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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
9 fall 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly leTTers (DETAIlOFBuji)COllECTIONOFJOHNMCgEEANDAlExANDREAVDOUlOV Iam fascinated by koans and was thrilled to see an article in your Summer 2008 issue by Steven Heine on the subject, accompanied by a lovely painting of “Mu.” As I read the piece, I soon discovered that it was about the idea of koans and not the experience of working with them. It was an intellectual discussion that left me entirely unchanged. Then something interesting happened: I stumbled upon a liv ing koan. In the article, “Between Arhat and Bodhisattva: Finding the Perfect Balance,” Ajahn Amaro describes a conver sation between a student and his teacher. The student, struggling with his great doubt, says to the teacher, “Sometimes you talk about Tara like she is a real person, but some times you say she is the wisdom of Buddha Amoghasiddhi ... Does she really exist or does she not?!” For a few moments the lama ponders, then raises his eyes to meet those of his inquirer. A smile spreads across his face. He responds, “She knows that she is not real.” I laughed out loud as I read this, the world opening out into vast space. If you want to know the definition of a koan, take one into your body. Live in its presence. The mind that wants certainty, the mind that wants to label and define, that wants to know for sure, can not fall into life. She knows that she is not real. Beautiful. Allison Atwill Santa Barbara, California Thank you for publishing my Commentary in the last issue of Buddhadharma, but not for the title, “Adapt or Die,” which is not my own and which misrepresents its con tents. The future of Western Buddhism is not either/or, but mutual adaptation. Although Buddhism will be changed by the West, it will also change the West. That is a truism; the important issue is how each will change the other, which is the topic of my article. David Loy Cincinnati, Ohio In the last issue of Buddhadharma, the Seventeeth Karmapa emphasizes that, as Buddhists, we are part of a global spiritual community and need to embrace all spiri tual traditions as equal. I was raised in the Christian tradition but rapidly abandoned it as useless theological speculation. Needing to discover the nature of mind, I became a Zen student. Some years ago I participated in a week long sesshin with a wellknown Zen master, which oddly was sponsored by a Catholic Trappist monastery. As Zen students know, the long rounds of sitting are frequently ac companied by a monk walking around the room with a kyosaku (the “encouragement stick”). A few strikes on the shoulder muscles can propel one’s meditation practice into high gear. Due to the possible association with an act of violence, only monks with a more de veloped practice are given this duty. As I sat in zazen, I noticed that the roshi had given kyosaku duty to one of the Trappist monks. I was amazed. How could a Catholic monk possibly have achieved a state of mind such that a Zen master could select him for this function? Obviously this monk had come to understand a great deal about the intrinsic nature of the mind, but through a path that I would not have considered viable. I humbly apologize to my Christian brothers and sisters, and welcome their tradition into my heart. I will not make this mistake again. Gassho. Paul Willis Altadena, California Two articles in your Spring 2008 issue left the members of the Red Maple Sangha mindfully scratching our heads. The article “Does Buddhism Make You Happier?” recom mends we see “the stopping of craving” as a process (verb), not a noun. The article “Train ing The Heart” contradicts this, describing it as a noun: “It’s only when we make liberation from suffering our ultimate goal that we’re on the right path.” mindfully scratching our heads. when we make liberation from suffering our ultimate goal that