renunciation

Step eight: Helping others to share the benefits we have gained

Eight Step Recovery

When the Prince Siddhartha glimpsed the Fourth Sight, a mendicant begging for alms in the streets, he was inspired to go forth from his life in the palace. You could see this as literally going forth, or the prince going forth from the palace of his mind that had kept him in imprisoned in deluded thinking.

Until he was able to go beyond the four walls of the palace that the King his father had built for him, Siddhartha thought he was never going to age, get sick or die.

Upon seeing the first three sights; an aging person, a sick person and a dead person, he experienced a spiritual crisis and felt compelled to find the way out of all this suffering. The mendicant offered him a way out, the Prince witnessed somebody radiating stillness, simplicity and contentment. This mendicant did not seem concerned about worldly attachments or worried about the demise of his youth, health and life. Siddhartha thought this person may have the answer.

The Eight Steps

This mendicant was sharing the benefits he had gained. And we too can do the same. Just as this mendicant will never know that it was he who inspired the prince to go forth and attain Buddhahood, we too can inspire people by the way we live our lives.

Helping others to share the benefits we have gained does not mean we have to write a book, or set a meeting up or blaze the trail. This is a difficult task, even Shakyamuni when he gained enlightenment hesitated to share the benefits he had gained, as he thought nobody would understand him. Nobody would believe how simple it was to find a way out of suffering. Thankfully he did share the benefits.

All of us are teaching. We teach by the way we live our lives. We teach by the way we integrate our talk with our walk. When we help others we help ourselves. And when we help our selves we help others. This month I am helping others by teaching an Tricycle Magazine Online Retreat. I hope some of you will join me. I continue to help others so I can help myself. Helping others brings my recovery right to the for front of my daily practice. I thank you all for this gift.

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Going forth: a look at step six again

Eight Step Recovery

Watch your thoughts; they become stories.
Watch your stories; they become excuses.
Watch your excuses; they become relapses.
Watch your relapses; they become dis-eases.
Watch your dis-eases they become vicious cycles.
Watch your vicious cycles they become your wheel of life.

Quote by Vimalasara 2016

Going forth is an aspect of step 6, placing positive values at the centre of our lives. Siddhartha the prince went forth from a life of indulgence because he could see clearly how it was hindering his growth. He could not find the answer to the end of suffering if he stayed in a hedonist world that was at the centre of his Mandala. When he left the palace that had imprisoned his mind, he placed renunciation at the centre of his life.

The Eight Steps

We too have to go forth from our lives. And our lives are created in our minds. So you could say we need to go forth from our minds. We must stop believing what is arising in the mind. We must stop identifying with what is in the mind. We must stop placing our stinking thinking at the centre of our Mandala. When we leave the prison of our minds, we to begin to place renunciation at the centre of our lives.

If we can’t do this, we continue to be the deluded person who when they experience pain in the body – unpleasant, pleasant, neutral, they groans, grieve and grasp. The deluded person constructs mental feeling out of physical sensations, creating two kinds of feeling bodily and mental. Thinking that both are fact.

If we become a liberated person, we will experience pain in the body, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. There will be no construction in the mind of mental feelings. No grabbing, grieving, grasping. Just one kind of feeling that is bodily. Only equanimity arising in the mind that is not graspable.

Placing renunciation at the centre of our lives does not have to be daunting. We are all renunciates, one day we will have to renounce everything at the point of death. So we can begin to renounce now, or hang onto the bitter end, creating a life full of misery.

We can renounce by just reflecting on the three jewels, the Buddha, the dharma the sangha. Ehipassiko, ‘go see for your self’ and see what happens to your addiction.

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Intention of renunciation

Dandelion seeds blown in the skyRenunciation is founded on a disenchantment with the world and with experience, based on right view. You see through all the possibilities of experience: you see their ephemeral, insubstantial, empty qualities, no matter how alluring or seemingly gratifying. You see the suffering embedded in the experience, the “trap,” as the Buddha put it. And you see the happiness, peace, and love available in not chasing after pleasure or resisting pain.

Based on this clear seeing, you align yourself with the wisdom perspective and with the innate, prior, always already existing wakeful, pure, peaceful, and radiant awareness within yourself. In so doing, you renounce worldly things and worldly pleasures. If they pass through your awareness – a sunset, a child’s smile, chocolate pudding, Beethoven’s 9th – fine; just don’t cling to them as they disappear as all experiences do.

