Raising children with a bodhichitta motivation

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave an interesting talk on how to raise chidlren with a bodhichitta motviation. An excerpt from the transcript:

On the other hand, if you allow yourself to come under the influence of the eight worldly concerns, when your children do something to please you, something that you like, you will happily take care of them. However, when they do something that is contrary to your wishes, something that upsets you or makes you angry, it is possible that you may even be tempted to give them up entirely. This change in your attitude happens because of your attachment to your own happiness.

With bodhicitta, you will feel that your children are the most precious and the kindest beings in your life. Of course, in general, all sentient beings are precious and kind, but parents need to specifically remember that their children are included among those sentient beings. If you have this attitude, you will take care of them with a healthy, positive mind, rather than with a negative emotional mind and the pain of attachment. Always keep in mind that your children are the most precious and kindest beings in your life and that you are responsible for taking care of them.

Click here to read the rest of the transcript

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Rebel Spirit and Buddhism

Here’s an interesting write up by Mitra Brunnholz, from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s organization, Nalandabodhi. Regarding the rebel spirit, he mentions:

Are we in touch with our rebel spirit, always questioning and testing? Can we take our “no fear” approach too far? Or by rigidly holding to the “right” rules and rituals, are we actually losing spiritual ground and just shoring up the ego? Is it possible to cut ourselves off from our own clarity and wisdom, all the while thinking we’re playing it safe?

The nonconformist, revolutionary spirit is found in many great historical teachers in all the Buddhist traditions.

If you’ve read even a little about the life of the Buddha—or seen the movie—you know he wasn’t just a navel-gazing holy man detached from the cares of a suffering world. He was passionate about discovering the truth about life and his existence as a human being. That passion led him to break away from the established religious doctrines of his time and, after his awakening, to found a community based on egalitarian principles.

In the Buddha’s community, for example, the caste system was thrown out—untouchables and brahmins were equal aspirants on the path to enlightenment.  That may not sound shocking to you now, but ask yourself: would you dare to seat the Pope or the Dalai Lama next to a homeless person at your dinner party?

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Changing stereotypes in the Buddhist World

Recently I came across an interesting article about Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, a Buddhist teacher that goes against many stereotypes found in Western Buddhism. In an interview with her, it mentions:

Rev. angel Kyodo williams doesn’t like stereotypes.

That’s not entirely surprising, since she also seems to enjoy shattering them. She’s a black queer woman in an American Buddhist tradition often steered by white men; a Buddhist operating in activist circles of mostly Christians and Jews; a leader of the Religious Left who doesn’t use the word “God.”

And while williams — whose first and last name aren’t capitalized — is known as a hard-charging activist for racial justice, she also has a knack for mixing difficult conversation with easy laughter.

When the author and Buddhist teacher agreed to be interviewed for this story, for instance, she invited me not to a meditation center or sacred locale, but to her upscale apartment along the river in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The decor was something akin to minimalist Buddhist chic, but also included trace elements of whimsy, such as the shiny, skull-shaped candle holder that sat atop her coffee table. Reclining on her couch for our interview, williams spoke slowly and deliberately, choosing her words carefully as the sun reflected off the river and onto the nearby wall.

“The first time I got arrested many years ago was here in New York—it was over by the Hudson River,” she told me. “I frankly can’t even remember what it was about.”

Her most recent arrest was a little more memorable: it happened just two weeks prior, when police escorted her out of the U.S. Capitol while cameras rolled.

To some, the stark contrast between williams’ private and public life — much less her Buddhist identity and her activism — may seem like a contradiction. But where others see contradictions, she sees opportunities. In fact, taking advantage of opportunities is precisely what makes her such a powerful change agent — and what may make her a crucial part of the “spiritual left’s” future.

Click here to read more from the interview

Patriarchy and Buddhist Ethical Conduct

An interesting article by Lama Rod Owens about the need to understand how patriarchy affects Buddhist communities, and why and how these communities should confront these issues. He mentions:

To begin with, we must understand that patriarchy is a political, social, and mental system that perpetuates the myth that men should be dominant. I have moved through the world becoming slowly conscious of how my gender identity, as well as my performance of masculinity, earns me significant privileges: I am taken more seriously, expected to dominate situations, given more space to practice aggressive behavior, and, most importantly, often given the benefit of doubt.

Patriarchy conditions male-identified people, especially cisgendered men, to be in opposition to women and the female body, as well as the very idea of the feminine, as a strategy to accumulate and maintain power.

Patriarchy is gender-based systematic oppression, where bias and power collude to create systems that exclude women. Patriarchy is an expression of misogyny or hate of the feminine and female body. Patriarchy conditions male-identified people, especially cisgendered men, to be in opposition to women and the female body, as well as the very idea of the feminine, as a strategy to accumulate and maintain power.

Patriarchy censors men’s emotional expression, labeling such expression as weak or feminine. Such conditioning has depleted my own access to live a fuller, more expressive life that is in more alignment with the feminine. My work to undo this patriarchal conditioning has been to work to feel deeply into my emotional body and to openly express that feeling.

In Western sanghas, systematic patriarchy has resulted in a hierarchy where power is concentrated around authorities, including staff, coordinators, and teachers. These are often men, conditioned by this system of perceived gender superiority. In the absence of accountability or shared power, the most at-risk bodies are female bodies, or those of anyone deemed weak.

At the heart of patriarchy is a duality between power and weakness. The female body becomes a symbol of any body that is designated as weak, including queer bodies, transgender and gender expansive bodies, disabled bodies, bodies holding different beliefs, and even young bodies. In orthodox Buddhist culture, patriarchy often renders the female body as an impediment to enlightenment, a tool manipulated by the male imagination to achieve enlightenment, or an object for pleasure.

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Presenting the Path to Modern Students

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron are working together to present the Buddhist teachings to new students that don’t come from a culture with a belief in rebirth and many of the topics included in the Buddhist path. Venerable Thubten Chodron mentions that most material assumes that students have a firm understanding of these things, and then proceed to delve into other topics.

In an interview with Mandala, she mentions:

Another challenge non-Tibetans have with the lamrim is that—as His Holiness explains—it was written for people who are already Buddhists. Lamrim texts don’t talk about why rebirth makes sense; they assume you already believe this. And the guru is Buddha? People say, “I just came to learn to meditate! What’s that all about?” So in this new series we are re-ordering some topics and approaching some of them in a different way. Regarding, for example, how to relate to a spiritual mentor, His Holiness explains that in depth for a modern audience. If people start out reading Pabongka Rinpoche’s Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, they don’t know that he was teaching Tibetans who were about to take highest yoga tantra initiations. That’s not who walks into Dharma centers! People need preparatory material. In the West, what does His Holiness usually teach? Love, compassion, and secular ethics for everyone. For Westerners who are interested in the Buddha’s teachings, he starts out with the Buddhist worldview: the nature of the mind, the two truths—conventional and ultimate—the four noble truths, and the possibility of being free from the afflictions.

Understanding these topics, people will then understand something about the basis, path, and result and will see how the lamrim meditations fit in. This project takes on the task of explaining the whole path, in some depth, to people who have a modern education. This series is not limited to Westerners. His Holiness says it’s also for young Tibetans as well as Chinese, Vietnamese, and other Asian students.

Click here to read more from the interview and the book