Do Buddhists have to be liberal?

The other day, as I was describing some of the strange attitudes towards Asian Americans in “western” Buddhist circles, when a friend said (as many are quick to point out as soon as the conversation turns to race), that such elitism “probably exists towards poor or rural white people as well”. Whatever the prompt for…

Stūpa

Stūpas hold endless fascination for me.  They are constructions with no purpose other than religious significance. Some representations are tiny, and can be placed on your desk.  Some are among the largest constructions of the ancient world. Jetavanārāmaya Stupa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, built with over 93 million bricks, was one of the largest structures…

What’s right about right view?

Right View (sammā diṭṭhi) is the first aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path and is also the culmination of the path. It can also be viewed as the summary of the Buddhist worldview. There are excellent books and articles describing Right View – generally taken as consisting of mundane right view (cause and effect) and…

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…

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