Without aggression or politicking, Buddha-Dhamma has penetrated schools and language. It services sportsmen and women and unstresses the business community.
Without aggression or politicking, Buddha-Dhamma has penetrated schools and language. It services sportsmen and women and unstresses the business community. There is an ongoing interfaith dialogue; the dialogue with psychotherapy is also rich and fruitful. There is a Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy, a Buddhist Hospice Trust, an Engaged Buddhist Network, a Dharma School. A Buddhist Trust for the care of the Elderly is in its initial stages. There are Buddhist monks and nuns of every hue, including a small Theravada community, members of which trudge the highways and byways of Britain as did the samanas of the Buddha's age and there is a lively renunciate community members of which trudge the highways and byways of Britain as did the samanas of the Buddha's age. All seems to be going very well in Buddha-Land. But perhaps the most difficult danger to guard against is that of success. At the Vipassana Teachers' Conference in June of this year, Joseph Goldstein reminded us of the prophesy of the Master who established the Tea Ceremony as a consummate spiritual exercise (and whose name I forget). Anyway, the Master commented that he was sure that within a matter of a decade or so, he had no doubt that the Tea Ceremony would be fully accepted and incorporated into Japanese culture. And that within that same span of time its true meaning and value would be lost.
Perhaps the most valid cause for concern about the Buddha-Dhamma is therefore that its meaning get diluted into universalist sentiments, or sidetracked into socially supportive gestures. Do all religions really have the same goal? Or isn't Awakening a personal thing that religious expressions can only highlight when the individual's mind is ready? Does Dhamma have to adapt to and support a society, or is it the other way round: that the urge for Truth will gradually achieve social expression through first affection of the heart? One Way of cultivation is to serve others; but that has to be balanced with the perception that whatever the effort, the world will continue to be a mottled and perilous place. Having personally done a bit of work in establishing monasteries, teaching retreats and producing publications, I have come to note the tingle of enthusiasm with which one starts a project, and the rush of conviction that this is really needed; then the amount of struggle entailed in getting it going; and then a result which always falls short of expectation. It doesn't mean I don't do it - the results are generally better than having done nothing - but that I understand the tingles and rushes more fully. If I grab them as guides, they lead me into the aches of dukkha. But to work in terms of 'soul sense' - out of compassion and joy and for the letting-go of doubt, cynicism or self-concern - this is possible. In this way, communities and projects can kick-start, guide and express spiritual growth. Let's be wary that they don't replace it.
Perhaps on a social level, one can only expect a 'Buddh-ish' effect, and that alone would be as good a service as Christianity performed for Western Culture during the Dark Ages. But the Buddha gave a teaching to keep us centred on those 'soul moments.' Do we seek out situations that bring them to light? Do we open into them, despite the discomfort of having our self-image laid bare? And can we then integrate that seeing into living as a person? The Four Noble Truths are the door to that perfection; and empathetic silence is the hinge on which they turn.