Blue Dumpling Planet with Lots of Big Problems

Happy New Year to you!

Like you, I imagine and hope, I’ve been enjoying this cultural and arbitrary thing we call the “end of the year,” reflecting on 2011 and looking ahead to 2012. So here’s a few wandering thoughts about where we might be at and where we might be going.

First, I’m wondering how the old planet will do in 2012. We’re having a really mild winter here in Minnesota. Sweet and great for the commute … but the above photo was taken just a few days ago and we still have bare ground and the high today might be 41 degrees. This is very weird for us. I’m looking forward to doing my biking thing in a bit but also concerned about the effects this drought and warmth may have on all the many beings.

Second thing on my mind this morning is more specific to the humans and what 2012 will bring. I’m reading Don Peck’s Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It. I haven’t gotten to the “what we can do” part yet so I’ll likely be reporting back about this, but the data he reviews, like other dreary things like this I’ve brought up here, is damn sobering. The middle class is collapsing and the male variety of the species is being especially hard hit with unknown consequences spinning out for many years.

2012 could be about the same as 2011 in terms of the economy, maybe a tiny bit better, maybe a lot worse, especially if the European debt crisis blows up. From what I’m reading, it looks quite unlikely that the year will be much better.

All this makes me really grateful for my job and all the many comforts of home, family, and friends. And no matter how bad it gets, (reader alert: we’ve been indulging in some really dark humor here), it is unlikely to get as bad as the Donner Party had it in the winter of 1846-47 when they were snowbound in the Sierra Nevada.

That’s brings me to the third and final point (sorry for the rough segue), reviewing-and-renewing-the-Buddhadharma part of this post. It’s time, isn’t it?

This is on my mind this morning in part because I’ll be leading a three-day sesshin at Kyoki’s place near Pittsburgh March 1- 4 and the theme will be “Reviewing and Renewing the Buddhadharma.” You, of course, are welcome to come and participate. Click here for more information about Deep Spring Temple (sesshin information doesn’t appear to be up yet).

In 1988, in one of Katagiri Roshi’s last Dharma talks, “Review and Renew Buddhism for the Twenty-first Century,” he said,

As to renewing Buddhism, there is nothing to renew in Buddhism itself but instead renew human beings who take care of Buddhism. Buddhism is mainly very conservative in order to maintain the essence of Buddha’s teaching century after century. Wherever Buddhism has gone, Buddha ancestors have tried to maintain this essence. That is why Buddhism has flourished in China, Tibet, and Japan. If you forget the essence of Buddha’s teaching Buddhism doesn’t work for the long run.

You can listen the whole talk on iTunes, btw (and 300 other talks the old boy gave), if you click here and go to #12.

This life we all share, the Buddhadharma that we all are through and through, is always close and ready for renewal.

So let’s roll up our sleeves together and go to work.

Dogen Did Not Practice Shikantaza and Even Had a Gaining Idea
Practicing Through Snow and Cold (or Whatever Afflictions May Visit)
BTW, We Have to Remove Your Feet: Being Mortal, Waking Up, and Dying Together
On Receiving Inka Shomei from James Myoun Ford Roshi
  • David


    Do we renew the Buddhadharma when we first learn about it? Do we renew it each time we study/practice it? Do we renew it each time we experience it in action and say “Ah ha!”?
    I’m thinking that perhaps we do.

    Thank you for rolling up your sleeves and for your encouragement to us to do likewise!

    Happy New Year!

  • doshoport

    Hi David,

    I agree and thank you too.

    Happy New Year!


  • Kevin Osborne

    Never stand where you can sit, never sit where you can lie down.

  • doshoport


  • Harry

    Hi Dosho,

    I’m involved in an enduring intergenerational music tradition. It endures and is transmitted in a similar way to what they now call Old Time music in the US (the Grand-daddy of your beloved County music). It still retains elements of the oral tradition that formed it’s character. The transmission of it is now an area of study, and it is all quite complex and getting more complex as we have so many new ways to communicate music and ideas and values etc (some decidedly impersonal, ‘non-oral’ ways).

    Anyhow, I’ve been playing this music for years; for the greater portion of my life. I used to fancy myself as a ‘traditionalist’ as opposed an ‘innovator’ (there has been a BIG debate raging in traditional/folk music circles with the advent of folk music becoming commercialised, and all the radical changes to it that have come with that and technological advances etc) and I adopted a set of beliefs and assumptions accordingly in contrast to a percieved ‘other’ set of assumptions and beliefs.

    But, actually, the more I consider it (and the more I actually concentrate my energies on doing the real musical act) the more I feel that it’s not what the musician is playing (whether their style is ‘traditional’ or ‘innovative’), but in the quality of their musicianship…how they bring themselves to bear on what they are doing. How they are using their self if you like. I can now appreciate a great performance from a performer whose music is really not to my taste, and critically consider a performance that is to my taste but that lacks authenticity (yes, that’s an old chestnut. But, as we all know, ‘authentic’ is exactly what I say it is!)

    I don’t claim that this is wholly applicable to the question of the need for conservatism in Buddhism (something that I have little to no direct experience of at all), but your recent articles above got me thinking along this line, which was nice.

    Happy New Year to you & yours,


  • Harry


    Something that jumped out for me there is that the notion of ‘authenticity’ in Buddhism may often be considered in terms of history and lineage and place and culture; but, as I was trying to indicate above with the musical example, in practical terms authenticity may be a much more immediate matter. The two poles I’m setting up are not mutually exclusive of course… except when they are – when we render them thus.



  • Desiree

    How is being conservative different from being Republican?

    “…being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind.” – Lauren Bacall

  • doshoport


    Very nicely put. I think so too in terms of dharma. So thanks for the example. I don’t know much about music but it is interesting how music metaphors work so well for dharma stuff.


    I don’t think of Republicans as conservative, although I know that word gets used. Most of the candidates seem to be more about advancing an agenda to protect the interests of the 1% and continue the fleecing of the middle class and protecting the myth of the America dominated by the white male working class. This is utterly a fraud. So not conserving but pilfering. I think Katagiri Roshi was referring to conserving the fundamental which of course cannot be destroyed. But our pointing through it can point away or directly.