Renunciation is NOT asceticism, or privation for privation’s sake. It is a joyous union with the path of happiness that happens to include a relinquishing, casting off, abandoning, walking away from any seeking at all of worldly gratifications.

At its heart, renunciation is simple: we just let go. Ajahn Chah: “If you let go a little, you will have a little happiness. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely, you will be completely happy.”

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“The Buddha’s Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, in the World” by Bhikkhu Basnagoda Rahula

“The Buddha’s Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, in the World” by Bhikkhu Basnagoda Rahula

It’s a widely held view that the Buddha taught his followers to disdain wealth and worldly success, or at best tolerate them as necessary evils. Sunada reviews a book that shatters these misconceptions and repositions the lay life as one of dignity and happiness, and full of opportunities for personal growth.

Here’s a pop quiz for you: What famous spiritual teacher taught that the way to happiness is through accumulation of immense wealth, striving for worldly success, and seeking pleasure through the senses? Would you believe it’s the Buddha? I bet you’re surprised! It’s a widely held view that the Buddha taught his followers to turn away from the secular world and seek happiness in a life of renunciation. While this isn’t wrong, it turns out to be a very incomplete picture.

In this recently published book, Bhikkhu Basagoda Rahula attempts to set the record straight. Based on meticulous research into the Pali scriptures, this book systematically presents how the Buddha advised his lay followers to lead happy and productive lives. Far from disdaining the worldly life, the Buddha suggested that his followers engage with it fully and wholeheartedly, and taught that it is a genuine source of happiness.

So what about all those teachings on renunciation? According to Bhikkhu Rahula, they were specifically intended for the monastic community. There is no doubt that the Buddha spoke of a higher bliss that could be found in a renounced life. “Happiness in detachment” is a more stable form of happiness because it comes from within — not dependent on unreliable things like wealth, relationships, or social status.

Far from disdaining the worldly life, the Buddha suggested that his followers engage with it fully and wholeheartedly, and taught that it is a genuine source of happiness.

But the Buddha understood that the renounced lifestyle is not for everyone. And he never intended those teachings to apply to everyone. What this book draws out is a very different perspective on the Buddha – a secular humanist who fully endorsed the dignity of the lay life, and the potential for happiness and human growth that it offers. There is no mention of meditation or spiritual matters. Just common-sense, practical advice on how to be successful and fully realized as an individual in one’s community.

The Buddha’s view on prosperity can be summarized as follows. First, one is entitled to as much wealth as one wants, as long as it is earned ethically, without harming others. We are told to “gradually increase wealth without squeezing others, just as bees collect honey without harming the flowers.” Secondly, we need to use our wealth to benefit both ourselves and others. In other words, wealth is not to be pursued for its own sake, but for the good it can do for the world. He advised his followers to use their money to satisfy family members, employees, friends, and associates.

He also said that we need to be good citizens – we should pay taxes to our government and also support the monks and other spiritual leaders who have dedicated their lives to the benefit of all. And thirdly, we need to be moderate in our way of satisfying our senses. It’s fine to enjoy good food or fine clothing, for example, as long as we don’t get greedy or overindulge. The pleasures of life are to be appreciated simply for their ability to sustain our physical and mental well-being.

Each chapter in this book covers a different sphere of secular life. The chapter on how to go about gaining wealth almost sounds like a contemporary self-help book. According to the Buddha, inner preparation was the most important prerequisite to personal success. Before we do anything, we first need to eliminate self-defeating views about our potential and empower ourselves with firm determination. Only then are we in a good position to develop our personal and professional skills, and move ahead in the world. There are also chapters covering how to retain your wealth (e.g. by saving and spending according to a financial plan), navigating social relationships effectively, sustaining a happy marriage, effective parenting, dealing with conflict, succeeding socially, decision making, and so on. The sheer breath of the topics covered, as well as the remarkably modern perspectives offered, is really quite striking.

What ultimately matters is how we view the things we have. Do we use our wealth to build up our egos and feed into our sense of entitlement? Or do we share its benefits and the positive advances it can bring?

