In an interesting interview with Roger Jackson, Buddhist professor and teacher, he talks about his experience of teaching Dharma to different groups in the west. He mentions:

In centers I mostly keep to the tradition. Most of my Dharma center teaching is working through Indian Buddhist texts with American Dharma students at Gyuto Wheel of Dharma Monastery in Minneapolis. From Geshe Sopa, I learned the value of teaching directly from texts, so I present the text more or less as a geshe would—though I’m far from being a geshe!

A college or university is different. I teach by topic, and assign readings from various sources. Above all, I don’t teach “Dharma.” I help students understand Buddhism from an academic point of view. That includes the ideas from great texts, but from multiple perspectives rather than a single authority. In a typical class, I spend a few weeks on philosophy, making sure people know about the four noble truths, emptiness, the bodhisattva path, and so forth, but then I take them into areas like anthropology, sociology and cultural studies. For instance, we will investigate what Buddhism looks like on the ground in Sri Lanka or Tibet. And then we might examine a difficult ethical issue from a Buddhist perspective.

Regarding what has changed since the 1960s, he mentions:

Gelug centers have mostly stayed quite traditional. They still focus on lamrim, for example, without much Westernization. Students sometimes want more meditation, but that’s an adjustment Gelug centers haven’t always made. One result is a steady trickle of Gelug students going to Nyingma teachers to learn Dzogchen. John MakranskyAnne Klein, and B. Alan Wallaceare prominent examples. So that’s one issue to consider. Another is how centers can serve both ordinary people and more serious practitioners. Mingyur Rinpoche, a Kagyu-Nyingma master, has created two tracks in his Tergar organization: one for busy lay people with a secular orientation, and the second for those who want to do a more “Buddhist” practice. His Holiness the Dalai Lama also stresses basic teachings for secular people, and more intense practice for those so inclined. I wonder if Gelug organizations should consider creating different tracks as well.

Click here to read more from the interview

Advertisements