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2011 Roundup

January 7, 2012
‘Mustang Roundup’ by chantal forester via

2011 saw the birth of Dharma Cowgirl, a phoenix from the ashes of its progenitor, Buddhist in Nebraska.  (Well, not exactly, but it’s a nice thought, no?)  So what caught people’s attention this year?  Not much, but that’s okay.  It’s nice being small.  No pressure.  It’s why I always get ‘B’s.  However, there were a few posts that stood out, some for slightly odd reasons (is ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ + ‘religion’ really that popular a google search term?), some because they were shared by other blogger friends (thank you!).

So here they are, in oder of popularity, the most read posts of 2011:

1. Marx and Buddhism

Buddhism and Marxism are both “deeply concerned about human suffering,” “agree that there is no creator God, or eternal soul,” recognizes interdependence, and understand some form of karma, both individual and social for Buddhists, and at least social for Marxists. (Brien, p. 35)

However, Buddhists diverge from Marx in their understanding of the causes of human suffering.

2. Shifting the Center, Part I

Over the course of a thousand years, from when Buddhism entered China in the first century of the common era to the Song dynasty (960-1279), the spiritual and physical emphasis of Buddhist monasteries gradually shifted.  The emphasis originally placed on the historical Buddha gradually changed to an emphasis on the ‘metaphorical’[1] buddhas of the past, present, and future and finally moved to the ‘living’ buddhas, the buddhanature of all people, the monks and nuns and, specifically, the personage of the abbot as enlightened master.  This change in spiritual emphasis was reflected in a corresponding architectural change.

3. Buddha Cat and the Existential Watermelon

A classmate pointed out that existentialism is like the first two of the Four Noble Truths.  Life is suffering and suffering is born from human desire.  What we want, what we don’t want, what we call ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are merely mental fabrications.  Meaning, and thus desire, is assigned, not inherent in the world.  But the existentialists stopped there.  They stood on the foundations of Western religion and philosophy (built on assumptions of ‘human nature’ and divine predestination), which had always assured them that life had greater purpose and meaning, that this watermelon was the best, only truth, and felt that world shake.  They freaked.

4. Talking Back to Bullies

Buddhists are generally assumed to be pacifists and generally I find most are peaceful people even when they eschew the label.  We spend a lot of time talking about love, kindness, compassion, and not harming others.  This might lead one to believe that Buddhists aren’t very powerful, that they seek not to be powerful, or that if they are, they exercise it only in the best of ways or not at all.  It might lead one to believe that all Buddhists get along.

Yet in the end, Buddhists react in many of the same ways to power as everyone else, regardless of whether they have more or less.  Those with more power exercise it as though they deserve it and those with less defer for the same reason.  Very often there is not much wrong with this paradigm.  Those with more power may also have more experience, more wisdom, more knowledge, in which case they may also know best what is to be done.

5. 101: The Four Noble Truths

Finally, we come to it at last, where the Dharma is reduced practically to blasphemy through application of the K.I.S.S. principle.

1. Life sucks.
2. Life sucks ’cause we want stuff.
3. Life don’t gotta suck.
4. There’s a Path for that.

6. The Monk and The Mercedes

Tommy was seven  when the last American troops pulled out of Vietnam in 1975.  His father was an officer in the Army of the Republic of (South) Vietnam.  He was jailed when the communists came to power.  Tommy became the man of his family, consisting of his mother and three sisters.  This was a precarious position for a boy who might grow up to follow in the footsteps of his father and oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.  In order to protect his life, his mother got him false identity papers and his aunt, a Buddhist nun, arranged for him to be sent from his home in Nha Trang to her monastery as a novice.  Tommy remembers being woken up early in the morning for chanting and meditation.

7. Wendi Adamek’s ‘The Mystique of Transmission’

This book primarily concerns the Lidai faboa ji(Record of the Dharma-Jewel Through the Generations) composed sometime between 744 and 780 CE by the short-lived Bao Tang sect of Chan at the Bao Tang Monastery in Yizhou, Jiannan (Sichuan), regarding their master Wuzhu (714-774).  The manuscript was long lost, though known about and quoted in other sources, and only rediscovered in the Dunhuang caves in 1900.  The book “has been called a fabric of self-promoting fictions,” and was largely regarded as such from its beginning.  However, that does not mean its influence was not and perhaps is still felt on the larger fabric of Chan literature,  “In this study I argue that the fabrications in the Lindai fabao ji are not simply inaccurate Chan history but faithfully reflect a temporary crisis in the meaning of spiritual transmission.”(pages 3-6)

8. Renunciation, Part I

The Pali word most frequently translated as ‘renunciation’ is nekkhamma. Per Access to Insight,nekkhamma means “Renunciation; literally, ‘freedom from sensual lust.’ One of the ten paramis,” or ten perfections of character. The Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary defines it as “giving up the world & [sic] leading a holy life, renunciation of, or emancipation from worldliness, freedom from lust, craving & desires, dispassionateness, self – abnegation” and lists a number of sources within the Pali Cannon. Renunciation is equated with “secluded from sensual pleasures” in the Petakopadesa 7.72, although this sutta is considered supplementary in Sri Lanka and Thailand, but fully part of the Tripitaka in Burma/Myanmar. In addition, the word nekkhamma appears in relation to vitakka, or directed thought, where renunciation is a type/object of vitakka, such as resolve to renunciation or nekkhamma-sakkappa.

9. “Professionalizing” Chaplaincy

In addition, I find that the professionalization of many disciplines is being carried out for egocentric principles – not because it is in the best interest of those whom the profession serves, but because it is in the best interest of the professionals.  …  As a legal mechanism, it often gives the professions some form of self-regulatory authority, such as through state recognized licensure standards which disadvantage diversity (of educational path, not race or ethnicity necessarily) and low-socioeconomic individuals.  In other words, professionalization functions to exclude more than to protect.  I would not want to see chaplaincy or the job of ethicist subject to such restrictive and self-defeating processes.

10. Many Sides of Struggle


“As I think about the work of the chaplain, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy.  How can I possibly meet the diverse needs of my clients?  I have such great respect for chaplaincy  and feel that much rests on my shoulders that I am ill-equipped to handle.  How direct and assertive should I be in order to be an effective pastor and counselor?  What if I get in over my depth?  How can I tell when I have done enough?  I want so much to do the right thing and to be a healing, compassionate influence, yet I have doubts about how effective I can be.”

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