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:

    Thank you for your response as well. I have always thought that "less is more!" So much quality is lost in quantity! At the same time, how can we be of utmost benefit? How can we benefit the most sentient beings? I am really questioning and inviting insightful rsponses such as yours.

  6. Linda V Lewis says:

    And neither necessarily lead to liberation from samsara.

  7. Linda V Lewis says:

    They are real questions, which I myself am contemplating. I don't feel I have the answers, but I really feel they're worth asking and I appreciate the various responses and insights. Thanks.

  8. 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!

  9. Padma Kadag says:


  10. Padma Kadag says:

    I think it is very possible that these "secular" methods do more to entrench one's self in samsara. Recently there has been so much discussed about the alleged negativity of having a Lama or Guru. That all of our ills maybe treated with newer modes of self analysis and psychiatry.It is very difficult to put a voice to your own relationship with your root Lama or any Lama to whom you respect. And I do not feel the necessity to do so. Yet these discussions are very enticing. Not everyone is meant to practice the Mantrayana, that I know for sure.

  11. This is a yummy dialogue – to use the relation to food once more. The opportunities for helping people seem to be few and far between… at least from the standpoint of getting any material reward in return. I have find myself helping people in normal conversations, but that's hardly a job. I think we could develop a wave of understanding that could spread through our modern culture. It's happened before and it could happen again. We need a revolution of thought – from thinking of ourselves as limited to our bodies – to thinking that we all inherently possess Buddha-nature.

  12. Padma Kadag says:

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

  13. Linda V Lewis says:

    My experience has been very positive. My root guru, Chogyam Trunpa R., was always available to me and I always felt his welcoming love and encouragement. I could tell him anything. He was brilliant. With his parinirvana, I realized I needed to do my own "homework". Yet i still needed guidance. Again I was very fortunate to meet Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso R. and receive an enormous amount of teaching from him, somewhat filling in the blanks where Trungpa R. had left off with me. At the same time he was so kind and had such a great sense of humor. Neither teacher had a sense of needing to be private. What you saw is what you got. So the dharma came through from formal teachings and from example.

  14. Linda V Lewis says:

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

  15. Linda V Lewis says:

    I read the article…I don't think it was direct pointing out, but maybe I didn't read it carefully enough. But besides words, often the pointing out is in the very gap. And then there needs to be recognition of the gap on the part of the student. Then the student needs to practice the gap–non-conceptual mind. Having an A HA moment doesn't make it. It's great, but not the zap. Using a dialectic method as in Fajkus dialogue is a good learning tool, but still is conceptual: not this, not that…and can lead to a moment. You could say that it's a valuable negative insight. The ability to recognize usually comes after quiet a bit of sitting, boredom, wearing out conceptual mind–so that one can hang out in the gap–experience mind's empty clarity. It's not spacing out. Good luck to us all!

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  17. 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.