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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
70 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY deal with such microaggressions—comments on the “beauty” and “power” of my name, for instance, or the “aura” I supposedly ema nate. Worse, though, is the extent to which even dharma teachers fetishize South Asia. When a teacher at the front of the hall feels it is acceptable to try out an offensive (and inaccurate) Indian accent while relaying teachings from the Dalai Lama, to give one example, the potential for transforming the sangha into a safer space seems slim. Even though teachers and practitioners in the Insight tradition at times interact with me in ways I find unskillful, I take this burden on as simply another part of my practice. The challenges of being South Asian in a Western sangha don’t stop with interpersonal dynamics, however. What I find most troubling is the presentation of the teach ings themselves. Given the shared roots of Hinduism and Buddhism, I am shocked to see the time, place, and prevailing beliefs of the Buddha’s era so often stripped from discussions of the dharma. To hear many teachers tell it, the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree and created a religion ex nihilo. While the extent of the overlap between Buddhism and other South Asian traditions is contested, certain facts are not in dispute. As Richard Gombrich, founder and president of the Oxford Cen tre for Buddhist Studies, takes pains to show in his essential work How Buddhism Began, the teachings of the Buddha presuppose the worldview of the Upanishads. The Upanishads are Sanskrit texts that informed the Brahmanical traditions prevalent during the time of the Buddha—traditions that would later be classified as “Hindu.” In particular, the Buddha utilized the concepts of karma (the notion that our continual rebirth depends on the quality of our acts) and nirvana (that the ultimate goal is to be released from this cycle of rebirth) found in the Upanishads. In addition, as Gombrich’s work makes clear, the Buddha’s teaching that life as we experience it is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and “not the self” also takes for granted the fundamental reasoning of the Upanishads. Specifically, according to the Upanishads, to escape the cycle of rebirth, we must come to know the truth about the nature of reality, that there is a fundamental rift between the changing, unsatisfactory world of phe nomena and the inherent happiness of simply being. opposite | Siddhachakra Mahayantra India, sixth to seventh century SOURCEUNKNOWN