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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
spring 2008| 68 |buddhadharma Buddhism, or any religion, not for personal benefit but rather to promote the general welfare, sounds to me like an idea worth considering for the present. other essays in the book of particular interest to me were david e. riggs’ tour de force discussion on the history of kin- hin, Zen walking meditation (its detailed textual analysis set my head spinning), and William Bodiford’s discussion of Zen dharma transmission, detailing the religious and sociological meaning that dharma transmission has held in Zen. Bodiford also discusses a new transmission ritual created in the West in recent years and how that ritual fits in historically. reading this book raises two important questions for me as a religious practitioner: first, what is the use of knowing the history if what you are primarily interested in is not what religion is or has been, but rather the ways in which religious participation can give meaning to a human life? is there any use in history at all beyond mere passing interest? i think there is. While one doesn’t need to be an expert on religion in order to practice it, one’s practice will definitely be broadened and widened by at least some knowledge of how religion has oper- ated in the lives of individuals and societies elsewhere and at other times. Just as traveling to places or meeting people from different cultures has a direct influence on how we live, so too does the study of the religion of other times and places affect the way we understand and practice religion. second is the question of how Buddhist scholars and practi- tioners could best influence each other at the present time. the field of Buddhist scholarship seems to be booming in the West now. there are many good scholars, with new university pro- grams training more every year, and these scholars are collec- tively building an understanding and appreciation of Buddhism that is more thorough and multidimensional than we have ever seen in history. there’s a tremendous value in this for practi- tioners, all the more since this understanding and appreciation represents not only a fuller and more extensive view but also a completely new view, a post-modern view, that includes critique as well as celebration and that honors religion for its central place in human culture without dishonoring or denigrating—as religion has so often done—other aspects of life. Unlike previous generations, most Buddhist scholars today began as practitioners. this gives them a real respect for the tra- dition and a desire to study it not as an artifact or an absolute, but as a living thing. i have engaged in dialogue with Buddhist scholars many times, and i have always found it profitable and enjoyable. My own practice has been much influenced by these personal contacts and by my reading of scholarly material. At this crucial moment in our cultural life, in which religion is taking center stage, it seems to me that dialogue between prac- titioners and scholars is more important than ever, not only for Buddhists, but also for all religious people. We need a sense of perspective. it is, however, unfortunately the case that there is a wariness between scholars and practitioners. Many scholars are suspicious of the historical ignorance, and therefore the naivité, of practitioners, while many practitioners have a hard time with the scholars’ sometimes too-bracing critique. this is a shame, and not good for Buddhism’s possibilities as a transformative post-modern Western religion. Books like Zen Ritual need to be read by practitioners, especially teachers. And scholars need to be willing to share what they know at dharma centers. (itemno.99)collectionofRubinmuSeumofaRt(acc.#f1997.7.2) Available online unfetteredmind.org In its quietly relentless way, this pithy and unorthodox commentary to the Heart Sutra leaves you with nowhere to stand but right here. — Stephen Batchelor, author of Buddhism Without Beliefs — from Ken McLeod’s new commentary An Arrow to the Heart This non-traditional commentary on the Heart Sutra takes you right into the emptiness of experience through a delightfully irreverent combination of wit, irony, poetry, and prose. Step into the jaws of experience AnArrowtotheHeartACOMMENTARYONTHEHEARTSUTRABYKENMCLEOD