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Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

Summer 2021

Buddhadharma offers in-depth teachings that reflect the wealth and range of Buddhist traditions, expert book reviews, and first-rate reporting on stories of special interest to Buddhists. It’s a precious resource for readers who want to deepen their understanding of Buddhist practice and philosophy.

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Shambhala Sun Foundation
2 Issues

in this issue

14 min
“to walk proudly as buddhist women”

DHAMMANANDA Bhikkhuni, the first fully ordained Theravada nun in Thailand, received novice ordination on February 6, 2001. She couldn’t be ordained in her native country, where there were approximately 300,000 male monks and no ordained women. Instead, she had to travel to Sri Lanka, where the bhikkhuni lineage had been reinstated just three years before, after having died out for almost a thousand years. Dhammananda’s ordination sparked a strong public debate in Thailand, protests by the Thai clergy, and ridicule from the conservative press. In spite of that opposition, she returned to Sri Lanka in 2003 to receive full ordination as a bhikkhuni; Buddhadharma featured an article about her and the challenges she faced, “Ordination at Last,” that same year. In Dhammananda’s telling, the history of the bhikkhuni sangha in Thailand…

17 min
deconstructing whiteness

THE BUDDHIST TRADITION has long posited that important features of one’s collective identity are based on karmic inheritance. Some collective, karmically shaped identities are social, like one’s sexual identity as male, female, or another category. Others are cosmological, such as being born human rather than animal, god, hell being, or hungry ghost. These cosmological identities are sometimes also understood as psychological in nature, or as referencing both a life in a given cosmic realm and the presence of certain psychological traits or characteristics. So we find, for example, that hell beings are dominated by hate, while hungry ghosts are dominated by greed. These examples clearly illuminate the tradition’s commitment to identifying shared experiential conditions based on shared kinds of bodies, worlds of experience, and psychological traits, and linking these shared conditions…

4 min
it’s all pure dharma

WHEN I ARRIVED at Buddhadharma eight years ago, I was stepping between two worlds. For twelve years, I had been living in Japan, where I trained as a Soto Zen monk. Not all those years were in the monastery, but I was rarely far from it. So when I first sat down at my desk as deputy editor, I was steeped in a very particular dharma, one that smelled like incense and had the black sheen of wood floors that had been polished every day for centuries. It felt like my hands pressed together in gassho, like my forehead on the ground as I bowed, like robes wrapped around me. Before leaving Japan, I visited a well-known older monk, a teacher to one of my teachers, and told him I was going…

11 min
your whole body is hands and eyes

A DEEP CURRENT OF PAIN moves through our world, ancient but immediate. It is the weight of unwholesome karma. It is the ignorance of our true embrace. In Japanese, Avalokiteshvara is called Kanzeon, the perceiver of the sounds of the world. The sound of the world, that rush and roar that has filled our ears from beginningless time, is the sound of suffering, of a current of pain that flows without cease. The bodhisattva joins this current through vow, through this heart that does not long to leave the world of pain, but chooses instead to flow with it, to perceive, to respond. We feel this current reflected throughout our lives as an unwillingness—an unwillingness to face each other, and also to face ourselves. Another person takes their own life, literally and…

5 min
book briefs

OF THE HANDFUL OF WELL-KNOWN women in the life story of the Buddha, Yasodhara—his wife before renunciation—and Mahaprajapati—his aunt and foster mother—certainly rank amongst the most important. Yet accounts of these two women’s lives are either frustratingly scarce or confusingly fragmented. Two recent publications make sense out of this disarray, reclaiming them as protagonists in the story and history of Buddhism. The first is Barbara McHugh’s debut novel Bride of the Buddha(Monkfish), told in the first person by Yasodhara herself. This Yasodhara, visited by grief and touched by anger, was not blindsided by Siddhartha’s decision to leave; on the eve of his departure she knew, she suffered, and she accepted. In fact, among the many reversals and revelations in this clever retelling, the first is that it was Yasodhara, not Siddhartha,…

11 min
the outer limits of attention

SOMEBODY ASKED the eighth-century Zen master Ma Jo (Chn., Mazu), “What is Buddha?” He said, “Mind is Buddha, Buddha is mind.” Centuries later, Mu Mun (Wumen) commented, Sun shining, blue sky;avoid looking around.Again ask, “What is this?”Holding stolen goods, shouting, “Innocent!” That’s his commentary on Ma Jo’s response, particularly the last line. Let’s leave that hanging in the air for a bit; there’s a meaning underneath that. In another case, Ma Jo’s student Nam Cheon (Nanquan) said, “Mind is not Buddha; cognition is not path.” Here’s Mu Mun’s comment: Sky is clear, and the sun appears;rain falls, and the ground is wet.Feelings spent, talking finished,only afraid of disbelief. I love that phrase: “Only afraid of disbelief.” Mu Mun has two killer last lines in these poems, but especially this “only afraid of disbelief”—it’s a strong…