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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 35 |summer 2007 or “mine.” No problem needs to be solved. We release the whole sense of identification, and the conditioned world is just anicca (impermanent), dukkha (unsatisfactory), and anatta (empty of self) – it has nothing to do with our true nature. We learn to trust pure awareness itself. This is one of the ways Ajahn Chah taught about libera- tion based on the forest tradition. Awakening is always here and now. Practicing this way, your life is transformed. Each of the many different dharma perspectives gives rise to teachers and students who say they know Buddha’s real true way, the very best way to practice. They let you know that others don’t have the right way. You find this attitude all over the Buddhist world, and to some extent it has been imported to America. Often when you visit mon- asteries in Asia, either the teachers or their dis- ciples will say, “Those guys in the other tradition don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. They won’t get you to liberation.” There is a kind of competition between them. But in truth, there isn’t only one view or technique that brings libera- tion. The Buddha taught a host of skillful means to quiet the mind and open the heart and learn to let go, and they have developed into many traditions over the millennia. Yet people often latch on to one and misunderstand the others. The roots of this conflict can be traced to the moment before the Buddha died, when he said to Ananda, “When I die, you may abolish the minor rules.” Alas, Ananda didn’t ask which minor rules. So after the Buddha died, and they had the first Council of Elders, Ananda reported that he did not ask which rules they could abolish. Immediately, there was a fight between the disciples who wanted to adapt by abolishing certain rigid rules and the ones who said, “Since we don’t know which rules to abolish, let’s conserve every single rule exactly as the Buddha said.” From then on, it’s been an ongoing conversation. In every generation, there will be those who adapt and those whose role is to conserve. We may be those original disciples, reborn again in America, carrying on the same arguments. You can sense the tension that comes from the clash of different models and beliefs. It happens in every religious tradition. There is the transcendent view and the immanent view. There are those who say God is best known through deep prayer and deep mystical experience. There are those who say God is immanent and everything shines with holiness all the time. Similarly, there is a tension between those who would like to adapt the teach- ings and those who would conserve things the way they believe they were. But meanwhile, every- thing is changing. When the Burmese or Thai say, “We practice the way it was around the time of the Buddha,” they ignore the fact that Mahayana temples dot their landscapes. When we started IMS, it was primarily a Mahasi-oriented center. I brought in the flavor of Ajahn Chah as well. But because Joseph (Gold- stein) and Sharon (Salzberg) had done most of their practice through the Burmese lineages of Mahasi Sayadaw and of U Ba Khin, and we shared this training, this is mainly what we taught. From the very beginning we offered the practices of both Mahasi Sayadaw and U Ba Khin, with Ruth Denison and John Coleman leading retreats. We also asked U Ba Khin’s great disciple Goenka if he would come and teach, because Joseph, Sha- ron, and others were very devoted to him. He responded in a letter saying, “If you open a center and have more than one lineage teaching there, it will be the work of Mara, and it will be the undoing of the dharma.” Goenka’s teacher U Ba Khin believed this. However, his letter came the day after we signed the mortgage – fortunately, it was too late. In fact, opening the center felt like good karma or grace, like we were being carried by the dharma. I love the story of how we got the money for IMS. Three people who had been to India or loved the dharma each put up $15,000, which gave us enough money for the deposit on the $150,000 property. This was $150,000 for ninety rooms, a bowling alley, tennis courts, eighty acres of land, a huge kitchen, and all of the furnishings! When we went to the bank, and the bank saw our name was Insight Meditation Society – IMS – they thought it Often when you visit monasteries in Asia, either the teachers or their disciples will say, “Those guys in the other tradition don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. They won’t get you to liberation.” There is a kind of competition between them. Jack Kornfield (second from the right) at the Wat Tow Kote Vipassana Center in Thailand, 1971. SpIRItRoCKaRChIveSSpIRItRoCKaRChIveS