using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : January 2017
and the clergy. Buddhism makes these techniques and insights available to everyone. Across the years, I’ve interviewed a number of those I call the “first explorers”—people like Sharon Salzberg, Mirabai Bush, and Joseph Goldstein who went to India looking for spiritual life in the 1960s and 1970s and brought back Bud- dhism and meditation to American culture. That has been transformative far beyond the numbers of people who are officially Buddhist. It’s transforming medicine. It’s trans- forming families and workplaces and social action. It’s even transforming the lives of people rooted in other traditions who are bringing these spiritual technologies, like meditation, into their life. It’s magnetic. I like to think in a long view of time because it helps relax us. We have this American idea we have to do everything right now—without discernment, without attending as much to how we do something as to what our plan of action is. When we do things this way, we may walk forward in ways that aren’t as mindful as they need to be. We could end up having to do a lot of repair. Looking back at this century a hundred years from now, I think that the subtle but very profound way that Bud- dhist wisdom and practices have entered the culture is going to be one of the big stories that is told. What role is technology playing in the changing face of spirituality in America? What’s quite new is how widely accessible the teachings of the ages are. I remember twenty or thirty years ago talking to Phyllis Pickle, who started the religious division of Publishers Weekly. It was a big thing for Publishers Weekly to acknowledge that religious and spiritual books actually had a big market. What she said to me back then was that a lot of people were getting their “church off the shelves.” Today we can say that a lot of people are getting a very diverse spiritual education “off the shelves.” But it’s not just the shelves anymore. It’s technology. It’s a show like On Being. It’s travel and accessibility. People can go on meditation retreats in many different kinds of institutions and communities, or they can go on silent retreat at a Buddhist monastery that may not have as many monks as it once did but is bursting at the seams with modern people looking for quiet and wanting to touch into that contemplative part of themselves. I see technology offering opportunities to be both free and creative, while also providing an earnest, serious searching place in our common life that’s unfolding in unprecedented ways. With such access, are you seeing people putting together pieces from different belief systems, or would you say more are dedicating themselves to immersion in one path? There’s a little bit of both. The notion of “seekers” in recent generations has sometimes been seen as superficial or unmoored or vague. But the classic New Age movement of the 1980s and 1990s has evolved and grown up. There is a natural path that emerges when people are seekers. It starts out very individual and private, with people saying, “I’m nurturing my inner life.” Then, if that is meaningful, people will gravitate toward things that religious traditions have always car- ried forward: fellowship and companionship with others. It’s a very natural thing that the further you go, the more important community becomes. You seek out fellow spiritual searchers. People also seek ritual, which is a basic human need. I think we need rituals to function in ways that we’ve forgotten in Western culture. Then there is a reverence for the text and wanting go more deeply into written teachings and scripture. I’m impatient with people who are dismissive of the world of spiritual seeking, because I see in it a real impulse to integrity and a longing for depth and commitment. To what extent do you think people are bringing distinctly American attitudes and values to their spiritual search? Americans are creative, which has an upside and a downside. It can mean playing fast and loose with traditions and risking the integrity of those traditions. But it can also mean being faithful to the ways that traditions can be lived in modern everyday life, instead of encased in a museum. Also, I think it’s true that Americans, whatever their back- ground, are more prone to do things individualistically, at least at first. They think, “I’m going to embark on my individual spiritual path.” I don’t think that happens as easily in other cultures, even when people are alienated from their religious traditions. Even Europeans, where it’s a more secular culture in many ways, seem to have a more collective sensibility about how these things work. The collective thing is a bit more of a stretch for us; it’s not as intuitive. But it’s essential if what we are doing is spiritual life. Because American society is so individualistic, it’s also very lonely. It’s not just that it doesn’t serve us and makes us unhappy—it’s out of sync with the world we inhabit. The ancient abiding questions behind our spiritual traditions are “What does it means to be human?” and “How do we want to live?” In the twenty-first century, those have become inseparable from the question “Who we are to each other?” That question may have felt optional in the past, when spirit- ual practice was often about going to church on Sunday with your family and was more of a private affair. Today, the ques- tion of who we are to each other is spiritual work. In fact, it is the work of whether we survive and flourish. I think we don’t quite know how to live that reality yet. But if we don’t, the traumatic and tragic events happening around us are bringing it home in all kinds of ways. That need to see our- selves as connected, to be caring, and, as the Buddhist tradition says, to attend to suffering in the world and the suffering in ourselves is more evident and more urgent now. LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 48