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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 08 46 TaTToodesignByTashimannox,www.inKessenTiaL.comwww.russmorris.com just looking for some perspective. In either case, there is a turning away of some kind. Often kids have grown up in very comfortable situations, and they begin to feel turned off by materialism, and Buddhism has something to say about that. They are willing to step into Buddhism as another point of view to critique mainstream America. To that extent, Bud- dhism is not fully integrating into the mainstream yet. norman FiScher: I’d go one step further. I doubt that there is an actual mainstream right now. American culture has a lot of powerful currents swirling in it. Buddhism is one of those currents, but there is also mindfulness training of various kinds and lots of research on mindfulness and health. Oprah Winfrey is promoting a form of mindfulness. So, a perspective that you can define very broadly as Buddhist is now one of the key streams in our society. Somebody might say that what Oprah Winfrey is talking about isn’t really Buddhism. I wouldn’t argue that it is, but I would say that it’s heavily Buddhist-inflected. Far from waning or atrophying, then, I’d say Buddhism is mor- phing and becoming more and more important all the time. Sumi Loundon Kim: As Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and other aspects of the Buddhist tradition become diffused and permeated throughout mainstream society, at what point do we say that it is Buddhism anymore? I take a more conserva- tive view on what it means to preserve Buddhism and carry it into the future. norman FiScher: That’s good, because that’s needed too. The dharma is always going to manifest in many different ways. It needs conservatives, innovators, and dabblers. That’s the fabric of the dharma. Even in “deeply Buddhist” cultures, there are people who aren’t practitioners who do something to uphold the monastics or take part in something cultural that makes them feel connected to the Buddhist culture. rod meade Sperry: I see lots of interesting contemporary mani- festations of dharma reflected in contributors to my website. Their expression of dharma is a healthy mix of reverent and irreverent. It could be street art influenced by the dharma, dharma tattoos, a death-metal band making music inspired by the dharma. They’re finding their own modes of expression, but they are not knocking down the old guard, either; they’re adding to it, assimilating it into the way they live. Instead of thangkas, they have thangka tattoos. We’re not people who relate to images of tranquility. We never had it. It’s not the society we grew up in. Tranquility may be something we’re going for, but that’s not what’s going to connect with us. We see the New Age as just marketing. That’s why we go for the oldest, most classic expressions of the dharma, and add a new spin on them. Sumi Loundon Kim: Are the people you’re talking about, Rod, aware of the mean- ing of what is on their tattoos, or is it just something cool that floats across their screen and they don’t know whether it’s Buddhist or Bön or Hindu or what? rod meade Sperry: There’s always going to be a guy with a Buddha tattoo who doesn’t even know who the Buddha was, but there are going to be plenty of people who are using traditional dharmic expres- sions in a way that is their own. It’s not just about tattoos. In fact, the web is a wonderful model for how the dharma is evolving. It’s an incredible gift of skillful means. It allows people to contribute in the way that they can contribute. We see so many new blogs and websites that are not run by teach- ers. They’re run by practitioners; they’re run by young people who want to talk about dharma, to be part of it. Buddhadharma: Iris, do you agree with the point that Rod makes about how New Age is viewed in contrast to buddhadharma? iriS BriLLiant: For me, New Age has mainly negative connota- tions, and it probably does for a lot of my peers as well. It’s probably not as well respected and carries the connotation of being more interested in what is merely popular. What Rod was saying, though, about people making Bud- dhism their own and tailoring it to their lifestyle is very impor- tant. Young people are coming to Buddhism for a myriad of