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Wednesday evenings, on our way to our weekly meditation group in Los Angeles, my wife and I must traverse the section of Sunset Boulevard that runs from Hollywood to Beverly Hills. Our approach to this famous strip is signaled by an enormous billboard—it used to be the Marlboro Man, now it’s a fifty-foot silhouette of an Absolut Vanilia Vodka bottle—jutting up at the point where Sunset first starts to bend, before snaking along the foot of the Hollywood Hills. Once past the Absolut bottle, it’s 1.9 miles of sex, money, power, glamour, glitz, and sleaze. Okay, perhaps it’s not the prelude most conducive to an evening of meditation, but I think it serves as an apt metaphor for some of the challenges facing American Buddhists on the path to enlightenment. You can look, or you can look away, but you cannot avoid the impact of our culture.

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