The author, Bhikkhu Basnagoda Rahula, seems to be ideally positioned to write on this subject – as both a Buddhist scholar and someone who is fully engaged with life in the Western world. He is Sri Lankan by birth, became a novice monk as a child, and later received High Ordination as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Buddhist Philosophy. He emigrated to the US in 1990 and has lived here since, having earned his Masters and Ph.D. in literature and English, respectively. He currently teaches at the University of Houston-Downtown as well as serving the congregation at the Vipassana Meditation Retreat in Willis Texas.

Let me be clear that if you’re looking for a Buddhist self-help book, you’ll probably be disappointed. I don’t think there’s anything in here that’s hasn’t been covered elsewhere by some other contemporary author. And that’s obviously not the intention behind this work. Instead, what I gained from reading this book is a clear picture, backed by scriptural authority, of what the Buddha REALLY said about the true way for lay practitioners to find happiness.

For those of us living in the modern West, the idea of actually turning our lives away from the world is extremely difficult, if not impossible. The underlying message of this work is that we can practice in ANY circumstance and find legitimate ways to grow spiritually. There is no shame in having money or possessions, nor is it bad to enjoy what abundance we have in our lives. In fact, these things can be tools for creating much good in the world — for creating joy in our own and others’ lives. What ultimately matters is how we view the things we have. Do we use our wealth to build up our egos and feed into our sense of entitlement? Or do we share its benefits and the positive advances it can bring? Do we see wealth as an end in itself, or as a means to greater happiness for ourselves and the world around us?

While I personally found this book a breath of fresh air, I also wouldn’t want us as Western practitioners to completely abandon the ideas of renunciation. In fact, I don’t see these two ideas as being in opposition to each other, as an either/or situation. The practice of the dharma is about working creatively with whatever circumstances we are in, but at the same time it’s also about continually challenging ourselves to see more clearly into the true nature of our human existence. The more we can loosen our dependence on impermanent things, the more we will find happiness that we can rely on. The longer I practice, the more I see that this is truly the way things are. And so I will continue to challenge myself to rely less and less on worldly things to shore up my false sense of ego. It may not make sense for me to sell my home and possessions to take up the life of a renunciant, but I can certainly work toward turning inward more to find a truer sense of happiness from within.


Read an excerpt from this book: Chapter 2, The Buddha’s View on Prosperity.

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The Buddha’s View on Prosperity (book extract)

“The Buddha’s Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, in the World” by Bhikkhu Basnagoda Rahula

The Buddha’s view of prosperity stands out as one of the most misinterpreted aspects of his teachings. Many writers have either stated or implied that the Buddha did not encourage people to prosper and become wealthy. This misinterpretation influenced some to believe that achieving prosperity goes against the Buddha’s teachings. But let us examine what the Buddha actually maintained with regard to the layperson’s wealth and prosperity.

The Freedom to Prosper

First, the Buddha never imposed limitations on his lay follower’s efforts to be successful; instead, he clearly encouraged them to strive for success. Whether in “trading, cattle farming, archery, government service, or any other profession or industry,” a layperson should strive to advance in his or her respective field. Notably, the motivation to achieve success is an important requirement in any person’s life — an attitude of “I have a job that’s enough for me to live on” has no place in the Buddha’s teaching.

Next, the Buddha set no limits to a layperson’s wealth and never told his prosperous lay followers to stop or slow down. Instead, he unequivocally encouraged them to plan, organize, and even to obtain more…

The emphasis, here, is on the fact that the Buddha enforced no restrictions on the layperson’s personal wealth. Using the phrase “immense wealth” (ulare bhoge), he indicated the amount one could strive to amass — in other words, as much wealth as possible.

Prosperity and Purpose

It is important to note that the freedom the Buddha offered to become as prosperous as possible hinges on two conditions. First, one must follow certain guidelines in endeavoring to become prosperous. Second, one must use wealth properly. Unless these two conditions are met, one’s immense wealth would never gain the Buddha’s praise — thus the “boundless freedom” to become wealthy relates to the quantity of wealth, not to the means used to accumulate it. On the other hand, prosperity should never be an end in itself, but merely a means to some wholesome purpose.

Indicating both the individual freedom to be prosperous and the importance of using that freedom correctly, the Buddha said:

What is atthi sukkha [the happiness of possessing wealth]?
A certain person accumulates great wealth and property through fair means and rights effort and thinks, “now I have wealth; now I have properly gathered through fair means.”
In thinking so, that person experiences happiness and satisfaction. This is what I call atthi sukkha.

