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Lions Roar : January 2009
71 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 an important role in encouraging nonsectarian Buddhism. Practi- tioners are consistently exposed to a variety of teachings and teach- ers. This encourages a dialogue that will continue and deepen, as an essential part of an evolving Buddhism that will incorporate the best of what the West has to offer, even as it offers other qualities that the West sorely needs. Perhaps the main disappointment of the last thirty years is that the division between convert Buddhism (still mostly white and middle-class) and ethnic Buddhism (non- white, mostly immigrant) continues to be vast. The most striking development in Buddhism’s recent past has been socially engaged Buddhism, now generally accepted as an essential dimension of the dharma. To survive, Asian Buddhism had to make its peace with authoritarian rulers, so certain as- pects of the dharma were not developed. Today Buddhism is largely liberated from those constraints, and we are beginning to see the larger social implications of Buddhist teachings. Just in time! The biggest challenge for the future is what role Buddhism will play in the various crises that have just begun to rear their heads (climate change, for example: see ecobuddhism. org). We don’t know how quickly these crises will occur, or how they will interact, yet they will certainly push us far outside our comfort zones. The tendency to bury our heads in the sand, or our bottoms on cushions, will be strong, and individual prac- tice will take on a new urgency. But that will not be enough. To survive and thrive we will need intentional communities, and sangha will become a lot more important. Will Buddhism help us come up with the new vision of life and possibility that humanity seeks, as the old one decays or collapses around us? Our globalizing world needs a better understanding of what causes our collective dukkha, and the best ways to respond to it. The modern West has benefited from the Abrahamic emphasis on social justice (a concept lacking in Buddhism), but seeing the world as a moral battleground between good and evil becomes ever more dangerous as our technological powers increase. Instead of that dualism, the Buddhist path from delusion to wisdom of- fers insight into the “emptiness” of the individual and collective ego-self. This teaching is what the modern world needs most, and Buddhism presents it better than anything else I know. DAVID LOY is Besl Chair Professor of Ethics/Religion and Society at Xavier University in Cincinnati. His most recent book is Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution. He is a Zen teacher in the San- bo Kyodan lineage. Ego Will Always Be the Issue by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche I FEEL POSITIVE that Buddhism will deepen its roots in the West. Western students have not only increased their interest in study and practice on an individual level, but have started to work on a larger scale as sanghas to establish dharma in the West. This is something quite wonderful. Still, there is more work to be done in the areas of transmission, translation, and original composition according to the traditions outlined in the sutras. There is work to be done in terms of cultivating an un-self-cen- tered motivation and a depth of determination on par with that of the Eastern countries to which dharma first traveled after the Buddha’s lifetime. There is also work to be done in establishing a teaching lineage grounded in genuine practice that will safeguard against individual, egoistic interpretation. All in all, this evolution depends on a continuous appreciation of the source of dharma: the lineage. Our inspiration to seek guidance in order to establish greater depth must turn in this direction. Ex- ternally, the economic and political stability of Western nations will also play a role. Most importantly, our focus has to be on the essence or core of the practice: the surrender of the ego, of our own self-cen- tered-ness. In the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, the means to do this come both from serving others and cultivating faith in the teacher and lineage. No doubt, there will be challenges. While we all face the mod- ern distractions of the twenty-first century, as human beings our psychological makeup and obscurations have not changed since the time of the Buddha. We do not need to find a new way of following the dharma. We don’t need to create our own version of what the Buddhist path should be. Altruism, egoism, com- passion, suffering, negative emotions, devotion, and service are not outdated concepts. They are as relevant in this current time as they have ever been, and we need to have a personal experi- ence of them as the ground for moving forward. Through the investigation of these topics we can bring the tradition to life—a tradition beyond culture. If dharma prevails in the West, so many people will benefit. Whether one is Buddhist or not, we can agree that there is not going to be a greater future for humanity than for the human spirit to mature in a positive manner. In essence, this is dharma. DZIGAR KONGTRUL RINPOCHE directs Mangala Shri Bhuti, an organization dedicated to the teachings of the Longchen Nyingthik lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. His latest book is Light Comes Through. Challenging Western Thought by Robert Thurman WHEN ARNOLD TOYNBEE SAID in 1971 that the most important event of the twen- tieth century would be seen by future histo- rians as the encounter of the West with Bud- TATJANAKRIZMANICPETERCUNNINGHAM