In ACTIVISM by José M. Tirado21 Comments

If there is one overriding stereotype about Christianity around the world, accurate or not, it is that, not only is Jesus the figure for whom we should hitch our deliverance on or, somewhat analogously as Buddhists would say, to take refuge in, but that Jesus’ own dominant focus was on the distressed, the forgotten, the sick, and the vulnerable which we should emulate in our own social relations. Or, to put it in terms of later Catholic Church doctrine, Christians must exercise a preferential option for the poor. This historical orientation has fostered a remarkable, overt identification of Christianity as a powerful force for rectifying social injustice. As the University of Notre Dame puts it on their website for the Center for Social Concerns,

As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make a preferential option for the poor, namely, to create conditions for marginalized voices to be heard, to defend the defenseless, and to assess lifestyles, policies and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor. Preferential option for the poor means that Christians are called to look at the world from the perspective of the marginalized and to work in solidarity for justice.

From the Salvation Army to Liberation Theology. From the Catholic Worker to the Red Cross, the notion that Christians must reach out to those who are hungry, poor, in distress, and homeless, the marginalized or those wounded on the battlefield has been a major part of Christianity´s history. While Christianity´s failings are important to note, its generalized support of the genocide of indigenous peoples throughout the world, in Africa, North and South America, and Australia, and its selective and often ambiguous relationship to more modern-day tragedies such as the rise of Nazism, it´s successes in relief work and in outreach to the marginalized is historically well known and properly lauded.

When it comes to this notion of preferences, in Buddhism, by contrast, upekkha or equanimity, as one of Buddhism´s Four Immeasurable’s, is emphasized, which not only encompasses the individual non-preference for good or bad, fame or shame, rich or poor, but the Dharma´s profound vastness which explains the nature of things-as-they-are holding all phenomenal existence to be a compounded formulation akin to a dream, and the objects within that sort of dream, to be taken as ephemeral and thus, of little ultimate consequence. An important example is contained in this early teaching:

Just as he would feel equanimity on seeing a person who was neither beloved nor unloved, so he pervades all beings with equanimity.
(Vibhanga 275)

Let me say at the outset that I do not believe the Buddha meant anything here that should be construed as callous indifference to ordinary suffering. Nevertheless, what a religious teacher teaches, and what his or her followers hear, and act upon, are often at odds. By way of example, while I know Donald Trump suffers, from megalomania, from insecurities as large as his ego, etc. I also believe that the sufferings of the many homeless in New York City are more important and deserving of my attention. Or that the sufferings of the poor and near-poor throughout the US are more alarming, and MORE deserving of my attention than Bill Gates’ or Zuckerberg´s or Oprah´s or any other massively rich person whose lives have been gilded by the acquisition of enormous wealth in a system which rewards greed and condemns to poverty tens of millions. Because, what they are beneficiaries of is a system that enables certain individuals to amass inconceivable riches while countless others are condemned to lives of squalor and disenfranchisement. And while Buddhism extends its systemic lenses on a much wider framework of human suffering, the in-between area of the immediately near us is sometimes neglected. That in-between area is otherwise known as this Saha world in some texts, where we appropriately lament the ultimate pitiable state of all beings, but chalk it up to the ways of samsara. We jump from the immediate problem to its ultimate cause without stopping to investigate just what we can do to assuage the proximate causes here and now. We need to name this system. But we don´t. This, I feel, is a problem.

Apparently, HH the Dalai Lama agrees and is not afraid to, having spoken to this issue by calling himself a Marxist and saying, to the surprise of many of his wealthier followers:

The economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis… as well as the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and it cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons, the system appeals to me, and it seems fair.

Elsewhere though, he describes the Buddhist view of non-preferentiality in more traditionally Buddhist ways, saying “it is essentially logical for us to train in cultivating an impartial attitude wishing for the happiness of all beings.”
That is, our impartiality should extend past our comfort zones of self, family, friends, tribe, race and continuing outward until it maximizes its expression to the highest degree, that of the Buddha´s admonition in the Metta Sutta “to regard all beings as a mother loves her only child”. This is not what is being criticized here.

Unfortunately, this broader, god perspective, if you will, an odd formulation given Buddhism´s non-theistic orientation, is so far removed from the object that its relevance, much like an ant you step on as you walk, is seen as of no or little consequence. Again, let me reiterate that Buddhism does NOT suggest that our lives, or any lives, are of no consequence, constantly promoting instead a widening circle of compassion which should be extended to all sentient beings. The non-prerequisite of vegetarianism notwithstanding as Buddhism is often more prescriptive over proscriptive.

