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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
45 winter 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly rod meade Sperry: I agree. There will be an even broader range of types of involvement and identification than we see today. Buddhadharma: The relationship of practi- tioners to the wider culture is a sub-theme in what you’ve been talking about. Is it fair to say that those who came to Buddhism in the sixties and seventies were trying to leave their culture and create another one, and that the new generations of practitioners have a differ- ent relationship to culture? norman FiScher: My generation felt the Viet- nam War demonstrated the corruption of our whole society and way of life. We thought Asian society was much better, so we thought let’s be Buddhist, let’s be Tibetan, let’s be Thai, let’s be Japanese. Many people are still acting that out today. The new generation doesn’t seem to hold that concept. It’s pretty obvious now that every- body is screwed up, East and West. The younger people I meet are aware of that, and also aware that values come from their own heart. It’s not a matter of Asia or the West. They’re looking for whatever will help cultivate the good intention in their heart. As hard as the sixties people tried their best to be Japanese or Tibetan, it obviously didn’t really happen. Buddhadharma: You started by talking about the Vietnam War. It’s interesting to note that many people who were very politi- cally oriented gave that up when they entered Buddhism. Sumi Loundon Kim: Yes, this is a strong cultural difference that was raised by Iris. A lot of young people today have integrated social and environmental issues with their dharma practice. But this also comes from changes in the older gen- eration. We see a lot of older Buddhists moving toward a more socially engaged vision for their dharma practice. iriS BriLLiant: In the youth retreats I went on at Spirit Rock, the teachers tried to make Buddhism accessible to everyone. They made the practice seem culturally neutral and empha- sized the universal nature of the human experience. Most of the anecdotes in dharma talks were about the teacher’s personal life. The focus was definitely on the dharma itself, but it was relateable to a broader framework of life in today’s world. For example, they suggested we text message each other every time we sit, as a way of encouraging each other. norman FiScher: That’s great! iriS BriLLiant: So instead of shying away from technology and taking an extremist route, they emphasized that we should try to function within mainstream culture, embrace technology, and try to integrate it into our practice, which is definitely a new, and very American, thing. Sumi Loundon Kim: Buddhism was, for Norman’s and my par- ents’ generation, very much counterculture. Now, Buddhism is more what we’d call “alternative,” which means... rod meade Sperry: ...marketed. Sumi Loundon Kim: No. Alternative in the sense of being out- side the mainstream but acceptable. Given the fact that the path to India and other parts of Asia is well trodden in our generation, it’s clear that there is still a need for young people to step outside mainstream American culture. Perhaps they already feel like they’re outside of the mainstream and they’re looking for something that feels like home, or perhaps they’re (LefT-righT):LiBByvigeon;gregorypaLmer;sarahsprague;roBerThofmannwiLfredopascuaL