All questions for Abby Dharma are subject to editing and will be published and answered anonymously. Questions may be addressed to Abby Dharma, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, 163 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011.
I am searching for a place to practice in Wisconsin and have been asked for a donation or dues at every Buddhist center I have visited. This makes me wary, but is this just common protocol?
Dear Wary in Wisconsin, Some people have ideas about “pure” Buddhism which may translate into associating any mention of money with greed or vulgarity. Yet not only must centers pay for food, rent, electricity, etc.-all of which you, as a visitor, partake in-but Buddhist monasteries have traditionally been supported by the laity. Although most centers in North America are not true monasteries, they still function as a concentrated and communal source of training and dharma activity; they ask for contributions not only because they need financial help but also to continue the Buddhist tradition of providing people with an opportunity to give, to make an offering. On the other hand, if you feel pressured to donate money, or feel that a teacher or administrator is more interested in your financial contributions than in cultivating your Buddha-nature, then that center is probably not for you. Feeling comfortable with the way a center supports itself, or supports the teacher, or asks for money, or handles its financial dealings is an appropriate part of assessing whether or not it’s the right place for you to practice.
Recently during a course on world religions my teacher introduced Zen Buddhism by telling a story in which a ninth-century Japanese master once told a disciple, “Buddha is a shit stick.” The quote is not in the textbook he assigned, and many of us (high school seniors) think he was making it up. Was he telling the truth?
Dear Senior Citizens, No. The master was Chinese.
Last year I started attending meditation and sutra classes at a vipassana center. Now, every time I have a quarrel with my husband (who wants nothing to do with Buddhism) he says things like, “How come you’re so angry, I thought Buddhists didn’t get angry.” Most of the time, this just makes me more angry, but at times I really struggle with what to say to him. I am exasperated. Any suggestions?
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