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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 08 48 white, privileged folks—can really feel like they’re part of a community. The current dharma scene lacks a social instinct and ave- nues for social engagement, which is a very big part of what it is to be young. A lot of Buddhist practitioners and would-be practitioners crave a sense of belonging and a sense of being with people who are like them to explore similar issues. There is just not sufficient support for that. rod meade Sperry: The Interdependence Project model is the antithesis of that. It’s about community, discussion, inquiry, asking questions, and interacting with the teacher like the teacher is your friend, because the teacher actually is your friend. Beyond that, there are guest speakers on diverse topics and a variety of events. It’s a place where people can come and get dharmic influence, but they can also get so much more. How many people don’t go to a center not just because they don’t have the time, but because, on some level, why would they want to? Sumi Loundon Kim: It’s so lonely there. rod meade Sperry: It is lonely. You’re quiet, you go in, you bow, you sit down, you hear a talk, and then everybody leaves. Sumi Loundon Kim: And no food. [Laughter] Buddhadharma: Buddhism came to the West in various pack- ages called Zen, Theravada or Vipassana, Vajrayana, Pure Land, and so forth. It seems that many young people today are less interested in particular traditions. Will the future take the shape of a kind of pan-Buddhism, something that Joseph Goldstein discussed in One Dharma, or will people gravitate to specific traditions eventually? rod meade Sperry: The teachers who interest me are those who find a confluence of their primary practice with some- thing else. Brad Warner is very clearly a Zen teacher, but he also comes out of the punk movement. He has a filter through which to express Zen understanding. There can be modes of teaching that include various traditions without watering the traditions down. As time goes on, you’ll see more of that. Sumi Loundon Kim: I agree that there are going to be syncre- tists, who will bring together elements from within the overall tradition, like Zen and Vipassana, or bring something from outside, like punk, into Zen. There will also be people who settle into one path, once they do a bit of searching. There is something appealing about the integrity of a tradition that has liturgy, cosmology, ethics, and practices that have been developed over the centuries so that they work together to transform a person. In the wake of globalization and the dis- solution of tradition, there will be people who will seek the roots that come with a tradition. rod meade Sperry: I strongly favor innovation, but sometimes we have to look at what came before and acknowledge that there’s nothing insufficient about that. iriS BriLLiant: Most of the people I know who are interested in Buddhism are open to all of the traditions and are eager to learn about them. But it seems a lot of people put together their own hodgepodge of ideas and facets, which allows them to have something they make their own. Many people are only interested in sitting a little bit every day, learning a bit about the dharma, maybe going on retreat. They’re usually willing to go on any style of retreat. I may be biased since I come from a Vipassana back- ground, but it seems like Vipassana and mindfulness practice tend to be the most appealing and accessible forms, because they seem less culturally loaded, maybe a little less scary, a little bit less... rod meade Sperry: ...dogmatic? iriS BriLLiant: Absolutely. There seems to be more room for making your own practice out of it. It seems like there is a straightforward focus on the psychology of the mind— looking at the mind and the body and developing a healthy relationship with your thoughts. Young people’s expression of the dharma is a healthy mix of reverent and irreverent. They aren’t knocking down the old guard; they’re adding to it, assimilating it into the way they live. Instead of thangkas, they have thangka tattoos. —Rod Meade Sperry