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Why Americans see Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion — Quartz
"But American secular Buddhism has also produced some unintended consequences. Suzuki’s writings greatly influenced Jack Kerouac, the popular Beat Generation author of On the Road and The Dharma Bums. But Suzuki regarded Kerouac as a “monstrous imposter” because he sought only the freedom of Buddhist awakening without the discipline of practice.

Other Beat poets, hippies and, later, New Age DIY self-helpers have also paradoxically mistaken Buddhism for a kind of self-indulgent narcissism, despite its teachings of selflessness and compassion. Still others have commercially exploited its exotic appeal to sell everything from “Zen tea” to “Lucky Buddha Beer,” which is particularly ironic given Buddhism’s traditional proscription against alcohol and other intoxicants.

As a result, the popular construction of nonreligious Buddhism has contributed much to the contemporary “spiritual but not religious” phenomenon, as well as to the secularized and commodified mindfulness movement in America.

We may have only transplanted a fraction of the larger bodhi tree of religious Buddhism in America, but our cutting has adapted and taken root in our secular, scientific, and highly commercialized age. For better and for worse, it’s Buddhism, American-style."
buddhism  us  counterculture  philosophy  doctrine  2018  sokauniversityofamerica  mindfulness  secularism  religion  beatgeneration  jackkerouac  zen  zenbuddhism  daisetsuteitarosuzuki  thichnhathanh  shakusōen  anagārikadharmapāla  paulvcarus  ernestfenellosa  williamsturgisbigelow  henrydavidthoreau  ralphwaldoemerson  soka  sua 
august 2018 by robertogreco
bell hooks: Buddhism, the Beats and Loving Blackness - The New York Times
"G.Y.: Absolutely. You’ve talked about how theory can function as a place of healing. Can you say more about that?

b.h.: I always start with children. Most children are amazing critical thinkers before we silence them. I think that theory is essentially a way to make sense of the world; as a gifted child growing up in a dysfunctional family where giftedness was not appreciated, what held me above water was the idea of thinking through, “Why are Mom and Dad the way they are?” And those are questions that are at the heart of critical thinking. And that’s why I think critical thinking and theory can be such a source of healing. It moves us forward. And, of course, I don’t know about other thinkers and writers, but I have the good fortune every day of my life to have somebody contacting me, either on the streets or by mail, telling me about how my work has changed their life, how it has enabled them to go forward. And what greater gift to be had as a thinker-theorist, than that?"



"G.Y.: Is there a connection between teaching as a space of healing and your understanding of love?

b.h.: Well, I believe whole-heartedly that the only way out of domination is love, and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love, and that includes teaching. I don’t do a lot of teaching these days. I am semi-retired. Because, like any act of love, it takes a lot of your energy."



"G.Y.: You’ve conceptualized love as the opposite of estrangement. Can you say something about that?

b.h.: When we engage love as action, you can’t act without connecting. I often think of that phrase, only connect. In terms of white supremacy right now for instance, the police stopped me a few weeks ago here in Berea, because I was doing something wrong. I initially felt fear, and I was thinking about the fact that in all of my 60-some years of my life in this country, I have never felt afraid of policemen before, but I feel afraid now. He was just total sweetness. And yet I thought, what a horrible change in our society that that level of estrangement has taken place that was not there before.

I know that the essential experience of black men and women has always been different, but from the time I was a girl to now, I never thought the police were my enemy. Yet, what black woman witnessing the incredible abuse of Sandra Bland can’t shake in her boots if she’s being stopped by the police? When I was watching that video, I was amazed the police didn’t shoot her on the spot! White supremacist white people are crazy.

I used to talk about patriarchy as a mental illness of disordered desire, but white supremacy is equally a serious and profound mental illness, and it leads people to do completely and utterly insane things. I think one of the things that is going on in our society is the normalization of mental illness, and the normalization of white supremacy, and the evocation and the spreading of this is part of that mental illness. So remember that we are a culture in crisis. Our crisis is as much a spiritual crisis as it is a political crisis, and that’s why Martin Luther King, Jr. was so profoundly prescient in describing how the work of love would be necessary to have a transformative impact.

