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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
fall 2017 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 83 buddhism in the West ➤ When it comes to the purity of individual lineages of advanced stages of Buddhist theory and practice, such as those of Vajrayana Buddhism, there may be little if any need to adapt these teachings. Rather, as some lamas point out, it’s we who should adapt to them! These esoteric practices may be likened to high-tech track shoes, designed to speed us on the way to enlightenment. It’s not too difficult to acquire these shoes, but to be able to use them to advantage and without injury is another matter. The surface trappings of Vajrayana are easily obtained. All we need do is show up at a Vajrayana initiation, participate in the ritual, and receive the oral transmissions and teachings. But it’s a lot more difficult to engage in these practices so that they bring about profound and irreversible transformations in our bodies and minds. I believe some people have engaged in such esoteric practices for years on end without ever noticing that their mental afflictions are not subsiding and that they’re not finding any greater peace or contentment. Their feet are not yet ready to fit into these shoes. Summer 2004 What about the Cost? by Pamela Ayo Yetunde Buddhism can be learned and practiced without spending a lot of money. One can abide by ethical principles without borrowing cash. One can adopt a Buddhist philosophy without investing. But to experience the spiritual and psychological transformation that retreat practice offers—that takes capital. Without capital that is equitably distributed, retreat communities may contribute, ironically, to the perpetuation of mostly wealthier religious adherents, and in Western contexts to potentially wealthier and white (by way of class that is inextricably linked to race) leaders and teachers. In the U.S. context in particular, the valuing of retreat practice has contributed to racial stratification between white leaders and an increasingly racially diverse sangha. If compassion for others’ suffering is the primary motivation of an awakening heart–mind, then surely compassion for the impoverished can also inform how we offer retreats. We who do not know the pain of poverty need to imagine what is like to live in this world with the fear that living paycheck to paycheck—if there is any income at all—may not even cover our basic necessities. We all share the same universal existential threats, but financial insecurity exacerbates the sting of them while creating threats exclusive to poor people: hunger, thirst, homelessness, higher infant-mortality rates, and dying from easily curable diseases. ➤