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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
summer 2005| 46 |buddhadharma communities. People want something that relates directly to the pain and agony in their lives. They want you to transmit the dharma in a manner they can take in and find relevant to their immediate lives. That’s what we have to offer. That’s how we give back the gift we’ve received from practicing all these years. As we settle into our own traditions and our own practice, our basic selfishness will start to soften. The notion of helping others will become more appealing. It’s a matter of maturing in our own vow. That takes time. Charles PreBish: I hope that’s right, but it seems to me that there is a tendency among convert Buddhists to turn Buddhism itself, the buddhadharma, into a commodity and a self-help program, rather than really seeing it as a system to help people out of suffering. Lama Surya Das has said that the three jewels of the new American Buddhism are “Me, myself, and I.” Chögyam Trungpa said something similar in a talk I attended, and then he looked out at six hundred people and said, “We could have some discussion if you’re not too depressed.” Buddhadharma: The majority of people in the world who would call themselves Buddhists take part largely in ritual and congregational activity, some form of churchgoing or religious observance. Do communities need to find more ways for people to take part and more styles of teaching and interac- tion? marlene Jones: I know many people are looking for that. There is an African-American teacher within the Tibetan tradition in the Bay Area, Choyin Rangdrol, whose style is very similar to a Baptist preacher, and he’s been able to draw a lot of people. That isn’t necessarily true here at Spirit Rock. A lot of the people of color who come here, as I’ve said, are educated and they’re used to hearing talks that are a little more on the lecture side. To my mind, the most important thing is that the substance of the talk is inclusive of many cul- tural perspectives. Everyone who comes to hear a dharma talk needs to hear the whole world. Buddhadharma: What advice would you offer to communities that are just starting to pay attention to diversity? Paul haller: The first thing I would say is “Don’t be afraid.” Our whole dharma tradition is based on the inevitability of change. We can embrace change. Diversity is not a problem to be solved. It offers riches, it offers explorations, it offers a new way of seeing and feeling the world. My advice would be to embrace diversity, not out of a sense of duty or guilt, but out of a sense of appreciating your life. marlene Jones: I’ve gone to all-white groups, even though many senior students and teachers who are people of color have encouraged me not to talk about diversity or race to white groups. I’ve challenged them to look at themselves and wonder why there are no people of color in the room, or why people of color show up and leave and don’t come back. During one question-and- answer period, someone asked, “What can we do? How do we recognize the people? How do we talk to them? What do we say when they come in?” I repeated to them what the Dalai Lama says: “Greet people as an old friend.” So my advice is to first get beyond fear and greet people as if they’re part of your sangha, as if they belong. We simply need to see people for who they really are – to see their true self, their buddhanature. Guy mCCloskey: My advice is to teach everyone basic elements of Buddhist philosophy, including the fact that we are indistinguishable from our environment. We are all related. We need to dis- cover that. Paul was talking about a different way of seeing the world. I think that means to see the world as it actually is. Also, as Marlene said, I would advise expanding the cultural orientation of what we present for the benefit of everyone, no matter what audience we are addressing. That is actually something that is quite natural. We should feel awkward when we avoid it. Charles PreBish: A few years ago, Alan Senauke said that passivity means white supremacy. We have to remind ourselves continually not to be passive. One of the paramitas is vigor. We have to take that vigor out into the world with us, and maybe it needs to be tempered by patience, so that we can do the work of bodhisattvas, but we can never simply be satisfied just sitting on our cush- ion. We have to take what we learn out into the world and share it. Buddhadharma: How do you think the Western Buddhist sangha will evolve over the long term as it works with issues of race and class and inclusive- ness? marlene Jones: There will be more sanghas and centers in urban settings, in the communities where people of color live. Also, hopefully, in my lifetime, we’ll see much more integration in the traditional white sanghas. I don’t know how long that’s going to take, but in the last ten or fifteen years I’ve seen change in that direction. It took us a long time to come up with the money to hire a full-time diversity coordinator, but we’ve done that and we’ve started a whole diversity movement as a result of that commitment. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of that kind of work going on. Nichiren said that the model of Buddhist practice is found in the Lotus Sutra, in the guise of Bodhisattva-Never- Disparaging, who said, “I deeply respect you because you are on the path and you will eventually be a buddha. How can I discriminate against you?” — Guy McCloskey photo:MichAeldAvidMurphy,reproducedwithperMissionofthediAArtfoundAtion,nyc