Questions to Consider: The Buddhadharma.

Via Linda Lewis
on Jul 8, 2012
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As meditation divorced from the Buddhadharma (and the Buddhadharma itself) become popular in the West, there are questions to consider.

1. First, as secular meditation becomes popular as a stress reliever and goes into all areas of Western life—from therapy to education—it is clear that it is benefiting these individuals who meditate. But is it also becoming a form of spiritual materialism? Is it merely stopping at the self-help comfort zone?

2. Do people cling to the eyes-closed and private peace aspect of meditation as introduced most commonly in Hatha yoga, mindfulness, or vipassana spheres and shy away from opening the eyes and developing a peace which can be taken out into the world to benefit others? In other words, is this secular form of meditation becoming “all about me,” without introducing the aspect of awareness which develops compassion? Or are people introduced to secular meditation becoming more open and curious, leading them to the study of dharma and dharmic methods which introduce compassion, like tonglen ?

3. If mindfulness or vipassana is all that is taught in a secular fashion and context, is meditation in danger of becoming commercialized? Although meditation is intrinsically beneficial, is it still dharma without any teachings on liberation?

4. Is the Buddhadharma in the West itself falling prey to bourgeois comfort and convenience—sometimes called “cozy” dharma? Can the pursuit of liberation become a casual mass movement?

5. Buddha and his students were supported in Jetagrove by the wealthy merchant Anathapindika. Is the value of a small community around an authentic teacher still a viable model for today?

6. If dharma teachers seek approval and popularity, success and gain, are they perpetuating spiritual materialism or is their motivation to be of benefit to a greater majority? How often do teachers become corrupted by playing the numbers game with students after earning initial celebrity attention and money?


Editor: Anne Clendening

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About Linda Lewis

Linda Lewis met the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1972 and, following Rinpoche’s invitation, immediately moved to Boulder, Colorado to be a part of his young and vital sangha. The predominant themes in her life have been teaching in contemplative schools–Vidya, Naropa, and the Shambhala School in Halifax, Nova Scotia–and studying, practicing, or teaching his Shambhala Buddhadharma wherever she finds herself.


17 Responses to “Questions to Consider: The Buddhadharma.”

  1. This article pleases me very much :) :) The exact idea of spiritual materialism is found in what you say… teachers that haven't really gained much at all… but have established themselves as Gurus. And if they're ever questioned, well… their answer can be … "heck I've made some money to support my family, etc… can you blame me?" This is NOT the way true Guruhood is established… In fact, it's established the opposite way. And to say that times are different now so that we should accept someone as a spiritual master simply because his book is on a New York Times bestseller list is absolute nonsense. There is a McDonald's on every corner – but is it the best food for you? Some doctors would say it's poison. Thank you again for your insight and courage…

  2. Padma Kadag says:

    Goodness and meditation are not necessarily synonomous.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    Linda…good article and relevant questions. It is evident from where it is you ask these questions and I believe this is such an important topic that you continue writing here about it.

  4. Padma says:

    Thanks Linda – interesting questions! Vishvapani Blomfield has something to say on the importance of not divorcing intention from meditation practice here:

    Personally I'm particularly interested in your 5th and 6th questions: in a capitalist society, what is a dharma teacher to do? Donations from lay people who believe they are earning good karma isn't part of our culture – and the monastic/lay split is blurring.

    And things offered cheaply or for free in this culture are often equated with being of little value. But actively marketing the dharma and charging high prices seems antithetical to the traditional way.

    Western Buddhism certainly needs to address these questions and find a way that makes sense of the cultural and economic context if it is to become properly established. Developing an authentic Western Buddhism is something I'm exploring on my blog.

  5. Linda V Lewis says:

    Oh this is great! It is true that things offered free or cheaply in a capitalist society are still "valued" cheaply then. You have articulated the problem so well! But the marketing "programs" and "courses" at high prices is also questionable. Teachers need to be paid in our society, they cannot beg nor can they count on become monastic with lay support. I think constantly examining intention or motivation is important–both for students and teachers–in order to cut through group neurosis and corruption. Thank you!

  6. Padma Kadag says:

    Linda…by example…please read the recent article on EJ by MIchele Fajkus "No Self, No Suffering". DIrect Pointing Method ?

  7. Linda V Lewis says:

    There's a book almost of the same title, "No self, No problem" written by someone else!

  8. […] Now I am at peace with the fact that,unlike the other girls,I do not have human kids (I opted for four-legged furry children). […]

  9. Janet DiGriz says:

    I posted this on facebook, but was asked to post it here as well.

    This article seems to downplay the benefits of ideology-free meditation practices. Self understanding doesn't have to come in your language and your spiritual concepts. Westerners can be trusted to look within, just like followers of Eastern traditions can sometimes be trusted to be honest and not religious.

    I celebrate non-ideological meditation practices and explorations that do not adhere to one or a few traditional conceptualizations. People can be trusted to be honest with themselves without your specific concepts. Each individual is his own path. No need to worry that he's delving into his own concepts and not yours.

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