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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
summer 2005| 42 |buddhadharma Guy mCCloskey: We need to start from the prem- ise that we are interconnected. We all arise from dependent origination. Then we can recognize that if our small ego, the narrow ego contained within our skin, is the extent of our sense of selfhood, that is all we are going to experience. As Paul indicated, as we continue to prac- tice, we open up, and our sense of self expands. Ultimately, the Buddhist sense of self is to embrace all living beings. As we progress along the path of Vimalakirti, who is our example of the accom- plished layperson, we can come to recognize that the suffering of anyone, anywhere, is our own. As I deal with suffering, the greatest relief I can find is to share the suffering of others. Buddhadharma: If that is the ideal, why are most American Buddhist groups reaching only a narrow slice of the population? Charles PreBish: For one thing, with the excep- tion of Soka Gakkai members, the vast majority of convert Buddhists seem to gravitate toward the meditation traditions. That’s much more of an individualistic kind of approach, so members participate in the sangha as individual members, whereas in the Asian immigrant communities and in Soka Gakkai, there’s a much greater emphasis on making the community and the sangha a sig- nificant part of your religious life. This is appeal- ing to people who are disenfranchised from other parts of the American community. Guy mCCloskey: The attraction of Nichiren Buddhism, for most of the people who enter Soka Gakkai, is human relationships. They’re attracted to someone they meet or already know who has made a noticeable development in their life, and they ask, “What’s different about you; what do you do?” Having never had an attraction myself toward the meditation practices, I don’t know what draws people to Zen and other such tradi- tions. I would guess that it starts off on a more intellectual rather than social, emotional level. Charles PreBish: In talking with people in Soka Gakkai, in my research, the one thing that people tend to say repeatedly is that the sangha is nurtur- ing for everyone. marlene Jones: I started the people-of-color retreats and the diversity council here because I was uncom- fortable with Spirit Rock as it existed then. It attracted people who were like the people who were already there: European-American people, who like being with people who are highly educated, have a lot of money, and who have the resources to sit a long retreat without having any financial burden. photo:MichAeldAvidMurphy,reproducedwithperMissionofthediAArtfoundAtion,nyc What inspired our outreach initiative was an active expression of compassion, the motivation to be of service to society at large. Diversity is one of the consequences of serving people. — Paul Haller