African-American and queer Buddhist teachers Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens, with Professor Jasmine Syedullah, have brought their brilliant minds and courageous hearts together in their book Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation (North Atlantic Books). They have also included the voices of other liberation-minded Buddhist practitioners, engaging them in conversations about what it should mean to practice Buddhism while bearing witness to police killings and mass incarcerations of Black people in the U.S. This combination of intersecting identities, talking in trialogue and in face-to-face conversations with complete strangers, makes Radical Dharma an unusual and fierce read.
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
It was with feelings of shock and dismay that early this morning I woke up to learn that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States. Although, as a monk, I do not endorse political candidates or align myself with political parties, I feel that as a human being inhabiting this fragile planet, I have an obligation to stand up for policies that promote economic and social justice, respect for the innate dignity of all human beings, and preservation of the earth’s delicate biosphere. By the same token, I must oppose policies detrimental to these ideals. I see politics, not merely as a naked contest for power and domination, but as a stage where great ethical contests are being waged, contests that determine the destiny—for good or for ill—of everyone in this country and on this planet.
Trump’s presidential campaign challenged each of the ethical…
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The topic of socially engaged Buddhism is complex and very important to the future of the dharma in our troubled, fast-moving and intensely competitive global world. Buddhist scholar Stephen Batchelor says that phrase “socially engaged Buddhism” was coined in the 1930s when some monks opposed France’s occupation in Viet Nam.
In his lucid historical study, The Awakening of the West: the encounter of Buddhism and Western culture (1994), he tells the story of Thich Quang Du who, while sitting in meditative calm repose on a street in Saigon, poured gas over his body and torched himself on June 1, 1963.
Images of monks aflame—“seated like a Buddha engulfed by fire in a country ravaged by war sears itself into the Western mind” (p. 353)—aroused incomprehension among those who imagined Buddhists as totally other-worldly.
But the practice of “engaged Buddhism” could really be said to begin with the Buddha himself. The Buddha didn’t remain silently seated under the Bodhi tree, keeping his awakening to himself, hidden in his soul’s depths. Rather, he went out into the world, and the dharma began to engage with its culture and society of 2500 years ago.
He created the sangha, a kind of community of resistance to the existing caste and hierarchical system. In itself, it was a model of community and community development. The Buddha also taught about worldly affairs. Yet we must recognize that the Buddha taught not only perennial truths about the human condition and the way to happiness. He also articulated his understanding of human suffering (dukkha) in the Iron Age world where society was viewed essentially as a collection of individuals (Stephen Batchelor, After Buddhism: rethinking the dharma for a secular age , pp. 1-28).
Some Buddhist scholars argue that the socially engaged Buddhist movement is really the creation of modernity. That is, the central preoccupation of Buddhist Asian civilizations has not been the “saving of the world.”
Full Article here http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/15/can-buddhism-save-the-world/
At about the beginning of this decade, mass-market mindfulness rolled out of the Bay Area like a brand new app. Very much like an app, in fact, or a whole swarm of apps. Previous self-improvement trends had been transmitted via books, inspirational speakers, and CDs; now, mindfulness could be carried around on a smartphone. There are hundreds of them, these mindfulness apps, bearing names like Smiling Mind and Buddhify. A typical example features timed stretches of meditation, as brief as one minute, accompanied by soothing voices, soporific music, and images of forests and waterfalls.
This is Buddhism sliced up and commodified, and, in case the connection to the tech industry is unclear, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist blurbed a seminal mindfulness manual by calling it “the instruction manual that should come with our iPhones and BlackBerries.” It’s enough to make you think that the actual Buddha devoted all his time under the Bodhi Tree to product testing. In the mindfulness lexicon, the word “enlightenment” doesn’t have a place.
Full Article here http://thebaffler.com/salvos/mind-your-business
A couple of years ago, I was deeply mired in an insane schedule that involved almost everything (compulsive list-making at 4am, vacations mostly spent working, lots of being “on”) except for one desperately missed item (sleep; pretty much just sleep). A friend suggested I download Headspace, a meditation app he swore would calm the thoughts buzzing incessantly in my head, relax my anxious energy and help me be more present. I took his advice, noting the app’s first 10 trial sessions — to be done at the same time over 10 consecutive days — were free. When I found the time to do it, it was, at best, incredibly relaxing; at worst, it barely made a dent in my frazzled synapses. When I didn’t find the time (because again, schedule), the effort to somehow make time became its own source of stress. In the end, I got an equally hectic yet far more satisfying career, took up running and forgot Headspace existed.
That is, until the term “mindfulness” reached a tipping point of near ubiquity. As it turned out, what I’d regarded as just a digitized form of guided meditation was actually a “mindfulness technique,” part of a bigger, buzzy, Buddhism-derived movement toward some version of corporate enlightenment. As long ago as 2012, Forbes reported that Google, Apple, Deutsche Bank and several other corporate behemoths already had mindfulness programs in place for employees. Phil Jackson, the basketball coach with a record-setting 11 NBA titles, tacitly praised mindfulness for his wins, telling Oprah he’d incorporated the technique into player practice regiments. Arianna Huffington, empress of media, not only sings the praises of mindfulness in speeches around the country, but she and Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski just hosted an entire conference dedicated to it this past April. And perhaps least surprising of all, Gwyneth Paltrow is a proselytizing adherent, giving mindfulness in general, and Headspace in particular, a shout-out on her lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-beautiful website, Goop.
Thanks to /u/-AllIsVanity- for posting this on reddit.
What does it mean to entitle our presentation “Buddhism, Radical Critique and Revolutionary Praxis”? One possible answer is that it implies that we want to know how Buddhism might help those of us who are present today engage in the process of radical critique and revolutionary transformation. If this is our goal, we need to pose at least three other questions: First, what does “Buddhism” or perhaps more pertinently, “Buddha,” mean? Second, what does “radical critique” mean? And finally, what does “revolution” mean? Of course, there’s also the question of what “mean” means. In the present context, it means that we need to consider the senses in which all three of these terms, taken together, can be practically significant to us, here and now.
Something a little different than the standard Dharma post.
Studies of animal behavior consistently demonstrate that the social environment impacts cooperation, yet the effect of social dynamics has been largely excluded from studies of human cooperation. Here, we introduce a novel approach inspired by nonhuman primate research to address how social hierarchies impact human cooperation. Participants competed to earn hierarchy positions and then could cooperate with another individual in the hierarchy by investing in a common effort. Cooperation was achieved if the combined investments exceeded a threshold, and the higher ranked individual distributed the spoils unless control was contested by the partner. Compared to a condition lacking hierarchy, cooperation declined in the presence of a hierarchy due to a decrease in investment by lower ranked individuals. Furthermore, hierarchy was detrimental to cooperation regardless of whether it was earned or arbitrary. These findings mirror results from nonhuman primates and demonstrate that hierarchies are detrimental to cooperation. However, these results deviate from nonhuman primate findings by demonstrating that human behavior is responsive to changing hierarchical structures and suggests partnership dynamics that may improve cooperation. This work introduces a controlled way to investigate the social influences on human behavior, and demonstrates the evolutionary continuity of human behavior with other primate species.
Full text here http://www.nature.com/articles/srep18634