Individual prosperity is clearly supported, as long as the layperson employs “fair means and right effort.”

Collecting Honey Without Harming the Flowers

The Buddha introduced a system of ethics into the process of acquiring wealth. Certainly his general ethics — which always advocate compassion for others — apply to any endeavor, but the Buddha also set specific guidelines regarding business.

First, a person engaged in profit-making should not deceive or harm customers or any others involved. He or she must “gradually increase wealth without squeezing others, just as bees collect honey without harming flowers.” Thus, whatever wealth one possesses should be acquired “through just means.” Fairness is so vital to making a profit that, before beginning an ambitious professional or business, one should first make a resolution not to exploit others…

Wealth Like a Rainfall That Nourishes Life

The proper use of wealth can also be clarified in the light of what some of the Buddha’s contemporaries taught. According to some, one’s own sensory satisfaction is the most important purpose of having wealth, and one should use every possible means to achieve this as long as one lives. In this context, charity makes no sense at all.

The Buddha held a different view. He emphasized that the wealth one acquires through just means should be used to benefit others, as well as oneself…

The Buddha repeatedly emphasized that one’s efforts should be meaningful to oneself, to those one lives with, and, broadly speaking, to the whole of society. “Proper use of wealth” exemplifies this central teaching of the Buddha…

… those who used their wealth to benefit themselves and others won the Buddha’s great appreciation. Like “a rainfall that nourishes life,” great individual wealth should foster a host of people.

Proper use of wealth is essentially the purpose of having wealth. As long as one follows the guidelines, the Buddha indicated that one is entitled to make every effort to earn more wealth….

The Buddha never promoted a carpe diem theory of sensory satisfaction as the purpose of having wealth. He admired, instead, a person who “acquires immense wealth but is not intoxicated by it,” remarking that those who exceed the limits of sensory satisfaction would “suffer later from the related adverse effects.” To be aware of the right measure of sensory gratification is to be aware of the measure that ultimately leads to physical well-being and long life.

Summary

The Buddha elaborated on how people should feel about their wealth and guided them toward gaining the proper advantages from their wealth. He stressed that wealth is a clear source of happiness for laypersons. To achieve that happiness, however, they must earn wealth the right way and use it in the most effective way. Money or wealth is neither to keep nor to use solely for one’s own sensory satisfaction; it is to make oneself and others happy and satisfied. While using wealth for oneself, one should be aware of the right measure of sensory satisfaction. Prosperity, according to the Buddha, is the reward when following these recommended guidelines.


© Basnagoda Rahula, 2008. Reprinted from The Buddha’s Teachings on Prosperity: At Work, At Home, In the World, with permission from Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144. www.wisdompubs.org


Read Sunada’s review of this book.

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The Upper Middle Way – Have North American Buddhists renounced renunciation?

woman meditating in front of an Indonesian shrine

Historians of religion often repeat the accepted truth that it takes about two centuries for a culture to absorb a new religion and make it its own. Buddhism is certainly not a new religion on the world scene; nevertheless, it may be turning into something new as it is adapted to fit Euro-American culture. And this revised Buddhism might be neglecting crucial elements of the original teachings in favor of values and practices that give comfort to us in the receiving culture. As North Americans and Europeans, we seem particularly attracted to the enticing and psychologized project of spiritual enlightenment, but we are neglecting, at our peril, other fundamental Buddhist values and practices.

As we find ourselves one-quarter of the way through this two-century process, one of the original themes of the historical Buddha’s teaching, namely, the ideal of renunciation, is being conveniently renounced in the West. While the original Pali term (nekkhamma) means the negation of kama (desire), or “withdrawing from sensuality,” the English word has come to mean something like “putting aside the things of the world.” Thus, in English, we refer to monks and nuns as renunciants. Yet the suttas show us that all serious practitioners must in some way be renunciant. The Buddha held forth a rather strict standard of renunciation for his monks compared to his householder followers. The Pali canon makes clear in many places that householders, as well as monks and nuns, can all attain nirvana. A particularly beautiful expression of this truth is found in the Mahavacchagotta Sutta:

