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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
WINTER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 53 UDDHADHARMA: As Buddhism has developed in the West, there seems to be a greater emphasis on medi- tation than on other traditional aspects of the Bud- dhist path, such as study, ethics, and accumulation of merit. How significant is this emphasis on medita- tion, and what are its implications for Buddhism in the West? SHARON SALZBERG: There are many reasons behind the emphasis on meditation in Western presentations of Buddhist teachings. Some people who are interested in meditation are already part of a religious or spiritual tradition and have an existing ethical system. Even those who are not part of such a tradi- tion, like secular humanists, may have an ethical system that guides them. Moreover, there isn’t necessarily the tremendous sense of faith here in the West that one might find in Eastern cultures. So the greatest source of faith or confidence in the path is one’s own experience of the power of one’s own mind or inherent goodness, which meditation can readily provide. Even a glimpse of that through meditation practice is often very important. Then people can broaden their understanding of the teachings in other ways. Meditation during the Village Zendo’s summer training intensive (ango) GAYLON FERGUSON: I agree. Historically, the pioneers who brought the dharma to the West—figures like Suzuki Roshi, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and the early Vipassana teach- ers—all emphasized the importance of meditation practice. Chögyam Trungpa said, over and over, “Meditation is the only way.” So over the years, we have seen an emphasis on meditation practice that probably did not exist in Asian coun- tries, where the so-called professionals—the monks and nuns, lamas, and priests—were the primary practitioners. Although the strength of the dharma as it has come to the West lies in that kind of experiential core, there does seem to be a need to expand into other areas that aren’t just about sitting on a cushion. GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD: In the early years of Buddhism in the West, many fewer texts were available to study than there are now, so perhaps meditation practice needed to be more prominent. But even now, the emphasis on meditation is very important because it’s so easy to approach Buddhism intel- lectually rather than experientially and to be satisfied with that. Meditation helps cut through that kind of intellectual PHOTO A JESSE JIRYU DAVIS