However, in an effort to take the broadest view of Compassion, there appears to be way too much room for a casual dismissal of any proposed  Buddhist preferential option for the poor and instead, a superficial rejection of individual or social justice concerns as not possessing the widest possible perspective of Compassion. Combine this with the earnest seeking of patrons to fund translations and schools, travel by high teachers, and the building of elaborate Buddhist temples and centers in the West, and there comes a problem tailor-made for more than just PR embarrassments.

This issue of Buddhism´s larger relationship to the poor and disenfranchised goes well beyond any East-West divide and at times hyper celebrity-focused orientation. There is the old question of, where are the Buddhist soup kitchens? I have been asking this very question since my early days as a Buddhist social activist and well into my period studying this very issue as an Engaged Buddhist, at the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) from 1994-1997.

I´ll never forget the words of one classmate, an educated white male who left a thriving business to connect with Buddhism. He said to me, when I raised these types of questions, “Our intentions matter most in Buddhism and if there´s a homeless person, I will wish them well as I pass them.” To which I responded, “Have you ever thought of buying them a sandwich?” “My intentions are just as good” he answered, straight-faced.

I heard 3 years of that kind of garbage. And I still don´t buy it.

We are now living in a world that is literally burning up as the Buddha declared in his Fire Sermon, but in this case, it is not the passions, but the pollution and problems of industrialization that are causing this era of climate change. And as a result, millions of people are facing environmental disasters which are causing them to become climate refugees. In addition, there is a palatable rise in actual fascist movements around the world, in the Ukraine, in Poland, and yes, even in the US. In the Mediterranean, thousands have drowned seeking to escape constant wars in their homelands, and throughout South America, Asia and Africa, neo-liberal policies have unsettled social orders and destabilized countries, making our future not only unpredictable, but quite possibly unrecognizable. These issues disproportionately affect the poor, the underprivileged, darker peoples of the world while the West continues to spend gargantuan amounts of money and resources in military hardware and using them regularly, wreaking havoc throughout the planet, adding to and compounding these issues all over.

It is certainly noticed in the United States, for example, often, of course, by those who come from similarly marginalized, oppressed, and historically disenfranchised communities. The seeming contradictions between Buddhist doctrinal concern for an impartial compassion which works to alleviate suffering, and an apparently biased message directed to wealthier classes is being openly spoken of with some degree of attention. In a recent issue of Lion´s Roar, a well-known Buddhist magazine, author and Zen priest Rev. angel Kyodo williams wrote,

Thrust into the Western socioeconomic framework that puts profit above all, and coupled with a desire to perpetuate institutional existence at the expense of illuminating reality and revealing deeper truths, the dharma has become beholden to commodification, viewing it as inescapable and de rigueur.

Crucially she adds that,

What is required is a new dharma, a radical dharma that deconstructs rather than amplifies the systems of suffering that starves rather than fertilizes the soil that deep roots of societal suffering grows in. A new dharma is one that not only insists we investigate the unsatisfactoriness of our own minds but also prepares us for the discomfort of confronting the obscurations of the society we are individual expressions of. It recognizes that the delusions of systemic oppression are not solely the domain of the individual. By design, they are seated within and reinforced by society.

In all fairness, there IS an Engaged Buddhist movement with even universities offering degrees in this field (in fact, this writer received an MA in Engaged Buddhism in Naropa´s very first core class in 1997). And there are novel responses to novel crises being talked about and considered and, in the West, an awakening of Buddhist concern for issues of race and wealth, poverty and pollution, are all being considered. But there remains some serious questions about its focus which, 20 years after I left Naropa, are still not receiving enough attention.

So I´ll just throw it out a few of my questions here:

Why are so many of these Buddhists upper to upper to middle class Whites? Why are Buddhist temples in the West all too often centers of relief for the upper to upper middle class Whites who can afford to pay hundreds of dollars for teachings with great masters?

Can poor people benefit from mindfulness, chanting Amida´s name or the Nichiren chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, practicing Zen, or doing Tibetan visualization practices? Why aren´t they flocking to all these Buddhist centers which promise relief from suffering since, by all sociological measures I am familiar with, they suffer disproportionally more? Are they welcomed, encouraged, or even advertised to?

Can homeless people find benefits in Buddhist outreach? Maybe they need a place to sleep. Perhaps we can house them in all those Buddhist flop houses or shelters we build?

Why are Buddhist centers not located more among poor neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color? Why are all the dominant magazines about Buddhism (and while not exclusively Buddhist I would include this magazine as well) catering to, owned by, and made up of primarily upper to upper middle class White writers and basically directed to the same?

