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Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly Spring 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.

Shambhala Sun Foundation
2 Issues

in this issue

3 min
wherever we find ourselves on the path

IN JANUARY, the Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg came together with leading scientists for an online discussion about feedback loops that are accelerating the climate crisis. The Dalai Lama listened intently as the scientists explained how melting ice, thawing permafrost, warming forests, and disruptions to the jet stream are all amplifying global warming and “spinning out of control.” Many scientists are telling us that the sixth mass extinction—which threatens all life forms, including human civilization—is already well underway. So it only seems fitting that the world’s most famous climate activist should join forces with Buddhism’s most renowned living emissary. After all, this is as much a spiritual problem as it is an environmental one. At its core, the climate crisis is samsara writ large. I know many of you are actively involved…

7 min
ask the teachers

ROXANNE DAULT: The body is at the heart of the Buddhist path. It is our guide within the experience of the present moment and an important vehicle for our awakening. One might think at times that the body is an obstacle, that we need to push it away, ignore it, or deny what it tells us, but the teachings and our practice clearly demonstrate the opposite. In the Pali canon, mindfulness of the body is at the center and is seen as an essential practice. In the Kayagatasati Sutta, the Buddha says that mindfulness of the body, when developed and cultivated, is of great fruit and great benefit. In the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha repeatedly states the importance of the body as a frame of reference—that true happiness, the end to…

12 min
abhidhamma dissects the mind

THE UPANISHADS, the late Vedic texts that preceded the rise of Buddhism, proclaimed the supreme aim of the contemplative quest to be the realization of the atman, the immortal self, the ultimate subject that remains unchanging behind the flux of experience. The atman, these texts declare, is essentially identical with brahman, the changeless ground and source of the manifest universe. The task of contemplation is to discover this nondual identity, and this realization is itself the key to immortality. This quest relegated the actual person, the empirical self, to a secondary status. For the Upanishads, people in their individual being are mere ephemeral phenomena covering up the changeless reality, the atman–brahman, which stands silent beyond the range of thought and speech. When the Buddha appeared on the Indian scene, his revolutionary…

10 min
how do we create our reality?

WE’VE NEVER TRULY experienced things as they are. We’ve only ever experienced things as we imagine them to be. In short, we live in a simulated world, and our perceptions are basically invalid, stuck in a loop created by our consciousness. This is not to say that the world doesn’t exist; it’s just that we’ve never lived in it. That is the radical teaching at the heart of Yogacara (pronounced Yogachara), an influential Indian Mahayana school also known as Cittamatra, or Consciousness-Only. Yogacara is not concerned with whether there are real things “out there.” Instead it’s concerned with the way we reify and solidify experiences into discrete things that we perceive as permanent and separate from us. It points out that our modes of perception are inherently biased. We habitually reduce…

11 min
the three minds of zen

AN ARTIST I WORK WITH in Haiti hadn’t communicated in a long while. Approaching the end of 2020, I asked him how he was, given the state of the world. He said, “The time is a difficult one for everyone. But you know, before we came to this world in this time, they prepared us for this.” It’s true—all the buddhas and ancestors do prepare us, and in spite of the difficulty, the bodhisattva chooses to be in this world to wake up together with all beings. Practically, though, amid systemic racism, mass sickness, and other hardship, what on earth does that choice look like? Dogen Zenji taught that we should maintain “a joyful mind, an elder’s mind, and a great mind.” This instruction, a description of the internal world of…

12 min
consciousness is perfectly clear

IN GENERAL, mind or consciousness refers to inner experience. This includes feelings that are pleasant or painful, states of mind that are happy or miserable, emotional experiences such as fear of danger, anger toward those who inflict harm, affectionate attachment to close relatives, and compassion when observing suffering sentient beings. It includes sense consciousness—such as a visual consciousness that sees a vase filled with beautiful flowers, or an auditory consciousness that hears the sounds of music or singing. It also includes cognitions that remember previous experiences, as in “I remember this” or “I thought this,” and cognitions that consider reasons and think “If this is the case, then that must also be the case,” and so on. Whatever position one holds—that the mind is material or immaterial—in general what we…