Within the Buddhist community there are those who argue that polishing oneself (purifying oneself of transgressions) to be free from obscurations is the superior way to improve society, one person, one spirit, at a time. There are others who argue that the bodhisattva path requires that each person work to mitigate and assuage the dukkha of others.
|November Events Calendar
Weekly Meditation Services (WMS)
are on Wednesday evenings. They begin at 6pm with a discussion or talk (see below for this month’s discussion topics). At about 7pm there is a meditation service, followed at 8pm by a potluck supper. All of Wednesday evening’s events are open to the public. There is no fee, and reservations are not required.
November Wednesday Meditations and Discussions
2 A Buddhist Practice: the American Political Process – – If Buddhism is a search for the nature of reality, what are we to think of the electoral system we have encountered the last 18 months? Let’s explore this before the election.
9 Returning to the Center – Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way) is considered foundational to Mahayana philosophy. It is a grand commentary on the Buddha’s discourse to the Kaccayanagotta Sutta. This represents the radical understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of the two truths, or two levels of reality.
Race and Reconciliation from a Buddhist Perspective –
This is a part of an ongoing discussion regarding issues of race, gender, class, and privilege in society, and the Buddhists sangha. Insights from Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash. The 400-year Untold History of Class in America (2016, Viking Press) will provide insight to the discussion.
23 Zhiyi’s Memorial – Chih-i taught that any students’ spiritual practice must be balanced between practice and study. Development of one without the other led to the perfection of deviation, not wisdom. Many of the people he criticized treated Buddhism as a philosophy, not a religion. To these misguided persons the teachings were intellectually pleasing, but they saw no reason to make the attempt to live by them. We will examine the teachings of this seminal Buddhist sage and leader. NO POTLUCK DINNER, THANKSGIVING EVE.
30 Incense: its role and use – In the year 538 CE Buddhism was formally introduced to Japan. Accompanying Buddhism came statues of buddhas, ancient Sutras, as well as incense. From that moment on, incense has been an inseparable part of Japanese Butsudo. Incense is not a mere accessory to Buddhist practices, it is central.
Other Events in November:
5 Sutra Class and Morning Service, 8:30 – 10:30 AM – The Maha Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra (Heart Sutra) is the most often chanted, cited and best known sutras in the Mahayana canon. We will read and discuss two different translations and commentaries (Mu Soeng’s and Red Pine’s) as a set throughout the classes.
Food Pantry at Jiunzan Tendai-ji – The Autumn with its many celebrations is especially difficult for those who are need of the very basic necessities. Gratitude is best shown by extending to others the thoughtfulness we have received. Please bring non-perishable food items to the Tendai Buddhist Institute on Wednesday’s. We contribute these items to the Chatham Silent Food Pantry
Meanderings (cont. from side bar at left)
This dichotomy plays itself out as Buddhists look to participate, or not, in the upcoming presidential election, as well as the societal issues writ large locally and internationally.
Most observers of the recent election cycle complain that there is not enough substantive discussion, a lack of detail about how each of the candidates will accomplish what they promise, and too much vitriol. That is all true. However, in a news magazine article, that I subsequently misplaced, it was observed that this election has been substantial in ways that could not have been predicted. Because of this election campaign in the midst of various demographic changes and a new awareness of human rights America is being confronted more explicitly about race, gender, privilege, and class. These are extremely divisive issues that contribute to the polarization and schism we are experiencing in America today, and has been true since the first European settlers arrived on the shores of the Americas.
To be sure there have always been significant divisions in the American public’s views. This originated from both practical and philosophical positions. On a practical level, there have been the rural/agricultural versus the urban/mercantile factions, hence the States Rights versus the Federalist. There has been since our country’s founding a philosophical distinction between those who believe in an individualist perspective who advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state
or a social group
. The antithesis to this is that self-knowledge, intentions, reasoning and moral value may variously be determined by factors outside the person.
It is highly unlikely that these two positions, especially at the extremes, will ever be resolved. It might even be argued that we see a division in Buddhism that represents a version of these two positions as pointed out above. Shravakayana (the vehicle to enlightenment by an arhat) and Bodhisattvayana (the bodhisattva vehicle).
There is a mechanism by which we can approach a rapprochement if not a total resolution. That is through our faith communities. To paraphrase Dr. Ataullah Siddiqui, « . . . There is no inter-faith without faith. A meaningful dialogue is only possible when people have a deep conviction that their faith has something to offer to the wider society in which they live. In dialogue, mutual understanding cannot be strengthened unless both convergence and divergence are held in a creative relationship. »
Through this process we begin to model an approach that recognizes the differences, acknowledges the legitimacy of the other’s position, and seeks a dynamic rapport that builds rather than destroys.
Jim Wallis’ writes in his book America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America; » Race is about the American story, and about each of our own stories. Overcoming racism is much more than issue or cause – it is also a story which can be part of our stories too. The story about race that was embedded into America at the founding of our nation was a lie; it is time to change that story and discover a new one. »
Racism, racial bias, gender prejudice, LBGTQ intolerance, white privilege, class distinctions, ethnic partiality, are all related. Some forms are overt, such as racism, others subtler. But, they are all associated with a sense that one person or group is distinctly more worthy than another person or group. They all separate one person from another. They are the converse of interconnection; as such are the reverse of Buddhist teachings.
November, a month that focuses on thanksgiving, not only as a national observance, but as a period for expressing gratitude, we will be exploring the above topics in different ways. This is where Buddhist philosophy and practice converge. Without the teachings, the practices become empty formalities. The philosophy should inform the practices and the practices should support the philosophy. During this moth devote your practice to gratitude, generosity and clarity of mind.
Love and Gassho… Monshin
Brown, J (2004) Anti-Individualism and Knowledge. MIT Press.
The Third Jewel-
-Where sangha members share ideas, poetry, and art to enrich everyone’s Buddhist practice.
From the O-Higan Retreat
As we enter a time of feasting and family celebrations that the Autumn brings in, we recall the simplicity of our nourishment and the sense of community that a shared meal brought to us in last month’s O-Higan retreat…
The sharing of tasks turns a chore into an occasion of merit….
During the Segaki ceremony we do not forget to offer food to the hungry ghosts either…
Photographs taken by Judi Croft