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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 68 This is not a matter of choice; it is a re- ality. As Buddhism enters a new country, with its own traditions, axioms, and cul- tural values, there is no conceivable way to preserve the exact form of its previous container. A melting pot is what America is, and all Buddhist traditions and their unique heritage of wisdom and compas- sion will merge in this American container, without losing what is key to each and every one—the genuine stream of transmission of Buddha’s wisdom. This melting pot will give birth to a truly American Buddhism. With the bless- ings of the Buddha, dharma, and sangha, and through training in view, meditation, and action, genuine Western teachers are emerging, and they will play an important role in carrying for- ward the lineage of their traditional masters. Like Prince Siddhartha, we must have a dream of true awak- ening and also a dream of how we can share this right here in America. Without any bias, and without getting caught up in small-town, territorial mentality, all American Buddhist masters and students should work harmoniously, skillfully, and with a heart of love to realize our dream of American Buddhism. THE DZOGCHEN PONLOP RINPOCHE is a contemporary master in the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the presi- dent of Nalandabodhi and the author of Mind Beyond Death. In a Time of Decadence by Eido Shimano Roshi ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN YEARS have passed since Zen Buddhism was first introduced to America at the World Parlia- ment of Religions in Chicago in 1893. A few dharma pioneers, such as Nyogen Senzaki, D.T. Suzuki, and Sokei-An Sasaki, culti- vated the American soil and sowed the seed of Zen. The seed took root. In the 1960s, a wave of religious leaders came from Asian countries to the West. Sanghas and sitting groups sprouted all over the American and European continents. It could have been anticipated that a second wave of Zen teachers would come to rein- force the first movement, but somehow, the dharma decided otherwise. The second and third generations are completely composed of Westerners. Those Westerners immedi- ately initiated the new direction for the evo- lution of Zen in the West. Zen Buddhism has never thrived in wealthy or comfortable societies. Though both East and West are experiencing considerable political turmoil these days, there is also substantially greater material wealth than a century ago. Zen temples in America support themselves financially, organiz- ing programs, workshops, and retreats. Hospice work, chaplaincy, counseling, and social relief are the most common activities of contemporary Western Buddhists. Though these activities are by all means beneficial, they are not exactly what the Buddha taught. We cannot deny that we are currently in what is known as a Mappo period—a time of religious and social decadence. Whenever decadence and materialism have prevailed within a society, a “mes- siah” has come in one form or another to encourage spiritual prac- tice and awakening. In Japan, for example, such confusion prevailed throughout the thirteenth century. Dogen Zenji, Eisai Zenji, Honen Shonin, Shinran Shonin, and Nichiren Shonin all appeared at once to save Japan from despair. They can be considered religious genius- es, and their influence can neither be measured nor discontinued. Freedom and truth are always available to anyone, regardless of time and culture. But it takes desperation to see the harmony be- yond apparent chaos, the essential nature of mind in the midst of war and confusion. Periods of Mappo are fertile ground for produc- ing the best spiritual teachings. They force us to return to the basic teaching of the Buddha: life is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, and there is an end of suffering, which is the Eightfold Path. A sociologist once said that whenever a tradition is imported into a new culture, it takes at least two hundred years to be- come firmly rooted in foreign soil. Even thirty years from now, Buddhism in the West will be less than a hundred and fifty years old. In the meantime, further Westernization will undoubtedly take place. Followers and groups will multiply, as will varieties of styles. Authentic monastic life will decrease while lay practice will increase and continue to develop. However it may transform, the essence of the Buddha’s teachings will never be destroyed. EIDO SHIMANO ROSHI is head of the Zen Studies Society and abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo in upstate New York and New York Zendo Shobo-Ji in New York City. A Way of Life by Sharon Salzberg WHERE IS BUDDHISM GOING? Nearly everywhere, I’d say, though perhaps not as Buddhism per se. In the mid-seventies, when I first returned from India, when someone would ask at a social occasion, “What do you do?” I would reply, “I teach meditation,” only to find them look- ing confused, or dismayed, or sidling away. Nowadays, of course, it’s quite different. Most commonly, when I tell someone “I teach meditation,” I hear “I’m so stressed out; I could really use you.” Or most amusingly, “My partner should really meet you.” My earliest meditation teacher, S.N. Goenka, launched my first meditation retreat with the words, “The Buddha did not teach Buddhism. He taught a way of life.” The Buddha’s teach- ing can be seen as a series of life practices, such as generosity GREGEDWARDSLIZAMATTHEWS