Remember Your Roots
I found the interview with Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzberg [“Through Good Times and Bad,” Winter 2004] thoughtful and interesting, but also somewhat disappointing. It’s curious and disconcerting that these three prominent American Buddhist leaders make no reference to their common Jewish roots. Are we to believe that these three leaders have “transcended” their religious and cultural upbringing? Jews and Christians, and others in America, have work to do in terms of integrating their chosen adult path with their childhood experience.
The problem, I believe, is that these intelligent and experienced leaders do not hold integration as an important value. A frank discussion would greatly benefit people who struggle silently with identity questions such as: Who am I? A Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist?
Perhaps it’s the job of the next generation of leaders to address the issue of integration in a more direct and open fashion.
—George Cohen, LCSW, El Cerrito, CA
Joseph Goldstein Responds
Interest in integrating religious traditions seems to vary greatly from person to person. Our childhood religious training is not at all uniform, so we bring very different feelings of connection with it (or not) to our present-day experience. Personally, I feel more connected to the cultural roots of Judaism than I do to the religious ones; obviously, other people feel differently. So rather than look to all teachers to explore this integration, I would suggest you work with those for whom this is an active interest in their lives. It certainly holds tremendous potential for cross-fertilization of values and teachings.
Not Just For The Bliss-ninnies
I was pleased to see the special section on the jhanas, “The Jhanas: Perfecting States of Concentration” [Winter 2004]. While getting instruction in Zen, Tibetan, and, Vipassana meditation I’ve heard jhana practice ridiculed as a distraction for the immature, as dangerous because of possible attachment to pleasant states, and as the preoccupation of yogic bliss-ninnies.
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