The word “westerner”

Going back to the frequent use of the word “westerners” and “western” in American Buddhist circles, I have to always wonder what exactly the word means. I’ve already discussed some of it here. But today, I wanted to just look at the history of this word and the senses in which it’s been used in…

Same spelling, but different meanings when said differently?

A post on a lighter topic. My dad showed me this example when I was less than 10 years of age: MINUTE can be pronounced in two ways to mean different things – a noun which means 60 seconds or an adjective which means very small. He asked me if there are other such pairs.…

Where can I find the Buddha?

Why, everywhere, of course! I mean evvvvverywhere. I’m speaking about images of the Buddha here. You can expect to find him represented in a lot of the usual places – shrines and walls of people’s houses (the purpose is similar). But then also in some places you don’t expect, like billboards. Then there are some…

Is Buddhism a hobby?

The work week is for work and the weekend is personal time, at least for those of us who are fortunate to still have jobs, yet not so fortunate that it requires working on the weekends too. “Work” here is stuff that involves earning a living. What is personal, though? Most people save time to…

The power of truth and nonviolence

A good bit of the story of Aṅgulimāla is told in the pāli canon in the Aṅgulimāla Sutta (MN 86). A small part of this sutta, a single verse, is often chanted as a protection.  The Elder Ahiṃsaka (Aṅgulimāla) is something like a patron saint of childbirth.  His story of becoming a bloodthirsty killer and…

Baggage Buddhism

A suggested experiment for anyone who thinks that Asians come to the Dharma with “cultural baggage”: Try translating the word sīla as morality or mention morality to a Dharma audience in a “western sangha” and watch for the reaction.  Wait, wait, don’t call it morality, it’s better translated as ethics, you might hear. Well, why…

Asian Americans speak on the assumptions about them

Here’s an excellent article from the journal Religions, by Chenxing Han, author of the article We’re Not Who You Think We Are that I mentioned in the previous post. It features interviews with 30 young adult Asian American Buddhists as they share the type of issues faced and assumptions encountered that I described earlier.  Some…

Why so swayed by visual appearance?

It is understood that there are two Buddhisms in this country.  One for the “people from traditionally Buddhist countries” (call it type A) and one for the “modern” rational, Westerners”, who “bring an intellectual curiosity to Buddhism as we do with everything” (call it type B).  Never mind if these Asians or Asian Americans have…

A suitable land

Among the many blessings listed by the Blessed One in the maṅgala sutta is “Living in a suitable land” (patirūpa desavāsa).  One can interpret that metaphorically (suitable conditions) or more literally as a suitable land.  This post is about the latter. Indeed the land in which we live can profoundly impact our Dharma life.  Those…

The universality of the Buddha’s teaching

The Buddha’s teaching did happen in one particular culture (that wasn’t East Asia, by the way), but the teaching was not directed to one culture or another.  The dukkha that was the central subject of the Buddha’s teaching is also independent of time. If you had a human birth in any era, his teaching applies…

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