I would like to officially announce my New Web Site as a home for various essays, some of which are reworked from postings from Burma to the present blog. It will also provide space for discussion and its own blog. Some of you have probably visited an earlier version of the site.
Please note that this site is still under construction. I hope to add a substantial number of essays now in progress by the end of 2010. Please subscribe to the blog to receive announcements about new additions as they happen.
The central theme of this site is the birth of Buddhism in America. I am an American monk and a self-appointed midwife in the birthing process. Karl Marx was once asked what the role revolutionary was, given his view of the inevitability of future social history. He explained that it is that of a midwife: the birth is inevitable, but it is good to have a midwife to make sure things go smoothly. I don’t know how positively Marx would value the birth of Buddhism in a Western land, but the analogy is apt in the present context. We are still engaged in the birthing process, I am as thrilled as any to be a part of this historical event, but I often fear the birth is not going smoothly. We certainly want to see a happy, healthy bouncing baby, and not to end up with one that is deformed, crippled or traumatized. I hope the essays you will find here will contribute in some small way to ensuring that the birth proceeds smoothly.
Let me explain what I have in mind. I have organized the essays into the following sections, each with a specific function that I will state here:
Monastic Life. I place this before the next, introductory, section in order to stress its critical importance, rarely appreciated on this side of the Pacific. The future of the monastic Sangha will be the key determinant of the future of Buddhism in America. It is similar in importance to getting the head properly positioned in the birthing process; once the head goes through, everything else generally proceeds generally without much problem.
Buddhism in America. These essays assess and advise the process of giving birth to Buddhism in America. The challenge is to retain the integrity of the Buddha’s project while adapting it and making it relevant to the American cultural context. An important part of this is to save Buddhism from the American propensity for tinkering.
Topics in the Dharma. These essays take up various aspect of Buddhist philosophy and practice. I see my role here as that of an interpreter, as that of making understandable and relevant to the Westerner teachings that evolved in quite foreign environments in the context of unfamiliar word views. Often this involves a new spin on traditional teachings.
Life in the Dusty World. This serves as a counterpart to the first section, that on Monastic Life. It is for the vast numbers of Buddha’s disciples who will bring their practice and the values they represent to bear on the mundane everyday world. My hope is that profundity of Buddhist teachings and practice have a strong and lasting transformative impact for the benefit of the broader American society.
Venerable Cintita. I have deliberately tried to assume a very personal perspective in these pages, a perspective already natural to the blog which I established for friends and relatives before my year of living adventurously in Burma and which is the precursor for these pages. Even as a monastic seeks solitude, his or her life becomes public and even as a monastic trains in no-self he or she serves as an example, hopefully an inspiration, to others. That is why we are required to distinguish ourselves with our fluffy robes and bald heads. This section is largely biographical, and also provides a point of contact for the projects and activities I invite others to participate in.