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Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly Summer 2019

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

2 min

VISHNU SRIDHARAN has worked for nonprofits dedicated to fighting poverty, promoting racial equity, and dismantling the prison–industrial complex. Now a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of Southern California, his dissertation draws on South Asian spiritual traditions to explore the connection between how our mind works and how we ought to treat each other. He is based in Oakland. ELISE ANNE DEVIDO is an historian of modern Buddhism in China and Vietnam; her work has focused on Thich Nhat Hanh, women and Buddhism, and the genres of hagiography and biography in Buddhist traditions. Co-president of Sakyadhita–USA, which supports women in Buddhism, she is the author of Taiwan’s Buddhist Nuns and the forthcoming Women, Buddhism and Modernity in China 1900–1950. MARK UNNO is an ordained Shin Buddhist priest in the tradition of…

1 min
about the art

THIS ISSUE’S COVER is from a project called “Venus Mansion” by Lee Sol, in which he uses 3-D rendering to juxtapose classical images with modern culture motifs, often in eye-popping pink. He attributes his fascination with color to an interest in gender stereotyping and trying, as an adult, to “find the true colors that represent me.” But he lists his biggest single influence as his small one-room apartment in Korea. “Spending countless hours in this tiny space,” he says, “allowed me to explore bigger open spaces in my mind, which ended up in my own art practice where I could openly express my emotions.” Albarrán Cabrera (page 76) is the team of Anna Cabrera and Angel Albarrán, based in Barcelona. They use a wide range of photographic processes (from platinum and…

3 min
how buddhists can benefit from western philosophy

IN THE EARLY 2000s, I taught Western philosophy to Tibetan monks at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala, India. These monks were excited to explore new insights into questions they were already pursuing in Buddhist philosophy, and new questions they had never considered. I was recently reminded of my students in Dharamsala when a Buddhist friend asked why studying Western philosophy might be of any benefit to a contemporary practitioner. Buddhism offers a vast tradition of philosophical and moral reflection. But traditions endure only to the degree to which they address the experience and concerns of each new generation. Our contemporary concerns include justice and inequality, navigating difference in multicultural societies, climate change, and the pervasiveness of information technology. Discerning how to speak, act, and think skillfully in our contemporary…

6 min
ask the teachers

GUO GU: This is an important question, and one not so dissimilar from another common question, “In what timeframe can one reasonably expect to learn meditation and reach awakening?” These are difficult to answer because whatever assumptions we may bring to perceiving ourselves and others, buddhadharma is definitely not meant to be a measuring stick for judging people. It is a practice, and it is up to each of us to engage with it and integrate it in our lives so eventually there’s no separation between buddhadharma and our lives. Done correctly, our self-referential attachments diminish. That said, naturally there are ups and downs in different periods and circumstances of our lives. Common notions of progress and regress do not apply here. What a “Buddhist” does may appear one way but…

7 min
packed and ready for whatever’s next

IN THE MOST BASIC SENSE, phowa, as practiced in Tibetan Bön Buddhism, centers on the transference of consciousness at the moment of death. These teachings can prepare us to project our consciousness directly into a pure realm at the time of death, increasing our chance for liberation in a single lifetime. The time of our death may feel remote and unconnected from our day-to-day reality, but phowa begins now, in this realm of existence. Every day, we undergo a seemingly endless parade of transitions, from the mundane—one day, one week, or one year into the next—to major life transitions that can be much more difficult to adjust to. By recognizing each transition—recognizing that we have a choice, becoming aware, and then letting go of our attachment—we also prepare ourselves for…

9 min
reducing dharma to exotic art

NO MUSEUM CURATOR would ever dream of inviting Catholic priests to come in, stand before the museum’s collection of Renaissance altarpieces or devotional crucifixes, and perform a mass. Such an overtly religious rite, in which the priests’ blessings transubstantiate the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, would naturally be considered out of place in the museum context. Yet since the late 1980s and the Free Tibet movement, curators have invited Tibetan monks into the secular space of their galleries to construct sand mandalas, then deconstruct and distribute the colored sands among its gathered spectators. In doing so, they effectively treat this powerful practice as performance art. In this context and setting, mandalas are markers of an exotic culture to be consumed by outsider–spectators, not a transformative ritual…