G.Y.: And of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t find an important place in your work for rage, as in your book “Killing Rage”?

b.h.: Oh, absolutely. The first time that I got to be with Thich Nhat Hanh, I had just been longing to meet him. I was like, I’m going to meet this incredibly holy man. On the day that I was going to him, every step of the way I felt that I was encountering some kind of racism or sexism. When I got to him, the first thing out of my mouth was, “I am so angry!” And he, of course, Mr. Calm himself, Mr. Peace, said, “Well, you know, hold on to your anger, and use it as compost for your garden.” And I thought, “Yes, yes, I can do that!” I tell that story to people all the time. I was telling him about the struggles I was having with my male partner at the time and he said, “It is O.K. to say I want to kill you, but then you need to step back from that, and remember what brought you to this person in the first place.” And I think that if we think of anger as compost, we think of it as energy that can be recycled in the direction of our good. It is an empowering force. If we don’t think about it that way, it becomes a debilitating and destructive force.

G.Y.: Since you mentioned Sandra Bland, and there are so many other cases that we can mention, how can we use the trauma that black people are experiencing, or reconfigure that trauma into compost? How can black people do that? What does that look like therapeutically, or collectively?

b.h.: We have to be willing to be truthful. And to be truthful, we have to say, the problem that black people face, the trauma of white supremacy in our lives, is not limited to police brutality. That’s just one aspect. I often say that the issue for young black males is the street. If you only have the streets, you encounter violence on all sides: black on black violence, the violence of addiction, and the violence of police brutality. So the question is why at this stage of our history, with so many wealthy black people, and so many gifted black people, how do we provide a place other than the streets for black males? And it is so gendered, because the street, in an imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, is male, especially when it is dark. There is so much feeling of being lost that it is beyond the trauma of racism. It is the trauma of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, because poverty has become infinitely more violent than it ever was when I was a girl. You lived next door to very poor black people, but who had very joyful lives. That’s not the poverty of today.

G.Y.: How is the poverty of today different?

b.h.: Let’s face it, one of the things white people gave us when they gave us integration was full access to the tormenting reality of desire, and the expectation of constant consumption. So part of the difference of poverty today is this sort of world of fantasy — fantasizing that you’ll win the lottery, fantasizing that money will come. I always cling to Lorraine Hansberry’s mama saying in “A in Raisin in the Sun,” “Since when did money become life?” I think that with the poverty of my growing up that I lived with and among, we were always made to feel like money is not what life is all about. That’s the total difference for everyone living right now, because most people in our culture believe money is everything. That is the big tie, the connecting tie to black, white, Hispanic, native people, Asian people — the greed and the materialism that we all invest in and share.

G.Y.: When you make that claim, I can see some readers saying that bell is pathologizing black spaces.

b.h.: As I said, we have normalized mental illness in this society. So it’s not the pathologizing of black spaces; it’s saying that the majority of cultural spaces in our society are infused with pathology. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of it, because it has become the culture that is being fed to us every day. None of us can escape it unless we do so by conscious living and conscious loving, and that’s become harder for everybody. I don’t have a problem stating the fact that trauma creates wounds, and most of our wounds are not healed as African-Americans. We’re not really different in that way from all the others who are wounded. Let’s face it — wounded white people frequently can cover up their wounds, because they have greater access to material power.

I find it fascinating that every day you go to the supermarket, and you look at the people, and you look at us, and you look at all of this media that is parading the sorrows and the mental illnesses of the white rich in our society. And it’s like everybody just skips over that. Nobody would raise the question, “why don’t we pathologize the rich?” We actually believe that they suffer mental illness, and that they deserve healing. The issue for us as black people is that very few people feel that we deserve healing. Which is why we have very few systems that promote healing in our lives. The primary system that ever promoted healing in black people is the church, and we see what is going on in most churches today. They’ve become an extension of that material greed.

