“I worked in hospices for over seventeen years, and I never heard a dying patient wish she had spent more time at work.”
– Rodney Smith, Stepping Out of Self-Deception
I’m reading Rodney Smith‘s new book (not coincidentally it will be discussed in the Tricycle Community Book Club starting next week) and this line struck me. Generally speaking, I feel very lucky in my job situation (witness my co-worker’s tweet from earlier today after our morning sit) but still, you’d have to be Paris Hilton to not have this line resonate with you. And yet there are so many people out of work that having any sort of job is—or should be—a real blessing. Hokai Sobol recently showed up at the Secret Buddhist Geeks HQ, secretly located in a secret underwater city (possibly known as Taylorville, according to Will Ferrell in the August issue of Wired, seemingly not yet online) and spoke on the record with Vince Horn about lots of important, geeky stuff, including Buddhism not operating in a vacuum (we need to breathe, after all.) Hokai:
So basically, when the traditional texts talk about the right attitude, they will describe the spiritual meaning of this: what is right and what is an attitude. But the spiritually informed right attitude never functions in a cultural vacuum. So basically a spiritual attitude of any kind will magnetize certain content from the immediate cultural situation in which the practitioner, or practitioners in plural, find themselves immersed in. So, basically if you have a spiritual attitude or a healthy attitude in agricultural India 2,500 years ago. And if you have the same basically spiritually speaking healthy attitude in 21st century West, especially you know Europe and United States and countries that share the features of this part of the world… In that case what will magnetize around that right or healthy attitude will be of a different nature. Basically, the roles and the relationships and the whole range of tacit knowledge that was available to Indians more that twenty centuries ago will differ hugely from the roles, relationships, and tacit knowledge available to Westerners now a days. And basically what will happen is that unwittingly we may find this right attitude exposed and then fused with a completely different set of cultural values and cultural assumptions because of which we may have, well modestly speaking, certain difficulties.
They go on to talk about teachers and how we approach them in 21st century dharma. (Warning Label: This podcast and transcript contain the phrase “Western Buddhism.”) If you like Buddhist Geeks and you like Hokai’s blog, you’ll like this too. Here’s the Buddhist Geeks link again. And here’s more on that variant gene Tibetans are said to have that we wrote about last week. The article is mostly notable for the New York Times‘s caption of the photo of the monks:
“Monks took a break while reading through the Bhuddist commandments at the Drepung Monastery in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.”
Wow! Never mind the Bhuddist commandments, how about monks take a break, fellas? Make us feel like we’re right there, slightly short of breath because we’re missing the variant gene. Maybe that breathless caption was written at 11,000 feet. In the Washington Post, Clark Strand (taking a break from his Green Koans) writes about the Flushing Remonstrance, a crucial document in the history of American religious freedom—a religious freedom that is threatened by the startling intolerance and fear of people like Shakespalin who object to a mosque being built two blocks away from the World Trade Center site. Why are mosques allowed in our nation’s capital, for that matter? We’ll let Glenn Beck tell us what George Washington would have said about that.
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