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Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly Fall 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

WILLA BLYTHE BAKER is the founder and spiritual codirector of Natural Dharma Fellowship in Boston and Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in Springfield, New Hampshire. She holds a doctorate in religion from Harvard University and was a visiting lecturer in Buddhist ministry at Harvard Divinity School 2013–2017. Her books include Essence of Ambrosia: A Guide to Buddhist Contempla tions, of which she is the translator, and The Wakeful Body, out this year. SONAM KACHRU is an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where his research centers on the history of Buddhist philosophy in ancient South Asia. His first book, released this summer, is Other Lives: Mind and World in Indian Buddhism, a new interpretation of the Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu. NALIKA GAJAWEERA is a research anthropologist at the University…

3 min
the jewel we make

THERE IS NO BUDDHISM without sangha. At the foundation of all of it, we have buddha, dharma, and sangha—the three things that hold up all the rest. We study the rest, practice the rest, try to embody the rest, but in these three, we take refuge. We can spend a lifetime trying to figure out what that means, and we struggle with each in different ways, but I’ve never encountered any teaching suggesting it’s a “two out of three ain’t bad” situation. They’re a set. Still, of the three, sangha seems…complicated. Buddha is a no-brainer—whether you define it as the Buddha or as a principle of awakening, it is called Buddhism, after all. And the dharma? Even in trying to figure out who or what buddha is, you collide with the…

7 min
ask the teachers

BREESHIA WADE: The dharma provides tools through the eightfold path and the paramitas to help guide us into translating internal acceptance into concrete actions. During clinical pastoral education, chaplains utilize the action-reflection-action model. The dharma evokes a reflection-action-reflection model: we practice (sit and reflect), then take action based on our practice using the guidelines of the eightfold path and the paramitas. The eightfold path is simply the expression of awakening through body (action), speech, and mind. The paramitas go a step further by representing what it means to embody and recognize the perfection of that expression, inviting us to be compassionately and fully in connection with ourselves, and all living beings, with the goal of eliminating suffering. Part of that is accepting the impermanence of all beings (and all things, including…

16 min
spiritual friendship is the path

ONE DAY, ANANDA and the Buddha were sitting alone on a hill together, overlooking the plains of the Ganges. Having served as the Buddha’s attendant for many years, Ananda often shared his reflections and insights with him. This afternoon, Ananda spoke. “Dear Respected Teacher,” Ananda said. “It seems to me that half of the spiritual life is good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship.” I imagine that Ananda said this with some level of confidence for praising the merits of spiritual friendship. But the Buddha quickly corrected him: “Not so, Ananda! Not so, Ananda!” Ouch! Probably Ananda wasn’t expecting such a stern rebuke. But the Buddha was offering a powerful teaching. He continued, “This is the entire spiritual life, Ananda, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship. When a monk…

11 min
reclaiming our so-called “cultural baggage”

YOU CAN OFTEN hear Western meditation-based convert circles use the term “cultural baggage” to refer to the ritualized acts, cosmological ideas, and devotional practices associated with “heritage” Buddhist communities. This is in contrast to the idea of a more “authentic” or “true” Buddhism that is consonant with a modern rationalized worldview. In my research among meditation-centric convert Buddhist communities, I consistently observe a reluctance to take “heritage Buddhist” practices and cosmologies seriously, with many of my interlocutors often commenting on these ideas’ incompatibility with their own interpretation of Buddhism. For diasporic Asian Buddhists like myself in the United States, where immigrants are expected to assimilate and to “leave their cultural baggage at the door,” the term “cultural baggage” is of course laced with a pejorative sentiment. After all, the “baggage” imagery…

15 min
you can take refuge right here

“I don’t know what’s going on here, but I love you.” MY GRANDMA CORRIENE died in January 2018 after suffering from dementia for years. My last visit with her was an awkward, failed attempt to interact. But as I said goodbye, something shifted, and there was an effortless, joyful, simple connection as she said those words: “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I love you.” We resonated for a moment longer, maybe not even for thirty seconds. In my mind, I can still picture her presence and how I felt as she beamed at me with love and curiosity while I put on my winter coat and hat. Years later, I realized that this simple moment of care could be the basis for meditative practice. To take up the Buddhist…