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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
17 fall 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly And I still do on some level. That is what I experienced this morning in meditation. Many were the faces that streamed through my mind as I attempted to breathe in their failures, losses, and suffering. My mantra spontaneously became, “Help me to under- stand you. I don’t understand how you have suffered.” What I became acutely aware of is my own grief and, still, my sense of separ- ateness and ongoing, barely conscious wish of being accepted by them still. The tears came and I berated myself for being so “self- absorbed,” that my own suffering clouded my mind instead of theirs, the original intent of my focus. I still could not see them for who they are beneath all that armor of muscle. They were still not human to me, not entirely. At this point I attempted to show some com- passion for myself, though I felt as though I were a lost soul in a house of mirrors, capable of seeing only my own reflection. Something shifted, however, with a new consideration. “This is their pain too,” I told myself. “That is why they need to build their armor. They are protecting something. They have become the reflection of other people. See how they look at themselves in the mir- ror? What would it be like to live one’s life as a reflection, trapped in a mirror, rather than loved for who one is? And what will happen when all that armor is stripped from them by their mortality, as it inevitably will be? What will be left?” They too live in a house of mirrors. Sitting with the sensations of grief, remem- bering this, helped ease some of the separation. We were not so different, it seemed. Indeed, for these men to make a constant “project” of their manhood, to have to compete, to have to don their battle gear at the gym, and pre- pare for “war,” not just on the football field or basketball court, but in their pursuit of love (however false it may be), this would not be a preferred existence for me. Maybe having to live on the fringes of this crowd has given me privileges I have taken for granted and sources of grief I have thankfully been spared. From dorian Kondas’ blog, secretyogis.blogspot.com rehabilitating Protestant buddhism There are things we can learn from the progressive and modernist trends in Buddhism that are sometimes dismissed as merely “Protestant,” says Andrew Olendzki. “Protestant Buddhism” is a label that has been applied to certain progressive elements in the Theravada tradition, first in Sri Lanka in the nineteenth century, and more recently to modernist Buddhism in the United States and around the globe. It is sometimes used as a pejorative, to the extent the enterprise is regarded as tainted with orientalist and colonialist attitudes, along with the histori- cal Euro-centrism that led the first Western Buddhists to immediately begin the task of “improving upon” the traditional manifes- tations of Buddhism in Asia. Another point against it is its tendency to downplay or even marginalize the role of the ordained sangha. Yet there is also much to be said in favor of modernist trends in contemporary Buddhism, and I wonder if we might find a way of reha- bilitating Protestant Buddhism to the satisfac- tion of its critics. A crucial first step in the process is to recognize that new forms of Bud- dhism, at their best, are based upon creative ways of synthesizing meaning rather than upon undermining the beliefs or practices of others. In other words, while it is not okay to say others have got it wrong and this is the right way of looking at things, it is entirely appropriate (even natural) to say, “Here is an interesting new way of understanding things that I find particularly meaningful.”