After reading the interview with Mu Soeng in your Winter 2005 issue (“Dharma for Sale”), I had two thoughts.
First, Mu Soeng must disapprove of Vimalakirti. Vimalakirti was a businessman and a landlord who gambled, watched sports, and had servants.
Second, Mu Soeng’s recommendations about the appropriate Buddhist lifestyle seem odd. He says he wants Buddhists to be outsiders. But when asked to give examples of the type, he cites Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, and Gary Snyder; only the last is a Buddhist. As far as I can tell, you count as an outsider in his eyes if you are leftwing in your politics and don’t have an ordinary job. You don’t have to live in a cave, a mountain, or a monastery; in fact, you can write best-selling books and be a celebrity. You can also live on a stipend from a Buddhist foundation. But never own stocks.
Regarding the interview “Dharma for Sale”—all I can say is “BRAVO!” to Mu Soeng and thank you for having the courage.
Key West, Florida
I read with interest the interview with Mu Soeng. I would add that there are not only dangers for teachers in commercializing dharma. There are losses also for students. When centers (or teachers) charge for teachings–when they put a price on teachings that the Buddha so selflessly and generously gave away–it makes it harder for students to discover the power of selfless giving. Buddha must have known this when he admonished teachers to not sell the dharma, to trust instead that those who give the dharma freely will never want for anything that matters.
Holly Stocking Bloomington, Indiana
AFTER THE ECSTASY, THE POKER
Perhaps the easiest environment to practice the dharma is in a sangha, surrounded by fellow Buddhists. The most difficult could be at a poker table surrounded by those who are determined to separate you from your money, your sense of calm, and the very chair you sit upon. Andrew Black really does “raise the stakes” when he chooses this environment to put the principles of Buddhism to the test (“Raising the Stakes,” Winter 2005).
The poker environment will exist whether Black participates in it or not. But when he’s at the table, every player has a chance to come away a winner. Thank you, Tricycle, for bringing us his story.
Dale Larsen Fosston
DRAWN TOWARD ENLIGHTENMENT
Of all of the issues of Tricycle I have received over the years, the cover of the current issue (Winter 2005) is the most pleasant. I recommend that Frank Olinsky and Adrian Tomine collaborate more often on your covers.
So what do I like about it? First, it’s “soft.” Not the harsh Day-Glo colors typical of many of your covers.
Second, its theme is “today.” It speaks of Buddhist practice within the fast-paced, noise-packed, information-overloaded cultures. And it’s not specifically Western. The decor as well as the shape of the young woman’s eyes could indicate modern Japan or China. In any case, depiction of the contrast between modern living and ancient practice holds promise that Buddhism has a place in today’s world.
Third, the angst written in the young woman’s eyes and tussled hair are offset by the serenity of her posture. It says, “Look, the peace you seek is within.”
And finally, the shadow of winter on her wall is offset by the apparent warmth of her room (she is in short sleeves). Once again, this speaks of how our modern conveniences can actually help our practice. Her heated room becomes a tool that removes one more distraction from practice: the cold of ancient temples. Please give us covers like this more often.
Keller H. Wilson Magee
As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I’ve often struggled with the notion of karma, in particular the question: what did I do specifically that engendered such a violent and traumatic act to be committed on me? Sayadaw U Pandita’s statement in “A Perfect Balance” (Winter 2005) that one way to develop nonattachment on the path to equanimity is “to regard all beings as heirs of their own karma,” that “they created this karma under their own volition, and no one can prevent their experiencing the consequences,” is a view that can be quite traumatic, and perhaps even tragic, for survivors of sexual violence.
What exactly do rape victims do of their own volition to cause an act of violence and control to be played out on their person? Many sexual assault victims, myself included, have wasted tremendous amounts of energy wondering what they could have done to prevent the assault. U Pandita’s raw view of karma as the sum total of one’s actions makes the Buddha Way inaccessible to many survivors of sexual violence, as well as other innocent survivors of violence, both man-made and natural.
In my own healing process I’ve come to view the notion of karma as part of an interdependent web of causation. While I’m not responsible for the violence waged on my body, my innocence, and my spirit by an afflicted individual wearing the garb of a Catholic priest, I am responsible for how I live out and process those experiences over the course of my life. That is not to say that a fourteen-year-old adolescent or an eight-year-old child is responsible for the ways in which they respond to rape, molestation, or incest, but it is to say that as we mature into adulthood and become more aware of the events that happened, it becomes our responsibility to heal in such a way that we do not play out on others the negative actions with which we were afflicted.
I often liken karma to ripples in a pond and see my pond as connected to other’s ponds by creeks and rivers and inlets and bays. The negative actions rasping individuals is to restore our own pond to calmness (or more precisely, equanimity) so that our ripples and waves don’t storm out of the creek and overwhelm the next person’s pond. We can’t change the actions of those who harmed us, but we can learn to see the repercussions and negative dross that they left clinging to us and vow to live healthy, equanimous lives.
Jack Harris Edina
Because of an editing error, the article “A New Bottom Line” by Phil Catalfo (Winter 2005) mistakenly stated that “the Spiritual Activism Conference . . . challenged the idea that the Christian right is not the only segment of religious America with a concerted interest in “moral values.'” The sentence should have stated that the conference was challenging the idea that the Christian right is the only group with such interests.
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