If you read just one article in the current issue of Tricycle, make it “Living Buddhism” by Dharmavidya David Brazier.* The author raises serious questions about Buddhist practice in the West. In adopting a technological model of Buddhist practice do we risk isolating meditation techniques from a bigger picture? Are we reinforcing the very isolation and self-absorption that it is the job of Buddhism, and religion in general, to counter? Here’s an excerpt from the article:
For many Western Buddhists, a technical approach that says in effect, “You don’t need to believe anything, just do the practice” is very appealing. We are, after all, a culture very much driven by technology. Yet this technical emphasis directed toward Buddhism is something new. Traditionally, in the Asian cultures in which the dharma has flourished, Buddhism is more a matter of attitude than a set of techniques. Attitude is about the holding of an entire context, though it can take specific forms in ritual or meditation practice or other activities. But the main attitudes through which Buddhists have always expressed their connection to the dharma are devotion and faith. The form and content of these attitudes varies depending on the culture, the tradition, and even the individual, but the common characteristic is a whole (though not uncritical) and deeply felt sense relationship to the Three Treasures: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
The idea that one can “just do the practice” is itself based on faith, yet it is easy to miss this sleight of hand. This view of practice does not avoid faith; it simply plays into a faith we already have—that is, faith in a technological approach to life. It assumes that meditation, like penicillin or Windows 7.0, works the same in any context. That is a lot to assume.
Read the rest of it here. Brazier is ready to participate in a discussion about these ideas, so make sure to leave your comments and questions.
*Why read only one? Read them all!