Does Buddhism have a poor or poverty problem in the West? Is it afraid to get in the trenches and to wash feet, feed and nurture compassion among those who just might need it, yes, I´m going to say it aloud, more than the wealthier groups who by and large fund those Buddhist dharma centers, temples and institutions?

Somehow those more systemic questions, along with many practical issues, and the many potential solutions seem to all get rapidly skipped over as attention is quickly turned to samsara´s deeper and apparently intractable misery. In my view, this betrays the bodhisattva spirit, for if we are, in fact, vowing to benefit (save) all sentient beings then our efforts should be directed at the ones right in front of us, right? It´s as if we are so focused on the horizon we fail to see what lies right before us.

Why is it that we think feeding the homeless, ending racism, or poverty in our local communities’ somehow too difficult,  but we say we are committed to saving all sentient beings daily without irony?

We aim so high that, truth be told, we forget the suffering immediately around us or ignore it and jump instead towards a grander perspective which we are nowhere near but which sounds good and makes us look better. Thus, we are neither here nor there, locked into a dreamy vision bardo that insulates us from responsibility while granting us specious satisfaction that at least we are on the right track. After all, we always seem to find millions of dollars collectively to pay for visiting teachers and building grand stupas and temples and, oh well, you get my point.

I actually think we know the answers to these questions. Because simply put, Buddhism appeals more to the wealthier classes in the West from whom it gives a pass on issues of social justice.

One daren´t criticize one´s patrons who give hundreds of thousands of dollars regularly too much for fear of those very funds drying.  And so we know, many of us feel within this terrible tension that the incredible Wisdom and Compassion message of Buddhism remains exclusively directed to only the most able and wealthy around us, who, not coincidentally, represent the same owners of the society who dominate its ruling classes and ensure a system which keeps the poor, poor and the marginalized away from our attention. This is a problem.

I´m worried. Because what should be a strength can instead be seen as a weakness, a way out in order to avoid difficult questions of actual, localized suffering while we instead solicit support from wealthy benefactors, referring to the state of those in poverty and at the receiving end of unjust systems as simply the effects of individual karma. If that sounds cruel, it most certainly is. And that´s another problem we need to face and address.

About the Author
José M. Tirado

José M. Tirado

José M. Tirado (’ö-Zér Jamgön Dorje) is a Puertorican poet, Buddhist priest, and political writer living in Hafnarfjorður, Iceland, known for its elves, “hidden people” and lava fields. His articles and poetry have been featured in CounterPunch, Cyrano´s Journal, The Galway Review, Dissident Voice, La Respuesta, Op-Ed News, among others. He practiced and studied over 20 years in Zen, much of that with Joshu Sasaki Roshi, Vajrayana with Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche, and in 2003 he was ordained a Jodo Shinshu priest in Japan. Currently he is an apprentice within the Aro gTér lineage. He has a BA in Religious Studies, an MA in Buddhist Studies, and an MA in psychology, later doing doctoral work in psychology focusing on the psychophysiology of meditation. A long-time member of the Engaged Buddhism movement, he has worked as a Chaplain in Colorado, Wisconsin, and San Francisco, a union president at Warner Bros. Pictures, as president of the Latino Writers Group (for screenwriters in Hollywood), and now teaches meditation at the University of Iceland where he is head of the Buddhist Meditation Society of Iceland. He is currently working on a Ed. D in education. He blogs at A Deliberate Life: Musings on What´s Important (https://naftali2012.wordpress.com/) and can be reached at tirado.jm@gmail.com.

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  1. Avatar

    Thank you for raising some important points that I myself have noticed, at least as far as Zen communities in the North East go. I speak only from my experience as a Caribbean-American layperson, but from my observations, I wonder if certain temples and centers tend to pop up where they think interest will be? And by interest I mean funding.

    The source of that funding seems to be middle-class and above people who are looking for something to take the edge off their daily struggles, looking for the kind of connection that modern life has severed, or are drawn in by the exotic feel of some of centers. Meditation and mindfulness is the cool thing to do nowadays, and I’m afraid that I feel more places are appearing that want to cash in (especially by charging for retreats, workshops, teachings, interviews etc.)

    On the other side of the coin, conditions are stacked against the poor and disenfranchised who suffer from problems of health, money, housing, education, etc. It wouldn’t surprise me that these issues might seem so large and impossible to overcome that regular folks might shy away from them, but I certainly hold a higher standard to anyone who calls themself a Teacher. The desire to spend time in a comfortable center seems to conflict with the bodhisattva vow to save all beings–although I do recognize the many ways one can go about that sort of task.

