Recapturing the Dark
“Turn Out The Lights” by Clark Strand (Spring 2010) was an excellent article! Now we have to figure out how to recapture natural silence. The din of the marketplace in the days of yore—or even the roar of a Roman colosseum—was nothing compared to today’s car alarms, boom boxes, and blaring TVs everywhere. Our neurons would much rather spend their energy being mindful than constantly tuning out the clamor. Milan Kundera once said that in the past, sound stood out from silence and that today, silence stands out from noise. Once we recapture dark nights, eight-hour sleep cycles and background silence, the green meditation project will be complete.
—Katherine V. Masis
As a tech geek of over fifteen years and a practicing Buddhist of almost five, I have found myself, like Clark Strand in “Turn Out the Lights,” wanting to live simply so that others may simply live. Despite my geekness, I seem to be the one in my household more prone to kill my television (metaphorically) or enjoy a quiet moment at night under the stars walking the dogs. At the same time, it is my job to be perpetually on the bleeding edge of tech to ensure my family is fed. Therefore, until an opportunity arises for me to unplug more easily and to find a greener means to keep the lights on and food on the table, I maintain what I deem to be the best balance of both.
In this century it is important to maintain the middle way, to know when to put the gadgets away, to turn off the lights, and to simply be one with the present. When practicing this way, I always find that the lit world doesn’t miss me, hardly knows I was gone, and welcomes me back again.
A Time for Generosity
After reading the special section on “Generosity and Greed” (Spring 2010), I have found that sometimes the hardest thing to be generous with is my time. It’s easier to give money and let someone else do the work, even when money is tight. “I’ve got class tonight,” “I’ve got to get to the office,” “I have to pay my bills.” The list is endless. When I make the time to be quiet and centered, I find that the best solution is a little of both time and money. That way I can help other do what they do best and I can give of myself to help the work go a little more easily.
A New Understanding
In “Starting from Scratch” (Spring 2010) Stephen Batchelor suggests that dependent origination had no precedents in India. However, scholars have found that the list of dependent origination exists in one of the Vedas. They aren’t sure whether the Veda borrowed the idea from the Buddha or the other way around, but by Batchelor’s standards the mere suspicion that the idea did not originate with the Buddha would force us to strike it from his teachings. Still, even if the Buddha did borrow the list of dependent origination from the Vedas, he did something new with it. He integrated it into a path designed to put an end to suffering.
The same holds true with the teachings on karma and rebirth. These were hot topics in the Buddha’s time. When the Buddha took a stand on these topics, he didn’t just parrot earlier ideas. He offered a new way of understanding karma and rebirth, and again integrated this understanding into his path to the end of suffering. To say that these ideas were just picked up from his cultural background is like saying that Aristotle just picked up his philosophy from Plato because they both talked about the same topics. Sometimes a thinker’s most valuable contributions are not the ideas totally original to him or her, but the new uses he or she finds for old ideas.
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