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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
summer 2007| 46 |buddhadharma (left to right) eido Shimano roShi iS the abbot of dai boSatSu Zendo in new York’S CatSkill mountainS and new York Zendo Shobo-Ji in new York CitY. Joan Sutherland iS a teaCher in the Zen tradition and the founder of the open SourCe proJeCt, a Collaborative network of Zen praCtitionerS and CommunitieS in the weStern united StateS. Stephen batChelor iS a former buddhiSt monk and the author of Buddhism Without Beliefs. he iS a guiding teaCher at gaia houSe in devon, england. the dZogChen ponlop rinpoChe iS the Spiritual direCtor of nalandabodhi, baSed in Seattle. buddhism and meditation are often equated in the popular mind, and many people like to think of Buddhism as a kind of philosophy, or even spiritual technology, that stands apart from the cultural and religious trappings that have been attached to the way of Gautama Buddha over the centuries. The assumption is that one can become a Buddhist meditator without having to deal with the baggage that so often accompanies religion. Part of the appeal of meditation techniques – of- ten simply called mindfulness and stripped of nearly any association with religious tradition – is that they require the practitioner to do nothing more than pay attention and calm the mind. That is often the extent of the commitment. As a result, it is thought, a meditator will become a healthier, happier, and kinder person, and the world will be a better place. Just as no one would argue that eating a good diet, getting plenty of rest, and keeping active are not good for you, so it is hard to argue that becoming more calm or centered through medita- tion is not helpful to one’s health and well-being. But is a path that is focused on meditation and meditative ability complete, and will it lead to the Forum: Too much meditation? liberation that is the raison d’être of Buddhism? Are there any dangers to eschewing the rituals and rules that are often regarded in the West as just the packaging, not the essence, of Buddhism? Or are these stripped-down approaches actually returning to Buddhism’s secular roots? In this forum, four seasoned Buddhist teachers address these key questions about how Buddhism is thought about and practiced by many in the West. This inquiry naturally leads to a discussion of how much we can adapt and innovate in order to make inroads in a new culture. I had the pleasure of moderating the conference call that resulted in the discussion you are about to read. I found it refreshing and stimulating to hear the different tones and takes of these four teachers, who stand in the no-man’s-land between the wisdom of their forebears and the fresh faces of the eager students in front of them. From that touchy position, teachers – and by extension all of us who care deeply about bringing the dharma into the lives of as many people as possible – must present something that they feel in their bones is true, without the confirmation from on high that so many spiritual institutions rely on. A lot is at stake. When practitioners commit to a spiritual discipline, it can lead to big changes in their lives. We ought to be careful to ensure that what is taught is a path that can faithfully lead to what Buddhism promises. There is no final answer to the question of what elements are required for a complete Buddhist path, but as long as we continue to scrutinize and be honest about what we see and where we agree and disagree, we will be following in the footsteps of the Buddha and his early disciples. IntroductIon by barry boyce Photos(lefttoright):lizamatthews;DeBorahBolDt;luvinaaParicio;ryszarDfrackiewicz