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Lions Roar : January 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 58 Iris Brilliant Student, Ann ArBor, MIchIgAn “The goals of Buddhist practice are to end suffering and be- come more self-aware, and feminism has the same values.” “Feminism and the dharma are mutually beneficial and in- forming,” says Iris Brilliant, a women’s studies and creative writing major at Michigan university. “the goals of Buddhist practice are to end suffering and become more self-aware and feminism has the same values, just in a more specific way.” Most young Buddhists, according to twenty-one-year-old Brilliant, are involved with some kind of activism. “this re- flects well on the dharma,” she says. “It would be hypocritical to have a spiritual practice that didn’t extend beyond oneself.” Brilliant became interested in the dharma when, at eigh- teen, she went to a lecture by robert thurman. his conviction impressed her, so afterwards, when she saw an advertisement for a Buddhist Peace Fellowship teen retreat, she signed up. Brilliant compares how she felt at her first retreat to a future guitarist picking up a guitar for the first time and intuiting that the instrument is exactly what she needed. “I’m a very social being,” Brilliant says. “I often evaluate ideas based on who is drawn to them and the people who were at the retreat were incredible. here were all these self-motivated kids wanting to engage in difficult work, which most people that age aren’t interested in, and they were all so kind to one another.” Brilliant also felt that the dharma talks, which catered to teens, made sense. “Language can be exclusive,” she says, “and adults often exclude the youth without realizing it. It was impor- tant for me to be on a retreat where I understood the language and where there were other people my age, so I didn’t feel like, ‘oh, this seems cool but I’ll come back to it in ten years.’” Brilliant is a proponent of making the dharma accessible to everyone and, in addition to youth, one of her particular con- cerns is the LgBtQ community. Many Buddhist teachers, she notes, could be more sensitive in this area. When romance comes up in a dharma talk, the diction frequently implies that all men are attracted to women and vice versa and that everybody identi- fies as either a man or a woman. Brilliant, who identifies as queer, says this is painful. “to be able to engage in a practice as vulnerable as meditation is, there has to be a level of trust involved,” she says. “If I’m already trevor Maloney Zen PrIeSt, SAn FrAncISco “Where does a priest like me fit in? I’m excited to find out!” “I went to grad school for the wrong reasons,” says thirty-year- old trevor Maloney. “I didn’t know it, but I needed a monastery, not an academic program.” Maloney’s master’s degree was in theology. he’d had a born- again experience at seventeen that left him, in his words, “want- ing to know and align himself with the truth.” he spent his time in churches, going to prayer groups, and reading books. Yet Ma- loney sensed something was missing. one night in 2003, he went through all the theology papers he’d written. he realized he’d mostly written about god’s relationship to the world and that he was trying to break down the separation between god and himself. “I wondered if I still believed in god,” says Maloney, “if it was important for me to believe. I realized I had no idea what this thing was that was seeking god.” Maloney’s roommate gave him a copy of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and he was impressed by the disciplined yet joyful Japhy ryder. When he discovered that ryder was based