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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 08 50 Sumi Loundon Kim: Affordability is a key issue. A lot of the young people I’ve met tell me they started on a Goenka retreat. Why? Because it was free. I have to say, though, that this complaint bothers me a little, because a lot of dharma cen- ters do offer scholarships. Having worked on the administra- tive side of a dharma center, I know that the retreat fees barely cover expenses. On the other side, there can be an expectation in the younger generation that they’ll be sup- ported. There’s not as much nitty-gritty, I-will-do-what-it- takes-to-do-this-retreat atti- tude that I saw in my parents’ generation, most of whom had nothing either. Maybe my generation and the one after it don’t want to work as hard to get into a retreat. rod meade Sperry: I’ve been the beneficiary of sanghas that have gone out of their way to offer scholarships. It’s impor- tant to let people know that if they want to put something in the dana box after sitting, that’s good, and if not, that’s OK too. It’s also important to let people know that a retreat has a suggested charge, but if you can’t afford it, you are still welcome. I know that creates difficulties, but it’s a real gesture toward inclusion. iriS BriLLiant: Absolutely. I’d also add that if you’re talking about being more inclusive of young people, it’s important to be unafraid to discuss issues that young people tend to face, such as sexuality and sexual orientation. Obviously, it can be tricky. How do you talk to minors about sex on a Buddhist teen retreat without getting in trouble with their parents? But there are ways to talk about sex, drugs, stress in school, and the pressure to succeed. These issues can often be lost when young people are just part of the crowd of adults. If there were places for open discussion about what they are going through, that would draw more young people into the practice. They’d see it as relevant to their lives. Sumi Loundon Kim: I agree. It seems like the examples in talks of challenges people face, as well as the casual discussions at centers, have to do with things like menopause, caring for elderly parents, or what to do with your investments. Dharma talks and articles and postings that address young people’s issues would make the teach- ings stick with them. Buddhadharma: When older people try to connect with younger people, they often stumble. How could centers approach issues in a way that would be useful? iriS BriLLiant: Having more younger teachers, people in their twenties and thir- ties, would help. I had one assistant teacher at Spirit Rock who was considerably younger than the other teach- ers, and just knowing that she had started to practice at my age, and wasn’t that much older than me, made me feel so much more comfortable. In general, teachers could try to push themselves a bit beyond their comfort zone. I don’t think every teacher should be forced to talk about issues specifically related to young people, but it’s important for teachers to know what the issues are and do their best to address them in an appropriate way. Buddhadharma: So, there is a need to provide something beyond a generic kind of dharma, one that speaks to people’s particular needs. rod meade Sperry: In that regard, it would be helpful to have a conference of Buddhist elders and Buddhist youth, and instead of the Buddhist elders being there as teachers, they’d be there as students to learn what the next generation cares about, and what’s missing. Buddhadharma: The older generation of teachers often simply