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Buddhadharma : Spri 2013
SPRING 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 9 WINTER 2012 BUDDHADHARMA:THEPRACTITIONER’SQUARTERLY25volun t eers.They’realsopollingplaces.Andmanyevenprovide f reespace t oo t herreligiousgroups t ha t can’ t a ff ord t omee t elsewhere.Thepublicspacesreligiousins t i t u t ionsprovideareaninvalu - ablepar t o f America’scivicli f e. It probablywon’ t surpriseanyone t ohear t ha t t heseins t i t u t ionsaredeclininginmembership.Every i nd i catoroftrad i t i ona l re li g i ous i den- t i t yisgoingdown,while“una f filia t ed”is t he f as t es t- growingreligiousiden t i t yin t hecoun t ry.Asmoreandmorechurchesareconver t edin t oupscalelo ft s,wheredoes t ha t leave t henonpro f- i t sandScou tt roopsandpopularmovemen t s t ha t dependon t hem?Theo t her t radi t ionalal t erna - t iveispublicschoolsanduniversi t ies,bu t budge t cu t shavele ftt hemdecima t ed.Those t ha t haven’ t alreadyclosedarelessandlesswilling t oprovide t heirspace f reeo f charge.What i fBuddh i stcentersandmed i tat i ongroupsopened t heirdoorsandle t civilsocie t yin?Buddhis tt hinkershavelong t hough tt ha t publicspacesareanecessarypar t o f ajus t socie t y.Forexamp l e ,t he I nd i anpoe t Asvaghosa ( 80–150AD ) goesin t oelabora t ede t ailwhendescribing t hemanybeau t i f ulpublicspaces t heBuddha’sfather—themode l ofar i ghteousk i ng—bu il tafterh i sson ’ sb i rth . TheInd i anph il osopherNagarjuna ( 150–250AD ) and t he f amous I ndianemperorAshoka ( 304–232BC ) also t ellkings t obuildpublicspaces,men t ioning t hemin t hesamebrea t hasmonas t er i esand t emp l es . The t radi t ionisclear:goodkingsbuildandmain t ainpublicspaces f or t heirci t izens. I nademocracy, t ha t du t y f alls t ous.Wi t h t radi t ionalreligiousins t i t u t ionsshu tt ing t heirdoors,i t ’s t imeweopenedours.Buddhis t cen t ersandmedi t a t iongroupscanno t possiblyhope t ofill t hegap t ha t churchesandsynagoguesareleavinginAmerica’scivicli f e,bu t wecans t illmakeadi ff erenceinourcommuni t ies.Remembermyacquain t anceinNewOrleanswhoaskedwhyBuddhis t swerealways t alkingabou t compassionbu t weren’ t doingany t hing? It ’sup t ous t oprovehimwrong.Ispen tt heyeara ft ercollegeinanAmeri - Corpsprogram t ha t placedmein t heTaskForcefortheHome l ess i ndowntownAt l anta , Georg i a . Dur i ngmyt i methereIservedatsevera l d i fferenttrans i t i ona l homes,emergencyshel t ers,andsoupki t chens. It was t heendo f as t ringo f social - servicework f orme,whichs t ar t edseveralyearsearlierwi t hvolun t eeringa t aLa t inocommuni t ycen t ernex t t omycollegecampus. I spen tt hesummerbe f oremysenioryearlivinginanin t en t ionalcommu - ni t y t ha t provideshomelessservicesinBos t on.Then I wen tt oS t .BernardParish,Louisiana,onmylas t springbreak t opreparemeals f orvic t imso f HurricaneKa t rina.Dur i ngth i st i me , Iwasstruckbythefact t ha t allo ft hesocial - servicegroups I servedwi t hweredependen t onorganizedreligion f orsup - por t .Manyo ft hesoupki t chenswerehousedinchurchbasemen t s,andalmos t allo ft heemer - gencyshel t ersreliedonvariouschurchgroups t ocomeinandcookamealonceor t wiceamon t h.AH i ndugrouptookovertwowho l esh i ftsamonthatthesoupk i tchenwhereI li vedandservedinBos t on.Iwasa l sostruckbyhowabsentmyownreligiouscommuni t iesseemed t obe. I ’veneverv i s i tedaBuddh i stcenterthathostsouts i decommuni t ygroupsoronewhosemembersregu - larlyvolun t eer t oge t herou t side t heircen t er.Anacquain t ancewhospen t ayearservinginNewOrleansa ft erKa t rinaonceaskedme,“Whyisi t t ha t Buddhis t sarealways t alkingabou t compas - sionbu tt hey’re t heonlygroup I ’veneverseenvolun t eerdownhere?”More i mportantthanvo l unteers , re li g i ousins t i t u t ionsprovidepublicspaces.WhenOccupycampswereevic t ed f