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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
50 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2015 Forum rod oWens • nina la rosa • tenku ruFF • dave smith six years ago, Jack Kornfield and Noah Levine had the idea for post-baby-boomer-generation dharma teachers to meet, learn from, and support each other. Starting with that simple idea, Noah, Spring Washam, Josh Bartok, Lama Willa Miller, and I organized a conference, held in June 2011 at the Garrison Institute. In assembling a group of Generation X teachers, those born between 1960 and 1980, we focused on ensuring diversity across lineage, ethnicity, and sexual ori- entation, as well as balance between genders and monastic-lay status. That first gathering was difficult, transformative, and joyful. We quickly encountered, and addressed, a divide: lineage snobbery. Teachers led the group through practices of their traditions, and many of us came to a new appreciation of the richness of different styles and teachings. Meanwhile, initial resentment and pain around unconscious racism gave way to deeper conversations and sensitivity. Most of all, we were uplifted by creating a com- munity of belonging and by witnessing each other’s dedication to this path. everyone agreed to meet again in two years at Deer Park Monastery in escondido, California. The second gathering felt more relaxed. even as new teachers joined this conference, the reunion had genuine warmth and delight. Many from the first meeting had stayed in touch and even collabo- rated on projects. Again, we taught each other our different practices during dedicated sessions—every- thing from visualizations to chanting to movement. We continued the conversation on exposing racism and other unconscious biases, learned that despite our relative youth, several among us struggled with significant body dukkha, and discovered that most of us wrestled with sustaining ourselves financially. Our time was marked by a feeling of “peership,” with no one trying to be a teacher to anyone else. That peership, as well as many of the same conver- sations and themes, continued into the third gather- ing, held in June 2015 at Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York. Toward the end of that third meeting, we began to discuss how we, as teachers, might create a system of ethical account- ability among ourselves. Assuming this friendly, floating sangha meets frequently for decades to come, we might imagine a number of long-term implications, both for us and for dharma in the West. The pan-lineage and practice-based nature of the gatherings might miti- gate sectarianism, prevent stagnation, lead to cross- fertilization, and broaden our individual teaching repertoires. Furthermore, in looking in the mirror to see our collective face, beauty and blemishes both, we are getting a stronger sense of Buddhist identity even as we are diverse within that identity. Going forward, we may have a clearer, more articulate voice in the many conversations around the place of Buddhism in the religious, spiritual, and secular circles of the West. And perhaps most important, the collaborative nature of the Gen X dharma teachers may help us find more resourceful and creative responses to the foremost challenges facing all generations: confronting racism and healing the environment. In the conversation that follows, four Gen X teachers share their experiences and vision for Bud- dhism in the West. The Road Ahead introduction by sumi loundon kim suMi lounDon kiM is a Buddhist chaplain at Duke university and minister to the Buddhist Families of Durham. she is editor of the anthologies Blue Jean Buddha and The Buddha’s Apprentices, from Wisdom Publications. gen X Teachers from across traditions are transforming the vision and landscape of American Buddhism