Month: February 2017

Modern Buddhist Myths

The historical Buddha lived 25 or so centuries ago, in a time before the concept of “history” had been separated from mythology. For this reason, the Buddha’s life story preserved through the ages is more myth than biography. This is not

Posted in Buddhism

Finding Your Spiritual Path

In truth, finding your spiritual path is simple.  Just look down and see where your feet are. There’s your path. The cartoon cliché about finding a guru on the top of a mountain and asking for the meaning of life

Posted in Buddhism, Spirituality

Paying for Teachings

People are sometimes astonished when Buddhist teachers and dharma centers require a payment for teachings and retreats. Shouldn’t the dharma be free? Christian ministers don’t expect fees for sermons, do they? In the West, we’re accustomed to attending services, Sunday schools,

Posted in Buddhism, Religion in America

Dedication of Merit

The dedication of merit is a spiritual practice that, as far as I know, is unique to Buddhism. Further, it appears to be a practice found in all schools of Buddhism. However, it’s often a practice overlooked by westerners who

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The Four Reliances

The Four Reliances, sometimes called the Four Reliables, are a list of guidelines for a student of the Buddha Dharma. Versions of the Reliances can be found in several Mahayana Sutras. The Sanskrit word translated into English as “reliance” or

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Amitabha, Buddha of Boundless Light

Amitabha Buddha is one of the most prominent “celestial” Buddhas of Mahayana. In China and Japan he is the principal Buddha of the Pure Land school and one of the most commonly represented figures in Buddhist iconography. He is also

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Attachment to Buddhism, and Why It’s a Problem

Occasionally when Buddhist talk about the problem of attachment, someone will raise a hand and say, “Is it bad to be attached to Buddhism?” Yes, it is unskillful, in fact. Then, often, the next comment is, “Well, then, I’ll stay

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Buddhists Don’t Have to Be Nice: Avoiding Idiot Compassion

“Buddhists are supposed to be nice.” How many times have you heard that one? Buddhists are stereotyped as always being pleasant, soft-spoken and calm, and we aren’t always. Of course, the Buddha taught us to cultivate loving kindness and compassion. The

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What Buddhists Mean by Lineage

  Lineage is a word that comes up a lot in discussions of Buddhism, but the word is not always used to mean the same thing. What are Buddhists talking about when they are talking about lineage? There are ordination

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Review: The Making of Buddhist Modernism

Anyone trying to make sense of contemporary western Buddhism would do well to read The Making of Buddhist Modernism by David McMahan (Oxford University Press, 2008). McMahan, associate professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, provides

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