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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
fall 2017 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 85 buddhism in the West ➤ Class divisions have become an unfortunate by-product of our retreat communities. A growing awareness of class divisions has been liberating and resulted in increasingly inclusive retreat communities, but more can be done. Let’s look beyond class and invite new people into our healing environments while simultaneously making it possible for them to actually be there. Winter 2016 Minimum Specs for Your Giraffe by John Tarrant I’ve been thinking about Buddhism as an act of translation. I don’t mean the translation of texts from one language to another. I’m thinking more of the symbolic act of bringing instructions and customs and a path of knowledge from one culture to another. It seems to me that translation in this sense always strives for some sort of pure conveyance from the original culture, yet always ends up with a hybrid. It is natural to want to introduce something serviceable and relatively normal to your own culture—let’s say something equivalent to a horse. But if it started out as a horse in China, when it arrives in America or Australia you might have something more like a giraffe, a creature with definite surreal or even Dada elements. If we want to grow Buddhism in our own culture, adaptation is going to be more necessary than specification. We are not going to be able to follow minutely detailed, preset instructions as if we were importing an assembly line. With an assembly line, you need to control every small process. For adaptation we want minimum specs, because any attempt to translate with great fidelity and in detail will prevent adaptation. Minimum specs can be very precise; they just have to be few and we have to try to guess which ones are crucial. Minimum specs put the responsibility for transformation on the person who is practicing Buddhism—you. To have a giraffe of our own and to work with it and become its friend, we will find ourselves in conversation with the ancestors and also with our own, particular, modern lives. I’m pretty sure that this is what the ancestors of Buddhism wanted for us. Summer 2005