    It seems funny to me that people speak of a “new” Dharma approach, but what was the Dharma in the time of the Buddha? The original Sangha was a band of homeless wanderers who depended on the laity for most of their basic needs, and they spread the Dharma among everyone they encountered, of high caste and of low. And, like in the case of the Ven. Punna (SN 35.88), the monastics weren’t afraid to go to treacherous places to spread the Dharma, as long as they were ready. Even the Buddha didn’t linger in any place for too long, until he was much older at least. Of course, numerous cultural factors would stymie an exact replica of this formula here in the USA.

    Still, I wonder at the state of affairs today, when so much of popular Dharma practice in the USA is centered in meditation centers. These are run more commonly by ordained (or unordained) laypeople who have families to support and bills to pay. There are the celibate monastics in monasteries who at least live together in communities, surviving on much less, but still they still rely on charging for retreats and are usually further removed from urban areas. Much rarer are those monasteries that are donation-only and solely practice oriented (though these are often rurally-located). I do know of one Therevada monk in NYC who freely offers teachings multiple days a week, for free, in various communities in New York City. The audience is often mixed in terms of socio-economics.

    I guess I would wonder, what are Buddhist teachers called to share? The Dharma or food and shelter? Or both combined. And how do you rally the community to support it? I don’t have the answer to these questions, but you’re right in that we need to be having these conversations. But when do conversations translate into action? It’s nice to write blogs and magazine letters, but we need some real-life examples, too.

    [P.S., it should be said that there are multiple temples and centers that support predominantly Asian and Asian-American communities, and these are often community oriented, providing education, Dharma learning, and other kinds of support. These people places are often left out of the conversation about “American” or “Western” Buddhism, but have no doubt played (and continue to play) a huge role in the development of Buddhism here.]

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    Stop being a buddhist.

    Act, but from insight into the 3 marks.

    That’s it. No time for essays.

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    When he saw suffering for the first the Buddha was shaken to the core. In a way an awaking occurred,a shift in perception,how can one be in the world with this experience.Likewise how am l to relate to this. That is the hot ball iron that is carried, the only real answer to koan that needs to be solved. How can these issues be solved in a way that creates compassion. Live that, don’t carry the boat once it has served the purpose. Being in the world where actions are held accountable. No longer being a buddhist but acting from that discovery. Try to solve in an authentic way.

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    Some very good points. You might check out the East Bay Meditation Center – https://eastbaymeditation.org/ – they are very active in trying to be inclusive, honoring diversity, and doing outreach.

    One point to bring up. I noticed in your bio that you studied Zen under Joshu Sasaki for nearly 20 years. In 1980, i met with a woman who had been sexually assaulted by Sasaki during her first week-long sesshin (retreat). She was traumatized and what she reported was clearly criminal sexual assault. A felony punishable for up to four years in prison. Sasaki’s actions were not “skillful means” or “crazy wisdom” or tantra or some special zen koan training. It was exactly what it appeared to be. There is no doubt that Sasaki did this to countless women for 40-50 years. No doubt. When this women came running out of the interview room where she had been forcibly molested, she was crying, in shock and clearly distraught, one of the priests asked her what was wrong, and when she told him what had happened, he laughed and said, “Oh, that’s just Roshi, he does that to all the women.”

    Before Buddhist communities go forth and promote social or economic justice, they should deal with the shadows in their own space . Before they can preach compassion, they better be, at the very least, trying to live kindness and respect for everyone – not in the sky, but in the kitchen and in their everyday behavior. This is not medieval Japan or old Lhasa. Sasaki may have been skilled at working with zen koans or giving talks, but his behavior towards women was reprehensible, uncaring, abusive, and he created a toxic community – of denial, self-blindness, silence, slavish devotion, and wishful thinking. It was spiritual malpractice. He was not above the law and his actions created very negative consequences for everyone in his circle, not just the women. And his behavior persisted, daily, weekly, in the shadows, for decades. I understand there were a few attempts to confront Sasaki or ask him to stop it, but those interventions were quickly shut down, and while some people left his community, many stayed and were complicit in the abuse. Most clearly knew what was going on, but they looked the other way, as he frequently sexually molested his women students. In the U.S., there is now a major new understanding of sexual harassment and abuse – and no one is exceptional or special or above the law – not movie stars or CEOs or “masters.” Jose, why don’t you write about this aspect of social justice – inside Buddhist communities. If we can’t confront the Sasakis and the Sogyals in an open honest way, how can we stand up to Trump? This is not just about one or two “bad apples” – need to look at the tree itself… what is baked into these traditions that leads to an unwholesome mindset and abuse? I am not denying the great Dharma that has come down through the ages – just pointing out that along with that transmission, there is much that is not conducive to awakening, but endarkening… and we need to know the difference and have the courage to speak out. end of my babble about this.

