Barbecuing, AirBnB-ing, Waiting, Living…While Black. Police interactions ranging from traumatic to deadly. Not to mention: redlining, gentrification and incarceration-for-profit. The outrages abound. Where does Buddhism land in all this? Enter Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, which starts the conversation with a road map for cutting through the collective conditioning of the white supremacist mind-set that we all, knowingly or unknowingly, live with.Read more
In this collection of transcribed talks, Dainin Katagiri, one of the founding teachers of North America Zen, manifests how the universe is suffused with a dynamic energy that fills and sustains our lives. I use the word ‘manifest’ here because, in my experience, this book is an actual manifestation of its title, shining a new light on my experience of the world.Read more
Shaun Bythell’s “The Diary of a Bookseller” is a gem of a book. Bythell, the owner of Scotland’s largest second-hand bookstore, gives us this day-by-day account of his life as a bookseller. It’s a warm and funny book marked by Bythell’s dark, dead-pan humor. He begins by admitting that he fits the stereotype of the “impatient, intolerant, antisocial proprietor.” But this wasn’t always the case: he began when he bought his shop as eagerly and naively as any thirty-one-year-old embarking on their first business venture. The shop, though—with its haggling customers, arguing staff and the “constant barrage of dull questions”—turned him into a bit of a misanthrope.Read more
A single word runs like a fissure through the short essays that introduce us to the poets collected by David Hinton in The Wilds of Poetry: Adventures in Mind and Landscape: “contact”. These poets, Hinton demonstrates, share a set of common philosophical assumptions that derive from the Taoist-Ch’an tradition, his field of expertise. That tradition entered the slipstream of American culture after the Second World War and affected the diverse fields of dance, theater, music, ceramics, the visual arts, philosophy, and poetry. Hinton traces the threads of influence and affinities among his selected poets, all of whom were wrestling with the American language to demonstrate into what he refers to again and again as “contact.” That is, the direct experience of the world unmediated by thought and interpretation.Read more
What would a world look like where the rules of economics were governed by Buddhist principles?
Clair Brown has set out to imagine such a world, drawing on her experience as an economics professor at University of California Berkeley and a longtime Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. Her book offers us the promise of laying out a road map to “an enlightened approach to the dismal science”
Ahimsa, the Sanskrit word for non-harming, is an elemental attribute of the Buddha’s teaching. The concept of “harm,” in and of itself, is not mysterious. It manifests when we needlessly inflict damage, pain, or suffering on any patchwork in the fabric of reality. Later Buddhism codified the notion of saving all sentient beings as an outgrowth of this non-harming. All beings with sentience or consciousness—or to put it in more biological terms, with a spinal column—are able to demonstrate their desire to live their own destinies, their own lives. And this is where Matthieu Ricard, former scientist now an ordained Tibetan monastic, begins his exploration of our relationship with the animal world: if we, not as Buddhists but as a species (a species of animal, in fact), place value on the moral sanctity of life, how do we continue to justify the imprisonment, torture, and murder of billions of fellow sentient beings each and every day?
Although Buddhism has long had a stake in these topics, Ricard prosecutes his arguments with a minimum of Buddhist sources, preferring a wider net that takes in the perspectives of biologists, moral philosophers, journalists, and fellow writers. What gets revealed is a millennia-long conversation in the West about what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom and what standards, if any, we should adhere to in considering their welfare, on the one hand, and their exploitation on the other.
As we are often reminded, we do not get to pick the conditions of the time and place we were born into. I ask myself how can I use the conditions rather than let them use me? As the Buddha states in the Five Remembrances, “I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, actions are the womb, actions are my relations, actions are my protection.Read more
I have never been one to get involved in politics. As a journalist I definitively steer clear of anything that could be construed as activism or partisanship. In Buddhism, taking action in the face of injustice can pose a similar question: how to do this in keeping with one’s bodhisattva vows of non-harming, yet without being partisan?
“When we engage with worldly politics, we try not to take sides,” Phap Dung, a Thich Nhat Hanh disciple, said in a recent interview. “It’s easy to choose a side, but as Buddhist practitioners we try to have more inclusiveness.”Read more
Despite the “how-to” title, this is not a conventional “build it yourself” manual for constructing a problem-free life starting with the usual messy ingredients like divorce, illness, or bankruptcy. Rather it is a penetrating meditation on an epic poem, The Wheel of Weapons Striking at Vital Points of the Enemy by the 9th century Indian scholar Dharmarakshita. It is hereafter titled (in the Tibetan style) The Wheel of Sharp Weapons.Read more