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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
buddhadharma| 83 |fall 2005 I WAS BORN in 1964 – the last “official” year of the baby boom. I have found that, in many ways, I straddle a line between baby boomers and Generation X. When boomer Buddhists speak of first encoun- tering the dharma, I am always fascinated by their stories because it was all so new. The great teachers arriving in the United States for the first time, the first dharma centers – there always seems to be a spirit of looseness to the stories, a spirit that now seems to be missing. Perhaps that looseness was a product of the optimistic spirit of the era. To the post-boomer, it was already being dismissed as impracti- cal by the time maturity came knocking. We benefit from the optimism and energy of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s only by association with those who were there to experience those times. Luckily, this is not hard to do since many of those boomer Buddhists are now teachers, authors, and leaders. Though the boom- ers certainly had their share of obstacles, those of us who came after them grew up in a more cynical time. In our cur- rent social environment, expressions of faith and joy are often viewed as fanatic or naive. As this presents a unique set of obstacles to younger practitioners, it needs to be taken into consideration by boomers attempting to understand where the new generation is coming from. Thankfully, the method to remove those obstacles remains the same regardless of eras or epochs – the dharma. The younger generation of Buddhists has achieved precious human birth at a time when we are able to gain vast ben- efits from the progress, example, and foibles of our elders. At the same time, Western Buddhism has barely begun to define itself. In order for it to do so, a sense of cooperation, appreciation, and collaboration must take place between our generations. We all have so much to bring to the table. To let a generational divide create a rift between our communi- ties is to miss out on the benefits of our combined points of view. No matter our age or era, we have as much to learn from each new voice that joins the chanting as we do from the leader of the chant. Paul Nelson Seattle, Wash. I AM AT LEAST twenty years younger than most of the students who come to practice here at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. I have sat in on con- versations between yogis who are basi- cally “thanking the heavens” for their ripe age since, in their opinion, it gives them more wisdom than young folks. I have sometimes felt my copious amounts of energy stifled by what I perceive to be the exhaustion of the aging process. However, aren’t these age-old conun- drums dealt with in every culture and reli- gious community? Why should we be any different just because we follow in the footprints of Shakyamuni Buddha, who smiles so serenely in all the images we make of him? Perhaps we might consider how other communities deal with passing along their traditions from generation to generation? But how much control do we really have over anyone else’s love of our beloved practice? Despite the generational divide, we all feel intense gratitude for being able to ask questions that begin with a ground of openness, rather than an assumed posi- tion of limitation. Since moving to this community six months ago, I have been embraced by a sangha that embraces itself. The most moving and enticing aspect of this for me, as a younger practitioner, is the living love of the practice. If you’ve ever seen the movie When Harry Met Sally you’ll know the line, “I’ll have what she’s having.” The older generation of practitioners in my sangha have given me the gift of seeing the fruits of practice. They are the serene smile of the Buddha that calls me again and again to realize my true nature, to be free. Rebecca Kushins Barre, Mass. readers wriTe different from the situation that young people found themselves in thirty-some years ago. It was a big success. Groups like this started happening at other Shambhala centers as well. One of the things that bothered me about this group was that it felt exclusive, based on this arbitrary barrier of age thirty. People who were thirty-two would complain that they didn’t have a place. People who were forty-two and fifty-two wouldn’t complain; they would just assume they weren’t invited. Even though a few more young people were getting interested in Buddhism than before, the result didn’t feel diverse. It felt segregated. Now when I teach, I usually find myself in front of a group of people from different generations. Sometimes I’m even one of the youngest people in the room. Speaking to twenty- and thirty- and forty- and fifty- and sixty-year-olds at the same time in the same room definitely presents a challenge, but also an opportunity to try to understand what it means to be alive, no matter where we’re at in life. I’ve always thought that the Buddhist teachings give a great hint at creating true diversity, especially cross-generational understanding. That hint is this: there is no absolute truth in presentation. The pre- sentation of wisdom is never one mono- lithic thing; it’s the patchwork stitching of time, place, teacher, students, and the wisdom that’s being conveyed. When all of these factors line up, something real happens, and absolute truth is conveyed within the presentation. If any of these factors is out of synch with the others, the teachings get moldy and worthless in a hurry. There aren’t set rules for what form the presentation takes. In other words, Buddhism is never about what music you should listen to. It’s about how to listen to music, whether it’s Mozart or Mos Def. If a person could actually real- ize this truth, she could learn to speak any language, talk to anybody. She could bridge any gap. She’d probably have a big music collection, too. BarBarawenger