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Lions Roar : September 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 15 WHAT THE BUDDHA REALLY SAID I was disappointed that your issue on the Buddha’s meditations (July 2007) didn’t have more quotations from the Buddha himself and dis- mayed that the few quotations included weren’t actually quota- tions at all. In Jack Kornfield’s article “Doing the Buddha’s Practice,” a quotation appears in which the Buddha talks about overcoming his fear of the forest wilderness at night. It ends with the words “By facing the fear and terror I became free.” The passage as a whole is a paraphrase of Sutta 4 in the Majjhima Ni- kaya, but I’ve checked several translations of the dis- course, and none of them includes that last sentence. This might seem a minor matter, but the remainder of the article takes that last sentence as its theme. By facing down your inner demons and learning not to identify with them, it tells us, you reach “the abode of the awakening, the end of clinging, true peace, nir- vana.” In the original discourse, though, the Buddha doesn’t make such exalted claims about his ability to face down his fears. He simply says that having sub- dued them, his mind was ready to begin meditation, which he describes as progress through the jhanas, which formed the foundation for liberating insight. In effect, the misquotation enables the article to sell the Buddha short. Instead of giving us the full mean- ing of his teachings, it misquotes him and waters down his teachings, making it seem like there’s less to Bud- dhism than is really there. You’d be doing the dharma a great service if you required that all words attributed to the Buddha by your writers were actually his. William D. Lavery Haddonfield, New Jersey AMERICA & RACE I felt my heart open wider and my understanding ex- pand as I read Alice Walker’s essay on racism in America,“Suffering Too Insignificant for the Majority to See” (May 2007). I have often observed a stiffening arise inside me during discussions of race, fearing the labels, blame, and anger so often tossed around. I’ve twice come away from “undoing racism” trainings with the sense that more walls were erected between participants than were dissolved. I ap- preciate Walker for expanding the dis- cussion and revealing what is beyond labels of right-doing and wrongdoing. Walker grounds the discussion at the feeling level, the level that is most essen- tial for transformation. Without that con- text, it is easy for white people in America to approach the profound grief, collective mistrust, and deep need for acknowledgement of African-Americans and dismiss it merely as the ranting of an “angry,” “bro- ken,” or “cynical” people. I believe what she offered in her article is part of what’s missing in the race dialogue, the thing that can bring people closer to the painful things they don’t want to look at and open their hearts to their own and each others’ tragedies. Serenity Wehrenberg Cedar Falls, Iowa Alice Walker’s application of the standard leftist ra- cial clichés to savage acts of robbery and murder were so shocking, after having been impressed with the precision and thoughtfulness of other articles in Shambhala Sun, that I felt I must comment on at least a few aspects of her article. Walker refers to policeman “interrupting” the armed robbery of a restaurant by “three young men of color”—interrupting, as if the young men were racially profiled while minding their own business. Would Walker use the same verb if it was her house being robbed and her child that was being murdered when she interrupted the robbers? Walker next compares the act of a policeman pre- serving the peace to that of a gang of slave-owning adults murdering a mulatto boy for the act of riding a horse with too fancy a saddle. Are these incidents really the same, or does Walker’s analogy cheapen the memory of slavery? Letters to the Editor SEPT 1-17.indd 15 SEPT 1-17.indd 15 6/25/07 4:30:49 PM 6/25/07 4:30:49 PM