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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 11 60 what freedom really means as the central teaching of the Bud- dha. We may end up talking about freedom in different ways with prisoners, but it’s not a betrayal of the dharma to use language that will serve rather than language that may erect unnecessary barriers. Ken mcLeod: Historically, the behavior of Buddhists, rather than the teachings, is what has inspired people. One of the principles the Buddha established that governed the monastic sangha is that they would be seen as people who didn’t react, but rather responded, to situations. How practice manifests in our lives is probably the most important aspect of bringing benefit to others. I agree with Gina about the need to adapt language to differ- ent circumstances. I make a very strong differentiation between my professional practice as a consultant and my activity as a Buddhist teacher. In my consultant role, I will let people know when something is coming from Buddhism but I’m not making any effort to teach Buddhism. It wouldn’t be appreciated most of the time. There are, however, ways in which the principles that underlie the teachings provide deep and powerful ways of addressing difficult and complex situations. With respect to work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and others doing secular mindfulness work, I would really have liked to have seen an examination of some of the unintended consequences. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s intention it seems was to make mindfulness a household word, and to a large extent I think he’s done that. It has brought immense benefit in a lot of different forms to probably hundreds of thousands of people. At the same time, some teachers have said to me that the word “mindfulness” has been rendered completely useless in the traditional medi- tation setting, because it comes now freighted with all kinds of meanings. It’s often just too much work to try to explain what is being meant by mindfulness in a certain context, so Buddhist teachers are having to develop new vocabularies. Buddhadharma: The traditional meditation settings you refer to are within age-old training programs. How important is it to have people still going through those training programs, the ones that all of you have benefited from? pat enKyo o’hara: In our tradition, people follow a very long path. It takes at least twenty years to become a teacher. Since most people get started in earnest in their thirties, this means practitioners are in their fifties or sixties before they become teachers. At the conference I was seeing all these kids in their twenties who had three years of teacher certification, and began wondering how they’re able to reach people. That was the light bulb moment that caused me to re-examine the long path of In the secular mindfulness world, we need rigorous training that demands a lot of practice experience. Right now, there’s not a lot of quality control. —Diana Winston photos a. jesse jiryu davis