G.Y.: As you shared being stopped by police, I thought of your book “Black Looks: Race and Representation,” where you describe whiteness as a site of terror. Has that changed for you?

b.h.: I don’t think that has changed for most black people. That particular essay, “Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination,” talks about whiteness, the black imagination, and how many of us live in fear of whiteness. And I emphasize the story about the policeman because for many of us that fear of whiteness has intensified. I think that white people, for the most part, never think about black people wanting to be in black only spaces, because we do not feel safe.

In my last book, “Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice,” I really wanted to raise and problematize the question: Where do we feel safe as black people? I definitely return to the home as a place of spiritual possibility, home as a holy place.

I bought my current house from a conservative white male capitalist who lives across the street from me, and I’m so happy in my little home. I tell people, when I open the doors of my house it’s like these arms come out, and they’re just embracing me. I think that is part of our radical resistance to the culture of domination. I know that I’m not who he imagined in this little house. He imagined a nice white family with two kids, and I think on some level it was very hard for … [more]
bellhooks  2015  georgeyancy  buddhism  christianity  spirituality  religion  race  class  patriarchy  racism  classism  mentalillness  money  greed  mentalhealth  society  capitalism  consumerism  materialism  domination  power  gender  feminism  idenity  listening  love  humor  martinlutherkingjr  cornelwest  allies  influence  homes  intellectualism  theory  practice  criticalthinking  pedagogy  writing  children  unschooling  deschooling  teaching  howweteach  oedagogy  solitude  workinginpublic  publicintellectuals  narcissism  healing  malcolmx  blackness  whitesupremacy  abandonment  betrayal  anger  masculinity  markmcleodbethune  resistance  safety  whiteness  terror  wealth  imperialism  inequality  pathology  poverty  truth  truthfulness  sandrabland  thichnhathanh  activism  estrangement  everyday  humanism  humanization  humility  grace  change  changemaking  transformation  canon  empowerment  composting  desire  lotteries  lorrainehansberry  araisininthesun  culture  trauma  sorrow  leadership  psychology  self-determination  slow  small  beatpoets  jackkerouac  garysnyder  beatpoetry  ethics 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Nicole Fenton | Words as Material
"These are some of the questions that have come up for me along the way:

What does writing contribute to the design process?
How can designers use words to articulate what they’re making?
How can we, as humans, benefit from clear language?
How can writing make products easier to adopt and understand?
How can I broaden the definition of “writing” for designers?"



"I believe that writing is part of every design. If you can clearly define what you’re making and articulate its value, the steps to bring it out into the world will go much faster. It’s easy to put pixels together when you’ve already made decisions. And since we work across systems and borders, there’s no better way to articulate design than with writing."



"Language makes it possible for us to navigate places and relationships; to express needs and requirements; to name and categorize things; and to understand our place in the universe."



"Without words, we wouldn’t be able to plan or effect change.

As a technology, writing has many merits. It complements verbal and visual communication. It’s sturdy and can stay put. It’s cheap. It’s easy to change or reproduce. And it moves faster than ships or airplanes. Writing makes it possible to propel knowledge and intent forward through time.

Historically, writing has served us as a force of stability. It gave us a way to record history, exchange information, and establish legal systems. We wrote to preserve knowledge, transmit ideas, and pass on traditions. And of course, we still do those things, even with hypertext. We still treat writing as a product of the editorial process."
nicolefenton  writing  2015  design  words  language  howwewrite  whywewrite  learning  communication  annegalloway  mattjones  frankchimero  abbycovert  clarity  annelamott  thichnhathanh  collaboration  jean-paulsartre  sartre 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Don't Just Sit There, Do Something | Tricycle
“Ever since Western converts began adopting Buddhist traditions, their community has sought a balance between the quest for personal peace and tranquility and the sense of social engagement that has sometimes expressed itself, most recently on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, with the well-worn activists’ phrase No justice, no peace.

