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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 65 azines, and don’t even reside in Los Angeles. ... It’s becoming increasingly hard to avoid meditation. It’s offered in schools, hospitals, law firms, government buildings, corporate offices and prisons. ... Meditation was the subject of a course at West Point, the spring 2002 issue of the Harvard Law Review, and a few too many speeches by Lakers coach Phil Jackson.” It’s no accident that about half the Time article was taken up by reporting on scientific research about meditation. It’s been a critical part of Kabat-Zinn’s MO to back up the mindfulness work with supporting research. And beginning in 1988, as is well known by now, the Dalai Lama has overseen a series of meeting with scientists under the auspices of the Mind & Life Institute. (The eighteenth meeting is scheduled for April in Dharamsala.) Jeremy Hayward, who wrote several early books on the conjunc- tion of Buddhism and science, feels the work sur- rounding these meetings has been invaluable. “What Richie Davidson and others have been doing,” he says, “is demonstrating to people in the healing pro- fessions and many other areas that what practitioners do is extremely valuable and helpful, for anyone. On the hard science side, people have begun to acknowl- edge that there is a genuine inner world of mind that needs to be examined.” A deeper examination gets to the heart of what is meant by “contemplative,” a word that Mirabai Bush says was chosen advisedly as a watchword for a new movement, something broader than just an effort to “hone attention.” For now, Bush says, the integrity of the movement is assured because it is seasoned Buddhist practitioners who are doing a lot of the teaching. When Norman Fischer, a senior student of Suzuki Roshi and former abbot of Zen Center, teaches the bodhisattva path at Google by calling it “warm- hearted leadership,” Bush feels the depth is still there. As the inherited practices of Buddhism are secular- ized, she says, “They must also be framed by moral and ethical wisdom, an understanding of non-harm- ing—or they will lose their sacred depths.” The arc from countercultural rebellion to the emer- gence of the “abbot of Google” (as Fischer is called) charts the story of an amorphous, composite beast known as Buddhism in America. Alongside it has been the mundane reality of daily, weekly, monthly meditation practice in hundreds of centers and many thousand homes. Most of the communities formed in the wild old days survive. The ranks of the found- ing members are thinning, and many of that genera- tion feel we are really hearing, poignantly, as if for the first time, a teaching—impermanence—we have been hearing about since we were young and glassy-eyed. The ongoing transmission of Buddhism has always required a core of deep practice, the place where the pyramid of spiritual leaders Mel Weitsman talks about comes from. The generations after the baby boom are smaller, and many challenges will fall on their shoulders, not least how to train new teachers and make participation more inviting and affordable for a wider range of people. Most of those who pioneered Buddhism in America will not be around to see what it will be thirty years from now, but they care deeply about it. In a panel discussion I led for the cur- rent issue of Buddhadharma, a twenty-one-year-old new prac- titioner, Iris Brilliant, suggested that older Buddhists ought to “make younger friends and ask them questions.” Out of those conversations new shapes of Buddhism will certainly emerge. To be continued. ♦ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. PHOTOBYPATRICKO’CONNOR