Just as the river Ganges inclines towards the sea, slopes towards the sea, flows towards the sea, and extends all the way the sea, so too Master Gotama’s assembly with its homeless ones and its householders inclines towards Nibbana, slopes towards Nibbana, flows towards Nibbana, and extends all the way to Nibbana. (Majjhima Nikaya (MN) 73:14)

Although the layperson may not be “homeless,” to use another phrase that refers to monks and nuns, it is still very clear that renunciation must be a part of every follower’s path as they incline, or slide, toward nirvana. In the Dantabhumi Sutta, the Buddha addresses Aggivessana and talks about the layman, Prince Jayasena:

So too, Aggivessana, Prince Jayasena is obstructed, hindered, blocked, and enveloped by a still greater mass than this—the mass of ignorance. Thus it is impossible that Prince Jayasena, living in the midst of sensual pleasures,…could know, see, or realize that which must be known through renunciation, seen through renunciation, attained through renunciation, realized through renunciation. (MN 125:10)

Here, the Buddha is talking about someone very much like himself as a young man. Some Western teachers have explained that what the Buddha meant by renunciation was that his followers should relinquish their attachment to things, not necessarily the things themselves, a notion that the American Theravadin teacher Santikaro calls “a liberal legalism, à la Bill Clinton.”

There is perhaps confusion between the term relinquishment (patinissagga), which could be defined as this mental exercise, and the more concrete concept of renouncing those things which embroil us in desire. But both these actions are necessary in the Buddha’s outline of the path to nirvana. We must give up things, people, and concepts, as well as extinguish the mental mechanism of attaching to them.

Abandoning the trappings of wealth, as Gotama did, is still put forward in the teachings as a practice for householders. Speaking to the monk Udayin in the Latukikopama Sutta, Gotama says,

There are certain clansmen here who, when told by me ‘Abandon this’ …abandon that and do not show discourtesy towards me or towards those bhikkhus desirous of training. Having abandoned it, they live at ease, unruffled, subsisting on others’ gifts, with mind [as aloof] as a wild deer’s. (MN 66:12)

In the Dhammapada, one of the most revered and accessible of Buddhist scriptures, it says, “I do not call him a Brahman merely because he was born in the caste of holy ones, or of a Brahman mother.… But one who is free from possessions and worldly attachments—him I call a Brahman.” (XXVI:396) (The word brahman referred originally to any holy person, but now when capitalized refers to the caste of Vedic priests.) This quote makes clear that both the mental attachments and the possessions themselves are to be renounced, but Buddhist teachers in the West rarely cite such passages.

Santikaro says that the Buddha never required his lay disciples to lead lives of voluntary simplicity, they just did it as a result of their deepening spiritual insight. “You see that most of the really important lay leaders in the early sangha renounced their wealth and status,” explains Santikaro. “King Pasenandi gives up his throne, the merchant banker Anathapindika gives his wealth away; Citta, the foremost dhamma speaker among the laity and Visakha, a very accomplished laywoman, do the same.”

Writings and dharma talks by North American Buddhist interpreters soothe middle-class devotees with the diminished expectations of Buddhism-lite. Mark Epstein’s Open to Desire, to pick only one recent example, says: “Renunciation need not mean a turning away from desire, but only a forsaking of the acting out that clinging creates.” Zen teacher Ed Brown once summarized this concept by saying, “It’s OK to pick something up, as long as you can put it back down again.” These simple dicta are true as far as they go, but emphasizing the importance of detachment, or nonattachment to things, as mere mental attitude, without any real-life implications, compromises the nature of the original teachings. This smoothed-out version of Buddhism gives us permission to have our lifestyle, to be wealthy—even pampered—without having to wring our hands in guilt. It requires no concrete action in the real world—except for the occasional retreat with our favorite teacher.

But it’s important to notice a few things before we rest easy in this comforting interpretation of the dharma. The first principle that should not escape our attention is the original teaching on generosity (dana). The Buddha saw poverty as a curse and wanted householders to earn enough to support themselves and their families—and to help their villages. He even gave very specific advice to Anathapindika, one of his wealthiest lay followers, on what today we call “asset allocation.” As Robert Aitken Roshi said once, “Someone has to make money so others of us can be poor.” And this is indeed the Buddhist formula for supporting monastics. It relies on a laity with enough disposable income to support the monks.

