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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
FALL 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 45 ANDREW OLENDZKI: Contemporary Buddhism is facing the global challenge of dealing with the past karma of our species. We need to figure out how best to undo some of the difficulties we’ve caused collectively and to lay out some pathways, some new ways of approaching things. I think this is where the Mahayana emphasis on altruism and the collective good and helping others is very important. Our selfishness has gotten us into trouble; it’s rooted in some primitive instincts that we need to outgrow if we’re going to survive collectively. Whatever the subtle philosophical and theological issues in Buddhism may be, I think most of your readers are thinking very practically about karma—you know, what actions cause more trouble and what actions can help create a better future, a better reality. LARRY WARD: One important phrase for me in the Buddhist tra- dition is “I-making,” or “identity-making.” What does it mean to look at identity-making in terms of the suffering it might create in oneself or others? It’s important to look at I-making in terms of group identity, national identities, corporate identi- ties, and what we’re willing to deny, hide from, or aggressively defend in order to protect these identities we’ve concocted. We need to see how we invent ourselves, and then how we reify those inventions in ways that can cause suffering, leading to war or poverty or ignorance on the societal level. RITA GROSS: Yes. People think that identity is a given, but there are ways that we can mold our identity if we want to. It’s fairly easy to see the way that collective identities cause harm. The default position for us psychologically as human beings is subject-object duality. Most people take it for granted. Most people have no idea what we’re talking about when we say that self and other are co-arisen. There’s no understanding of what that phrase means. It’s really important to educate people that others are not out there independently and objec- tively, and that we have some agency over our own identi- ties. Subject-object duality will always come up unless we are aware and vigilant and careful. We have to keep asking the question, why do you think that about yourself or about others? BUDDHADHARMA: And presumably as long as there is that subject-object identity, there will always be karma. Isn’t that where it comes from? RITA GROSS: Yes. And as a result, there will always be suffering. ©iSTOCKPHOTO.COM/URBANCOW