Hampshire College Buddhist Resource Group

Robert Aitken Roshi’s blog
June 1, 2009, 10:54 am
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As a recent graduate, I was really happy to come across this quote on the blog of Aitken Roshi, one of the oldest living American Zen masters.

“It is interesting to compare personal growth with Dharma growth.  With good advice the young person knows that she can’t predict what kind of career she will follow as an adult.  People train to be engineers and turn out to be teachers of English.  With good advice the Zen student knows that Realization will not turn out to be what she expects at all. On the other hand, a young person will grow up, even though she wants to stay as a child.  A Dharma student will not grow at all if she decides to stay where she is.”

You can check out the rest of his blog here: http://robertaitken.blogspot.com – It’s worth a look!


What I’ve Been Reading #1
May 16, 2009, 6:45 pm
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Hi everyone!

How are your summers going?  I thought I would just quickly post the links to some Buddhist things I’ve been looking at online lately, and feel free to post responses or more links in the comments!

The Ox Herding blog by Zen teacher Barry Briggs has been doing a series on the Ox Herding Pictures that I’ve been finding interesting.  I also really like the videos of Shinzen Young’s talks about the Pictures that Briggs has been posting.

I’ve also been really enjoying the Dharma Folk blog lately.  In particular, I thought this post, which discusses hegemonic privilege (think: racism) in the way “Western Buddhism” has been constructed, was really important and thought-provoking.  I’ve definitely been really concerned about the ways in which institutional racism in America has affected the ways in which Buddhism has taken root here, and in fact, there is another great post by the same person that addresses this very issue.  I think this issue is a really difficult and uncomfortable one for Buddhist communities to discuss, but I think it’s really critical that these discussions happen.

On a semi-related note, I’ve been reading a great anthology of writing by Western Buddhists of color, called Dharma, Color, and Culture.  Highly recommended for everyone.

I think that’s about it.  Every now and then I check up on the Tricycle Community, which is an interesting resource.

What’s everyone else reading and thinking about?

– Ellen

Discussion Question: Love
May 8, 2009, 12:45 pm
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So, here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.  Maybe we can discuss it.  Or maybe someone else can make another post about something they’ve been thinking about, and we can discuss that.

A few weeks ago, I went to see my friend Joe Fenstermaker’s Division III film, which was about Quakers, and more specifically about Quaker peace activism.  You can watch the trailer here: http://vimeo.com/3120825 , and I believe it will be screened again during the Div III presentations next Thursday, if you’re interested.

Anyway, many of the people in the film spoke a lot about love as the basis for their contemplative practice and for their peace activism, and it made me think about how I don’t hear love spoken about so much in the Buddhist communities I have been a part of.  We talk about wisdom and compassion.  I am curious about what people see as the differences between love and compassion–some types of love seem very similar to compassion, while others obviously don’t.

I was at a zendo in Seattle and someone asked the teacher about the role of love in Buddhist practice.  He asked, “Isn’t it just another form of attachment?”  The teacher said, if I remember correctly, that love, like anything else, could be an attachment or could not be, and it had  to do with how you approached it and thought about it.  But my concern is that, for Western convert Buddhists, this misconception that love is an attachment that has no place in Buddhism, is somewhat widespread.

And then I think of a Zen story that I heard once, which I will try to recall accurately.  (I’m pretty sure I read it in “Zen: Merging of East and West,” by Philip Kapleau, if you want to check it out for yourself).  There was a young man who lived with his mother, and they were all that each other had.  But the young man wanted to study Zen, so he made the difficult decision to leave his mother and to join a monastery.  He eventually became the head of the monastery, and was responsible for the several hundred monks that studied there.  His mother, close to death, wanted to see her son one last time, so she undertook a difficult journey and reached the monastery where she believed him to be.  She told the monks there that she was the mother of the abbot, and they went in to speak to him.  The monks returned and told the woman that the abbot had said that she was not his mother.  Then she died.

But (says Kapleau) the point was that she actually was the abbot’s mother, and that he said that she wasn’t because he had a responsibility to the temple and he knew that if he saw her, his love for her would overwhelm him and he would no longer be able to carry out his responsibility to the sangha.  So he made a difficult choice, and I think that the story says that his mother understood and forgave him.  I am interested in the positioning of love here as a barrier to one’s being able to carry out one’s responsibility to the community, whereas in the Quaker community mentioned at the beginning of this post, it is portrayed as a motive and sustaining force for fulfilling responsibilities to the community.

Okay, so there are some thoughts on love and Zen.  I am curious what other people think, or what other people’s experiences have been with the discussion of love in Buddhist communities.

Please comment!

– Ellen

Links and myriad things
May 7, 2009, 6:50 pm
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Hi everyone!

I’ve been going through and trying to get this blog set up a bit more, which has been an interesting intellectual process.  First I had to pick a display theme for the blog, which was hard.  I wanted something that reflected our group, but the aesthetics of the different practices that we have are very different.  And I didn’t want to go for something just sort of “calming,” you know?  Because I hate how Buddhism is stereotyped that way in the west.  So I went for the dirt and grass theme.  Very Hampshire.  As soon as you all make accounts, you can go in and try to pick a new theme.  I’m not attached to this one at all, in fact, I’m not even sure if I like it.

Then I added some links to the sidebar to make things more interesting.  I just added a few things I knew off the top of my head, and I hope that others with different knowledge can come and add more.  I hope we can add more categories to the sidebar as well, so it can be useful for people.

Please get in touch with me if you have questions about how to join the blog, I’m happy to explain things!

– Ellen

Hello Buddhist Resource Group!
May 7, 2009, 6:01 pm
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Welcome to our blog!  You can register for a wordpress account, and then I’ll add you to the group and you can post on the blog, too.  But even before that, you can comment!

We talked about setting this blog up as a resource where we could both have discussions and also share information about events, or about anything Buddhist-related that we want to talk about.  Don’t forget to check back!  I think there might also be a way to register to get new blog posts by email.