rompublicparksandsquaresth i spastw i nter ,i twaschurchesthatopened t heirdoors t ohomelessoccupiersandgeneralassemblies.Churchesandsynagogueshavelongprov i dedspaceforscouttroops , AAgroups , andcommuni t ymee t ings,aswellaso f fices f orsmallnonprofi t sandhousing f ordisas t er - relie f LET’STALKJOSHUAEATONisawriterandsocialactivistandholdsamaster’sofdivinit y inBuddhiststudiesfromHar v ardUni ve r s it y .It’sTimetoOpenOurDoorsByJoshuaEa t onSha r eyou r commen t son t hisissuea tt hebuddhadha r ma . com/le t s t alk EMAIL YOUR COMMENTS TO LETTERS@THEBUDDHADHARMA.COM yet. I expect that once we see a stable base of Buddhist organizations and sanghas, we’ll see more of the kind of work you’re calling for. Jacob Lindsley El Monte, California How Criminals Are Made In the Summer 2012 issue, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks about forgiveness in his brief article, “How Criminals are Made” [First Thoughts]. In part, it said, “We can see that if we’d been born and raised in that way, we too could have become sea pirates.” I take exception to this idea. I see that dire poverty creates a host of issues, including a degree of hopelessness that can lead to crime. However (and it is a big however), we are responsible for our choices, and just because you are victimized by circum- stances does not mean you have no choice but to victimize others. Under that premise, there would be no end to the violence and mayhem in the world, no hop e whatsoever, as everyone could say, “Well this was done to me, so I will do it to the next person.” Understanding the origins of the perpetra- tor’s pain may assist one in forgiving them, but it does not excuse the fact that they made a choice to perpetrate the evil instead of stop- ping the cycle. Janice Atkey Winchester, Ontario WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK the following people and organizations for their assistance with this issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly Wesley Allsbrook • Basia Coutler • June Crow A. Jesse Jiryu Davis • Tyler Dewar • Joshua Erickson Otgonbayar Ershuu • James Ford • Koun Franz Max Gimblett • Yeshe Gyamtso • Blair Hansen Richard Haspray • Matt Jones • Kris Krüg Marvin Moore • Naropa University • Kevin Osborn Jeanne Riordan • Ethan Schoonover Shambhala Archives • Cindy Shelton • Kim Scafuro Lisa Trank • Drolkar Tsekyi • Shari & Robert Vogler Barbara Wenger LETTERS Opening Our Doors If Buddhism is to have a successful future, it must take the advice of this bright young Buddhist activist [Let’s Talk: “It’s Time to Open Our Doors” by Joshua Eaton, Winter 2012]. Meditation is great, but you have to do more than that. You have to put in your time caring for your fellow human beings, whether that is working on a Habitat for Humanity build, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or tutoring underprivileged children. You have to put in the time and show that you care. Jonathan Figdor Palo Alto, California The truth in this case hurts, and it should. We are forty-plus years into the spread of Buddhism and other Eastern religions in the U.S., and it’s clear that the majority of Buddhist centers and groups remain detached from the nitty-gritty problems of our society and culture. Working on yourself is very, very important, but that needs to include work- ing for others. Bravo Joshua Eaton for gently pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. Nils Montan Santa Fe, New Mexico Of course this is a wonderful sentiment, but the other side of this issue is that at the moment, our focus is on establishing the dharma in the West. Most Buddhist organi- zations I know are simply struggling to stay open. Monks and nuns don’t have health care or housing, and centers can’t even keep a stable membership base. They don’t have the luxury of doing outreach and charity activities