That seemingly irreconcilable conflict made itself felt when several generations of Buddhists came together for the 2014 National Gathering of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (or “BPF”). That noteworthy group, now 36 years old, congregated during Labor Day weekend at the East Bay Meditation Center, housed in a low-slung, two-story building in Oakland, California’s economically revitalized heart. At the gathering, the fellowship’s newest, post-Occupy incarnation seemed to carry a message for its more solitary, meditation-oriented elders: Don’t just sit there, do something.

The relatively small size of the event, as well as its modest setting, stood in sharp contrast to that of well-attended, corporate-funded mindfulness conferences such as Wisdom 2.0. In a private conversation the first evening of the gathering, I told Thai Buddhist activist Sulak Sivaraksa (addressed “Ajahn [teacher] Sulak”) of my own written criticism of that conference, and of the “engaged Buddhist” teachers who privately thanked me for “saying what needed to be said” but refused to support that position publicly.

“If they can’t say publicly what they feel privately,” said Ajahn Sulak, “we call that ‘being a hypocrite.’ I’ve experienced that myself, many times. Teachers or abbots tell me ‘I agree with you, but I can’t say so publicly.’ That means they have economic interests that prevent them from speaking up. Even Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a friend and whom I consider a teacher, is reluctant to speak as freely as he did before he ran such a large institution.” A good spiritual friend (kalyana mitta), Ajahn Sulak continued, speaks the truth: “That’s why I admire the American Quakers. They tell the truth, no matter what the consequences.”

Western Buddhists have at times been reluctant to speak truth to power. Some Buddhist organizations and entrepreneurs have, instead, unabashedly cozied up to it, hoping some prestige would rub off on them. That practice was perhaps best exemplified by an admiring (some might say “fawning”) interview of Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s “Darling Tyrant,” at the 2014 Wisdom 2.0 conference. Kagame's practice of mindfulness was apparently so inspiring that it allowed his audience to ignore his administration’s involvement in, according to the Spanish government, “crimes of genocide, human rights abuses, and terrorism,” as well as his government’s suspected involvement in the murders of Rwandan dissidents and threats to the journalists who reported them.

Corporate-sponsored “mindfulness” seems to be a growth industry. The Quaker “Religious Society of Friends,” in contrast and as a result of its practices, has “never become large . . . or powerful,” Ajahn Sulak told me. “But they tell the truth. All Buddhists should learn from the Quakers.”

The following morning’s meditation was followed by a plenary session on the “Future of Engaged Buddhism,” with perspectives from “five veteran BPFers”: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Susan Moon, Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Martha Boesing, and Donald Rothberg. For the morning breakout session I chose Rothberg’s workshop on “Keeping Cool in the Fire: Becoming More Skillful with Inner and Outer Conflicts.” Drawing extensively on the work of Norwegian conflict resolution expert Johan Galtung, Rothberg may have been unaware how quickly he was to be drawn into a conflict of his own.

The primary goal of Rothberg’s presentation, which included graphic representations and other practical tools, was to offer guidance on how to bring two sides of a conflict into agreement—preferably in a “win/win” scenario. The presentation was engaging and extremely useful. But it quickly drew objections from some of the young activists in the crowd, for reasons I could easily understand.

“This doesn’t apply when there’s a severe imbalance of power between two forces,” said one. My heart was with them—especially since, as Rothberg himself had said, Western dharma practitioners “tend to be conflict-avoidant.”

The conference’s keynote speakers, Ajahn Sulak and American Buddhist writer Joanna Macy, had touched on the same point during their opening addresses the night before. “Western Buddhists . . . are very suspicious of attachment,” said Macy. “They feel they need to be detached . . . so don’t get upset about racism, or injustice, or the poison in the rivers, because that . . . means you’re too attached.”

This causes some difficulty for me,” she continued, “because I’m attached.”

She added: “I think one of the problems with Westernized Buddhists is premature equanimity. When the Buddha said ‘don’t be attached,’ he meant don’t be attached to the ego.”

During our private interview, Ajahn Sulak emphasized many of the same points. “Anger arises,” he said. “That’s okay. But you must learn to translate that anger into change.”

