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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
summer 2007| 52 |buddhadharma situation, which gives us a lot of room. Joan Sutherland: With that in mind, we need to focus more of our attention on what’s actually happening in people’s lives now. We need to ask ourselves what they need. The dharma is not sim- ply a tradition. It’s a living thing that needs to relate directly to the lives of the people trying to practice here in the West. buddhadharma: Are there values that have developed in the West that create a difficult environment for some types of Buddhist practice? In the West, there has been a lot of rejection of authority, ritual, and religion, as well as tremendous emphasis on per- sonal space. eido roShi: It is true that there are quite a few stu- dents who reject the authorities and rituals and so on. The form is as important as spirit. If we don’t follow the forms established by our teachers in ancient days, how can we testify that we have offered students the real taste of buddhadharma? If we don’t stick to the ways we have inherited, and quickly Americanize, I am afraid the real taste of buddhadharma is lost. I am well aware that quite a few people reject the traditional ways, but still some people love them, and these people are the ones who have real devotion toward buddhad- harma. That’s all I have to say. Joan Sutherland: Roshi, the great Japanese teacher, Muso Soseki, comes to mind. He was teaching at the time when the dharma was coming from China to Japan. He forbade his students to go study in China, saying simply, “If the buddhadharma isn’t here, it isn’t anywhere.” I would echo his senti- ment in talking about buddhadharma coming to the West. We have to be aware that we live in a world where the shadow side of religion is on vivid daily display. Perhaps one of the things we can uniquely offer is a place for people to have deep and sustain- ing spiritual experiences without a lot of religion. In Zen, one of the three legs on the stool is great doubt. It encourages inquiry and taking truths as provisional. In a world where the shadow side of certainty – and particularly religious certainty – is on vivid display, that seems to me to be a central offering we can make. eido roShi: We are saying that it is fifty years since the introduction of buddhadharma to America and that it is time to evaluate. I disagree. To me, fifty years is nothing. It’s too early to evaluate. buddhadharma: Are you also saying it’s too early to leave behind or alter practices? eido roShi: Yes, I guess so. We just keep doing prac- tice, and when it has gone on for five centuries, then maybe history will judge us. People may look luvinaaParicio It is a Buddhist teaching of social science. Joan Sutherland: What was the spirit of the vinaya, then? Is there a way for us to understand that spirit deeply and find its Western equivalent? If we can find its natural expression here, then integration happens. We need to bring the spirit of the forms and expressions of the past to forms and expres- sions that are natural to us as Westerners. ponlop rinpoChe: We can integrate the social philos- ophy of the vinaya by recognizing how it came into being. When the Buddha was teaching and gather- ing more students and followers, issues naturally began to arise, the same issues that arise as any soci- ety forms: Who will lead? What are the qualifica- tions to be included? How will conflict be resolved? How should negative actions be dealt with? The vinaya is like a case study. Each discipline developed on the basis of incidents that occurred. We do not need to copy the vinaya, but we also needn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is much we can learn in the vinaya about how we in the West could conduct ourselves as a community. We shouldn’t throw everything out because of certain elements we naturally don’t agree with, like some of the distinctions between men and women. Joan Sutherland: We could emulate that kind of organic development. They noticed what hap- pened and they created forms based on their own experience. Stephen batChelor: Shortly before the Buddha died, he told Ananda that they need not follow the minor rules. Ananda failed to ask him what minor rules he had in mind. As a result, they decided to keep the lot. That was a pity, because it established a large number of rules, but I suspect the Buddha wanted his legacy to be a set of principles, an inter- personal set of guidelines, that would, as Rinpoche said, govern the life of the community through consensus. He did not want an autocratic system of governance. He wanted the community to be modeled on some of the republican forms of gov- ernment existing at his time. He was going against the main political models of his period, which was moving more toward autocratic monarchy. He resisted the tendency for society to rely on an absolute authority. He sought to set up a system of law, the dhamma, which would govern the life of the community through assembly. That’s a crucial principle we can explore today, particularly in a society such as ours that has some curious resem- blances. We are also trying to move away from autocracy toward a kind of pluralistic democracy. ponlop rinpoChe: In addition to telling Ananda about not needing to follow the minor rules, the Buddha also told Kashyapa that vinaya rules should be applied according to the country, the time, and the I have done protector practices, I’ve worn strings around my neck, and, frankly, I let go of all of that. It was too alien. Such practices are a function of how Buddhism was integrated into India and later Tibet, but whether they can be effectively transplanted here, I’m not so sure. — Stephen Batchelor