I Heart Tomatoes
Tomatoes and avocados are my favorite fruit (after mangos, that is). Growing up, it was impossible for me to imagine life without them. In fact, in the diary my mother kept about me for the first two years of my life, tomatoes appear prominently as my favorite food.
As an adult I developed late-onset allergies that extended to many of my favorite foods, including the tomato. For a year or so, I was forced to restrict my diet to mostly juke (Chinese soupy rice) and to add meat to my meals after many years of being a vegetarian. What an opportunity for practice! Opening my heart and my mind (and my stomach) to these new meals, I felt a sense of renewed gratitude toward those beings that gave their lives and the fruits of their labor so I could nourish myself. One day, after a course of treatment that included an appendectomy and treatment for allergies, I gradually started adding some of my staple foods to my diet again. What a joy to be able to eat tomatoes once more!
Perhaps one day I can learn to like Tibetan tea (the yak milk concoction) as much as Anam Thubten (“How a Tomato Opened My Mind,” Fall 2009) has learned to like tomatoes and avocados.
What a powerful teaching, what a wonderful life!
Martha Martinez, Pembroke Pines, FL
In Tibetan Buddhism it is often said that intellectual understanding of the teachings is “like a patch that soon falls off,” and that meditation experiences are “like smoke” that disperses—only true realization is lasting. Alan Wallace’s article “Within You Without You” (Winter 2009) makes it clear why such realization may be rare among Westerners. Western students of the dharma are naturally anxious to attempt the highest, most advance practices as soon as possible—sometimes from the very start. It is a cultural imperative that we “go for the gold.” In that regard, I have often heard Asian teachers of Buddhism comment that many of their Western students gloss over the preliminaries.
But despite the existence of an abundance of scriptural evidence—from which Wallace supports his assertion—we are rarely warned that without achieving shamatha we may be condemned to practice that is either patchy or as fleeting as smoke. This is a critically important issue that has not been addressed adequately in contemporary Buddhism in the West. I hope that teachers of dharma will comment on Wallace’s hypothesis.
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