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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 72 dhism, he was not thinking of Buddhism primarily as a religion. He saw Buddhism as a movement of the axial age, consisting of ethical protest, social reform, and philosophical innovation. He saw it as the most complete of all the axial age movements, Indian civiliza- tion being the most developed and advanced of the time, and there- fore capable of reinforcing immeasurably today the still-incomplete Egypto-Greco-Judaic axial age movements of the West. One of the strongest impacts of Buddhism is in terms of its three trainings—ethics, mind concentration, and wisdom. These can challenge the West to upgrade its ethics, its psychologies, and its sciences. By 2038, psychologists will have become deeply indebted to Buddhist psychology in theory and practice, and guided meditational therapies will have proven their effective- ness. As war will have become more obviously self-destructive, the ethic and technique of nonviolence will have become more vital to a global community based on law, using mediating dia- logue to reconcile conflicts. Buddhism will not spawn big reli- gious institutions, competing with Western religious institu- tions; rather, Western religious institutions will borrow elements from Buddhist ethics, meditational practices, and sciences, to reinforce such elements in their traditions. The Asian countries with a long experience of Buddhism at various levels will lessen their imitation of the West and have strong revivals of Buddhism as religions, ethics, and sciences. By 2038, English will have become the fifth canonical language of Buddhism, as the Kangyur and Tengyur are translated from Tibetan, the Chinese Tripitaka from Chinese, and the Sanskrit Mahayana works added to the already mostly translated Pali Can- on. As my old Mongolian lama, bless his kind heart, predicted to me forty-five years ago, early one morning as we were mounting some mani prayer-wheels on the porch of the little temple we were building, I would get to “see a rising sun of dharma in my lifetime”—and in my next life that dawn will have ushered us into the full dharma daylight. ROBERT THURMAN is Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and founder of Tibet House. His most recent book is Why the Dalai Lama Matters. Broader But Shallower by Waylon Lewis JUST AS WITH YOGA, Buddhism has flourished in the West. It’s done its time, in the ’90s, as a hip fad that all the celebs were into. It’s had its moment on the cover of Time. And just as with yoga, Buddhism made the difficult journey to the West and came to the fore thanks to the writings and teachings of a few charismatic teachers. Communities blossomed, with attendant schools, urban centers, rural retreats, and businesses. And yet, I see little hope for Buddhism as we know it surviving and thriving in the twenty-first century. Forty years after Suzuki Roshi published Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Buddhism is widely thought of as a vague, Eastern lifestyle that has something to do with peace, or the Dalai Lama. At my local café, I can drink a Green Buddha. At my climbing gym, one of the rock holds folks step on is a fat jolly Chinese Buddha. As the first pioneering generation of Eastern teachers departs this mortal coil, I see the teachings diluted, weakened. This isn’t an original observation, of course. It’s said that transplanting Buddhism from one culture to another is as dif- ficult, and takes as much patience, as “holding a flower to a rock.” And Chögyam Trungpa, my parents’ teacher, warned in his semi- nal Sadhana of Mahamudra: This is the darkest hour of the dark ages. Disease, famine and warfare are raging like the fierce north wind. The Buddha’s teaching has waned in strength. The various schools of the sangha are fighting amongst themselves with sectarian bit- terness; and although the Buddha’s teaching was perfectly ex- pounded and there have been many reliable teachings since then from other great gurus, yet they pursue intellectual speculations... The yogis of tantra are losing the insight of meditation. They spend their whole time going through vil- lages and performing little ceremonies for material gain... If the buddhas of the three times and the great teachers were to comment, they would surely express their disappointment. Trungpa Rinpoche also said, though, of the founding of Naropa University, “Let East meet West, and the sparks will fly!” Our technologically proficient, commercially driven, multitask- ing modern West has had the good fortune to inherit powerful teachings with which to combat our inner darkness and outer speed and aggression. Which way the future thread of the lineage of Buddhism wends is up to us—when the call of the meditation gong sounds each morning, will we answer it? Like many others, my life is given meaning because of the Buddhist injunction to serve all sentient beings. My practice, however (again like many others), is not elaborate or anywhere near monastic. It’s simple, accessible, ordinary—I study a bit, meditate consistently enough to keep my sanity, see my commu- nity enough so that our web of interconnectedness strengthens me, and relate to my teacher, whom I see maybe once a year. If intensive, deep-rooted, nearly monastic Buddhism is fading from this planet, perhaps its essential gifts to human culture— meditation, compassion, sanity, selfless mission—are spreading far and wide. That may make up in breadth what we are losing in cultural, historical, intellectual, and devotional depth. WAYLON LEWIS is founder and editor-in-chief of elephant, a publi- cation of mindful living focusing on yoga, Buddhism, sustainability, and society that recently went paperless. CAROLINETREADWAY