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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
fall 2005| 84 |buddhadharma SINCE I STARTED practicing when I was in college, six years before my now college- age son was born, my own life of practice spans generations. While I still meet people who speak of their “dharma” practice, I don’t speak that way anymore. For a while I thought it was because I wasn’t practicing seriously, despite a solid foundation of early years devoted to intense sitting and study. I thought maybe I was giving in to mid- dle-aged mundane concerns, with dharma practice having been just a youthful fling. When certain trying situations arose, however, I sometimes noted with surprise that I had more composure and gracefulness than I would have expected. I realized that certain attitudes I took for granted were in fact not so common in our world. I began to think I had unknowingly been transformed into a more patient and less grasping per- son. I suppose I’d become freer in spite of not thinking about the process – or perhaps in part because of not thinking about it. Something that had taken root was qui- etly flourishing. This awakening prompted more regular sitting, with both mindfulness and visualization practice. My more youthful concern with being a “spiritual” Buddhist might have derived from my clinging to the practices as if they were my own, as if no dedicated lin- eages preserved them for me, as if I owed no thanks. I think I felt that I “owned” my dharma practice, and that this posses- sion somehow completed me. Maybe I no longer think of dharma as something else, something separate, but it’s hard to say. In Genjo Koan, Dogen said, “When Dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you think it is already suffi- cient. When Dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing.” I think I do understand that something is missing and I’m getting used to it. Maybe I’ve grown up and become the next generation. David L. Gardiner Colorado Springs, Colo. I’M A SECOND-generation Western Bud- dhist, although maybe second-generation hippie would be more appropriate. In search of a more meaningful life, my father stumbled across Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and Kopan Monastery in 1975 while heavily influenced by mind- altering drugs. The dharma seemed to be the answer for him and became a part of his life. He brought it back to Australia a few years later and in 1979 I was born. I remember growing up with Buddhist statues and pictures of the lamas around the house. Sometimes my sister and I would jump on my dad’s lap when he was meditating. When we got a little older, he started to take us to our local dharma center, Buddha House, to meet with the lama there. In the early 1990’s we went to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I never really knew what it was all about. Everyone seemed pretty happy whenever I went to Buddha House, but there was nothing much for me to do. I was always too young and fidgety to sit though any session. When I was sixteen I decided I wanted to learn more and ventured to Buddha House on my own. I first attended “Learn to Meditate” classes, followed by “Introduction to Buddhism.” Most of the time I was the youngest person there. Everyone seemed to know so much more than me, and I used to go home and ask my dad a lot of questions after each class. I began to drag my school friends along, which helped to make sure I wasn’t always the youngest there. I even managed to make Buddhism the topic of my major school thesis during my final year, which gave me an excuse to ask questions. While I felt comfortable attending teachings, it was always a bit weird staying for chai tea and conversation afterwards. My life seemed vastly different from everyone else’s. While I was on my way home to finish off homework, everyone else had just finished work and were discussing their marriage and children. When I attended university I found it difficult to balance the extreme differences between the huge drunken parties and meditation sessions. I couldn’t work out how it all fit together and I felt there weren’t many people that I could turn to for advice. A few years later I attended a course for youth at the Kopan Monastery in Nepal and discovered other people my age from around the world who had experienced similar circumstances. I will always remember that sense of relief, understanding, and community I felt there. These days, meditation and dharma classes have become a lot more mains- tream, and the age groups attending the classes are increasingly varied. I always make a conscious effort to help younger practitioners feel welcome. I’m currently on the Buddha House spiritual program committee, which is composed of people all under the age of thirty. We are very conscious of age issues and try to set programs that will make everyone feel at home, with everything from dharma-kids’ classes to death and dying workshops. If Buddhism’s aim is to make others happy, it needs to start in the dharma centers. Shyla Bauer Adelaide, Australia Upcoming Topics & dEadlinEs for rEadErs’ ExcHangE: the death of a teacher: a teacher’s death is a difficult experience, but also an opportunity for profound realization and progress, as the practitioner must come face-to-face with the reality of change and the mortality of all beings. how has the death of your teacher affected you and your practice? Does the teacher-student relationship carry on, even after the teacher’s death? have you felt conflicted about studying with other teachers? how has your community coped with the death of its teacher? how has it dealt with the problems that arose as a result of the teacher’s death? Deadline: September 1, 2005 Meeting the dharma: everybody loves to hear stories of how people first happened upon the dharma. what’s your story? tell us about your first encounter with Buddhism. were you drawn to it immediately or did it grow on you? was there a certain person or event that encouraged you to embark on the Buddhist path? what made you decide to become a Buddhist? Deadline: December 1, 2005 include your name and city with your submission. Please indicate if you would like your name withheld from publication. send your submission (150 to 500 words) by mail or to: firstname.lastname@example.org