“Some people want to be ‘goody-goody Buddhists,’” Ajahn Sulak continued, “saying nice things all the time and never challenging power. We believe in nonviolence, but that means we cannot ignore the long-term harm caused by structural violence.”

Or, as BPF’s literature says: “The system stinks.”

While the urge to avoid confrontation is strong in some sections of the Western Buddhist community, many of the leaders it reveres have been unafraid to speak bluntly. They’ve even been unafraid to use terms that border on the politically forbidden. The Dalai Lama, for example, has said he is “not only a socialist but also a bit leftist, a communist. In terms of social economy theory, I am a Marxist. I think I am farther to the left than the Chinese leaders. They are capitalists.”

Ajahn Sulak’s teacher, Buddhadasa, said, “If we hold fast to Buddhism we shall have a socialist disposition in our flesh and blood … [an] ideal of pure socialism which must be acted out, not just talked about for political purposes or for selfish, devious gain.” Ajahn Sulak told a group of Japanese Buddhists that “unless we stand united against consumerism and capitalism, we will not be able to create Dhammic Socialism.”

The Peace Fellowship’s Gathering ended with a refuge ceremony. Experienced dharma practitioners will understand that, by this action, everyone who participated became a Buddhist (or renewed their Buddhist vows). It could also be said that the people in attendance took refuge collectively, as a sangha, as a beloved community.

But there was more to come. A smaller group gathered that evening at a park in downtown Oakland. Their purpose was to demonstrate against the Urban Shield conference, which was about to take place. Urban Shield is, in effect, a trade conference for our cities’ increasingly militarized police forces—and for the vendors who profit off their purchase of heavy weaponry, drones, and other tools for the imposition of violence and the removal of personal privacy and autonomy. It was a good choice for protest, sitting as it does at the intersection of violence and capitalism.

A group of demonstrators planned to block the entrance to the Marriott Hotel, where many attendees were staying, while the rest were there to show their support. The Buddhists gathered before the watchful and slightly skeptical eyes of the park’s denizens: urban families, skateboard-wielding teens, and a homeless person or two. Protesters raised their signs: “Make Peace, Disarm Police”; “Marriott, Evict Urban Shield”; “Urban Shield = Urban Warfare.”

After a few minutes of planning and debate the group—a mix of laypeople and monastics—began its several-block-long walk to the Marriott. Accompanied by the monks’ drumming and chanting, the group passed curious pedestrians and drivers honking horns in passing automobiles, the Wells Fargo Bank glittering in the sun’s final late-evening rays. A giant flag waved atop the Oakland Tribune building, but no reporters emerged to cover the demonstration.

Once at the hotel, a dozen protesters unfurled a sign that read “Evict Urban Shield.” Then they blocked the front entrance and sat in lotus position as supporters cheered them on from the sidewalk.

I found myself moved by these young faces, some of which I now knew by name, as they sat before the hotel doors, their faces serene and their meditation posture largely impeccable. That’s Katie, in the white t-shirt. She’s one of the organizers. And that’s Dawn, her colleague. I think I saw that man, the one next to Dawn, in one of the breakout sessions…

I found myself kneeling before them, ostensibly to take their pictures.

They chose not to get arrested that evening, and the demonstration began breaking up as night fell. I walked away through the now-darkened streets of downtown Oakland. I felt a sense of parting, of separation from a community, as I walked back to my car. Outside the Oakland City Center office complex I passed a bicycle, still locked to a pole but stripped of its wheels and gears.

Driving home, I found myself lost in some back streets, passed bars filled with partiers (that’s right, it was a holiday weekend), and made my way back to a borrowed apartment. Once there I thumbed through the pictures I had taken on my phone.

Don’t just sit there, do something. At the close of this gathering, these demonstrators had resolved that generations-old conflict. There, outside the Marriott Hotel, they had done both."
2014  buddhism  richareskow  religion  individualism  socialjustice  activism  mindfulness  sulaksivaraska  thichnhathanh  quakers  truth  truthtopower  corporatism  equanimity  confrontation  socialism  marxism  politics  urbanshield  detachment  attachment 
november 2014 by robertogreco

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