Archive for November, 2008

Co-opting the Dharma

Posted in Pop culture, Western Buddhism with tags , , , , , on November 22, 2008 by Al

The Worst Horse, one of the best Buddhist blogs on the web, keeps track of a little thing they like to call “Dharma burgers.” These are delicious morsels of marketing hooha that use pseudo-Buddhist concepts (meditation! tranquility! om!) to sell things.

Being in marketing myself, I tend to be less offended and more amused by these attempts. Today, the Horse has a great about South Park, Goth/vamp kids, and co-opting the Dharma. I highly suggest you check it out.

A quick excerpt:

If you’re not sure what this has to do with Buddhism and the kind of ground that the Horse is trying to till, ask yourself: “Am I a Goth or a Vampire?” You’re likely neither in actuality. But go ahead and transpose yourself into “The Ungroundable”’s equation: Are you really into Buddhism and what it teaches, or are you, as the kids like to say, a poseur?

The Horse goes on to assure us that we’re not posers. The problem is, no amount of assurance will ever convince us that deep down we’re not just fooling others into liking an image of who we’d like to be. Deep down, the condition of being human keeps us from truly accepting what we are, exactly as we are.

Acceptance is a major aspect of Buddhist practice. Not just acceptance of the things we like about ourselves, but acceptance of every dark nuance of our personality. If you’re a vampire Hot Topic poser, accept you’re a vampire Hot Topic poser. The point isn’t to become something more authentic. It’s to realize your own inherent authenticity. That’s the real work.

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The Anatomy of an Online Jukai Ceremony

Posted in Buddhism on the web, Jukai, Western Buddhism, Zen with tags , , , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by Al

Jukai just got digital. Jundo Cohen of Treeleaf Zendo is trailblazing in the art of online Dharma.

What is Jukai? This is an ancient Zen ceremony where a Buddhist student receives the precepts and takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. It usually involves sewing a rakusu, a traditional Zen garment that my non-Buddhist friends have lovingly taken to calling a “Buddha bib,” and getting a Buddhist name from the teacher. It has that satisfying gravitas we’re all looking for in a religious ceremony.

Jundo Cohen, ordained in the Soto Zen tradition under Zen Master Gudo Wafu Nishijima, created Treeleaf Zendo over 2 years ago and brought interested practitioners a serious online sangha experience. Complete with samu (work practice), sanzen (video chat meetings with the teacher) and a forum for communication among members, the sangha has grown steadily. Now, a small group of us have joined Jundo in his latest experiment of an online Jukai ceremony.

Not that calling it an “experiment” should in any way imply that Jundo or his students aren’t taking the requirements seriously. Over several months, Jukai hopefuls are studying a wide selection of readings, primarily guided by Robert Aiken’s The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics and also including essays from many other Zen teachers. Participants are even sewing the rakusu, guided by a very detailed set of instructional sewing videos with Rev. Taigu created especially for this unique online ceremony.

So how exactly did Jundo do it?

Tech:
Skype for direct video communication
Treeleaf video zendo for group meditation and retreats
Google Video for the rakusu sewing instructions
Treeleaf forums for precepts study

Other materials:
– Various sewing materials (fabric, thread, etc.)
– Robert Aiken’s The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics
– Various online readings
– The good ol’ meditation cushion

Loose schedule:
– Prep period of gathering materials, ordering the book
– General discussion of Jukai and the Three Refuges
– Week by week study of the 10 precepts (not to kill, lie, steal, self-aggrandize, defame others, misuse sex, misuse intoxicants, become wrongfully angered, to be generous, and to honor awareness, learning and community) with metta “intermission” week
– Simultaneous sewing of the rakusu while studying the precepts
– Weekend Rohatsu retreat (Dec. 6-7)
– Online Jukai with Jundo

We’re still not sure how the live online Jukai is going to work out, but that’s part of the beauty of it. The expansion of online Dharma proves again and again that you can seek out and learn from the teaching that best benefits you, not just the teaching next door.