In Asia, Buddhist teachers summarize the path for laypeople as being composed of dana, sila (ethical behavior), and bhavana (spiritual development). In the West, however, the formula is recited, and emphasized, in reverse: bhavana (more specifically, “meditation,” which was the formula for monks) sila, dana. Middle-class North Americans want to become accomplished meditators, and many of us spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year to attend retreats and workshops in an effort to “get” enlightenment, as though it were one more accomplishment, one more thing to cross off our to-do list. We want to buy enlightenment rather than sacrifice for it.

But instead of getting, the early teachings suggest that we engage in the practice of giving. Dana is really a spiritual method. Practicing generosity helps us to overcome greed and clinging; it facilitates the realization of no-self—and it feels good. The Dhammapada says clearly:

These three ways lead to the deathless realm:
living in the truth,
not yielding to anger,
and giving, even if you have
only a little to share. (XVII:224)

The difficulties of householder life are also noted:

Renunciation of the worldly life is difficult;
difficult it is to be happy in the monastic life;
equally difficult and painful it is
to lead the householder’s life. (XXI:303)

Renunciation is difficult, yes, but as contemporary Buddhists, we have fled from this challenge and we have turned renunciation into a painless mental exercise. It’s much easier to say, “Yeah, but I’m not attached to my BMW.” That way we never have to question what could have been done with the money we spent on an upscale car, house, or vacation. Thus, we avoid the implications of simplicity, nonconsumption, and generosity enshrined in the original teachings. And few Euro-American Buddhist teachers call on their followers to set aside wealth and comfort for the practice of real, tangible renunciation and simplicity.

There are some exceptions. Ajahn Brahmavamso, an Australian Theravadin abbot, was recently teaching in the U.S. and, referring to practice, said, “You don’t have to go for the big idea, but just keep moving forward, toward greater simplicity—a smaller home, for example. Less clutter in the physical world leads to less clutter in the mind and more freedom.” As Buddhist discourse in the U.S. goes, this is a very rare sentiment.

Of course, I cannot know in any statistical sense what my Buddhist colleagues are doing with their incomes, but I have plenty of anecdotal experience. For instance, I’m on the board of a small Buddhist nonprofit called Paramita House, which helps released prison inmates reintegrate into the community. In our routine solicitations to sanghas in the region, only a few Buddhist groups have responded positively. When we ask groups why they can’t contribute, they often say, “We’re raising money for the new temple.” If they’ve built their temple, they say they need money for landscaping. If the landscaping is done, they talk about keeping a prudent reserve and, of course, once there are sufficient reserves, it’s time to fund the endowment. Some sanghas do engage in social justice commitments, but all too many spend their time fluffing up the meditation cushions, waiting for the next retreat.

Many in my own generation, the boomers, are immensely wealthy—yet we don’t feel that way. Investment firms and retirement advisors constantly challenge us with the huge amounts of money they say will be needed to fund our retirement lifestyles. So we feel we haven’t saved enough to support that eighty-six-year-old person who does not yet—and may never—exist. As Buddhism entered various cultures over the last two and a half millennia, it changed as it incorporated various spiritual traditions—the Brahmanistic and animistic traditions of South and Southeast Asia, Taoism and Confucianism in China, and the Bonpo practices of Tibet. But Santikaro points out that “As Buddhism is adapting to the West, rather than incorporating a healthy or effective spiritual tradition, it is adapting to secularism. This is unique in Buddhist history. It is being molded and changed—not by the Western monotheisms—but by pop-psychology and consumerist capitalism. Perhaps the only thing Western Buddhism is inheriting from monotheism is a tendency toward dogmatism.”

I am not asking that North American Buddhists turn into tottering Mother Teresas or throw the BMW keys to the ground and walk off into the mountain mists, but if we really took up the ideal of householder renunciation, we would become more generous—much more generous—with our time and our money and our talents. We could vow to make do with less and stop consuming needlessly. Boomers might consider the old Indo-Aryan ideal that the final decades of life ought best be devoted to simplicity and spiritual development. Many of us will play golf in gated communities till that final trumpet sounds, but those of us who call ourselves Buddhists owe the world, and ourselves, much more. What if we turned our backs on the false security of our L.L. Bean lifestyles? What if we gave generously to the causes that stir our hearts? What if we worked hard to improve the lives of the poor and the marginalized in our own communities? That would give us what Buddhism promises, and what we’ve longed for all along—the taste of genuine freedom.

 

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