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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 7 |summer 2006 send your letters By mail or to letters@theBuddhadharma.com Not very far into Robert Aitken’s com- mentary, “Time to Remember Our Legacy” (Spring 2006), we encounter a tired, pessimistic, and universally accepted old saw: things used to be great and now they’re terrible. In every culture and at every time, you can stand up and say, “Our society is so wrong now; things used to be bet- ter” and everyone around will nod in agreement, regardless of whatever advancements have recently taken place: abolition of slavery, voting rights for women, protection of chil- dren, etc. Mr. Aitken notes “the decency of our Chinese ancestors as compared to the inhumanity of our time.” After ten minutes of research, I learn about the “Whistling Arrow bandits” of that period: “Mounted brigands, equipped with armor, bows, arrows, and swords, blocked roads in and around Beijing and its satellite cit- ies during the mid-Ming. Travelers transporting goods along the Grand Canal ... faced armed robbers, extor- tionists, and swindlers as they passed through the Capital Region.” Obviously there is tremendous inhumanity today. And maybe that was a more humane life than today. Maybe women were given equal say in daily life. Maybe there was no sex- ual or physical abuse of any kind. More likely, human existence was not fundamentally different at all. Jake Walsh Leesburg, Ga. Robert Aitken’s commentary, “Time to Remember Our Legacy,” sound- ed an awful lot like my grandfather claiming he’d walked barefoot ten miles to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. Only with Aitken, he’s remembering a time he didn’t live through, as when he upholds “the decency of our Chinese ancestors as compared to the inhumanity of our time, the rigor of the old practices compared to the concern about feel- ings in what we call practice today, and the vast nature of selflessness compared to the dumbing-down and the self-indulgence of much of mod- ern teaching.” I know very little about Buddhism, having just started the practice, but if Mr. Aitken is going to make ref- erence to the Middle Way, wouldn’t it be more skillful if he didn’t lead with idealizing one era and devaluing another? If he wishes to teach others about decency, perhaps he might try addressing our delusions rather than telling us we “haven’t a clue.” Per- sonally, I don’t learn when I’m being called a “blockhead.” I am surprised that being ignorant and misguided deserves reprimand in your pages. Of course we are igno- rant and misguided, but that is the material we work with. To claim that there was a time when noble selfless- ness was the norm, and that today’s practice, students, and teachers are substandard, is an unskillful way to convey to a novice like myself that there is room for improvement. Kiera Van Gelder Waltham, Mass. As a charter subscriber, I’ve been delighted to receive each issue of Bud- dhadharma. The content and presen- tation are thoughtful, and each issue is treasured as a gem. That said, a comment regarding the cover of the current issue (Spring 2006): The use of Buddhist iconography and art work on the covers of past issues has Buddhadharma The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly melvin mcleod, Editor-in-Chief tynette Deveaux, Editor Barry Campbell Boyce, Senior Editor molly De shong, Assistant Editor seth levinson, Art Director liza matthews, Assistant Art Director scott armstrong, Editorial Assistant BoarD oF EDitorial aDvisors ajahn amaro, Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery Jeffrey Cox, Snow Lion Publications Zoketsu norman Fischer, Everyday Zen Foundation, San Francisco Zen Center roshi Bernie glassman, Zen Peacemaker Order Jack kornfield, Spirit Rock Meditation Center John Daido loori, roshi, Zen Mountain Monastery timothy mcneill, Wisdom Publications larry mermelstein, Nalanda Translation Committee reginald a. ray, Naropa University Barbara rhodes, Kwan Um School of Zen sharon salzberg, Insight Meditation Society robert a.F. thurman, Columbia University, Tibet House U.S . peter turner, Shambhala Publications taitetsu unno, American Buddhist Study Center michael wenger, San Francisco Zen Center (Organizations listed for identification purposes only.) 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