    1. José M. Tirado Author

      Hi Josh.

      I was very off and on with Sasaki Roshi, attending retreats when I could. I practiced mainly alone but regarded him as my teacher. When I lived in Japan I practiced with other Roshis in Soto Zen and then would return Stateside to sit with Sasaki Roshi when possible. Never lived with him for 20 years, I regarded him as my teacher and so returned when the opportunities arose.

      His actions towards women were, as you say, “reprehensible”. But in my times with him, during Seminars on the Sutras or the sesshin, I never saw any of that so I cannot write about it. I mainly write about what I see or have witnessed.

      You said:

      Why “before”? Why not always, at the same time? It is not as if kindness to one´s sangha is mutually exclusive with kindness to the wider community. Compassion and Wisdom are said to be hallmarks of Buddhadharma. I simply say, let´s see it.

      My perspective is that we must alleviate suffering period. Not just in our heads or on our cushions, but within our communities and the wider world. That there is an urgency to our times (Mappo, perhaps) in which we must walk the talk.

      I don´t think we disagree.

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    From privilege, status, and elitism. Not traded for poverty but made it part of his bones. Woke to enlightenment not entitlement. Nothing special nothing attained. Scrap the institution, the initiation, and the rites. Storytellers who lure the weary.

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    It’s an important essay, raising key points about Buddhism and our modern world. I believe you are trying to reconcile political and spiritual realities. A huge challenge–and, as you persist in making the challenge, fundamental to our identities.

    One person you omitted from your essay–a pivotal figure in Western thought–is Aristotle–sometimes called “the first scientist”–who noted that “man is a political animal.” By which he meant we are engaged in power struggles and hierarchies. I think that’s one of the elements you explore here.

    I found the essay most engaging when you cited the example of your classmate at Naropa who seemed to believe that “good intentions” were as sufficient as good deeds. (He might have learned something from my mother, who would cite the maxim: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”)

    You ask important, even essential, questions–for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

    Thank you!

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    I give money to the homeless on the street frequently and happen to practice Buddhism. I have heard and understand that the most we can do for any other being is to attain realization and on to liberation ourselves, which by the way is impossible without Bodhiccitta. To do as you suggest, as is suggested by “Engaged Buddhism”; charity is not a path to liberation. But we can provide sustenance to those who are in need Buddhist or not. If you want to proclaim charity in the name of Buddhism them by all means do it. Attaining realization is not the same as the example you sited referring to your friend who merely sets some kind of “intention”.

    1. José M. Tirado Author

      Hello Mark and thank you for your reply. What is it you feel I am suggesting? Charity has many meanings but 2 things bear repeating: to give when giving is needed is a sure way to cut ego since many of us are miserly and hesitant to actually DO something rather than say something, and the Buddha was clear that when someone needs relief we are to provide it, and waiting for full attainment before actually helping is another form of miserlines. I life this up for your consideration:

      Now at that time a certain monk was suffering from dysentery and lay where he had fallen in his own excrement. The Lord and Ananda were visiting the lodgings and they came to where the sick monk lay and the Lord asked him, ‘Monk, what is wrong with you.’ ‘I have dysentery, Lord.’
      ‘Is there no one to look after you?’
      ‘No, Lord.’
      ‘Then why is it that the other monks do not look after you?’
      ‘It is because I am of no use to them, Lord.’
      Then the Lord said to Ananda, ‘Go and fetch water so we can wash this monk.’ So Ananda brought water and the Lord poured it out while Ananda washed the monk all over. Then taking the monk by the head and feet the Lord and Ananda together carried him and laid him on a bed. Later, the Lord called the monks together and asked them, ‘Why monks, did you not look after that sick monk?’
      ‘Because he was of no use to us, Lord’
      ‘Monks, you have no mother or father to look after you. If you do not look after each other who will? He who would nurse me, let him nurse the sick’
      (Yo bhikkhave mam upatthaheyya so gilamam upatthaheyya, Vin.I,301).

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        Jose…My feeling is that charity is charity …it does not need a Buddhist or Christian designation. If Buddhism makes you more open to relative giving then that is wonderful. Your notion of waiting for enlightenment is miserliness before “helping” is more ignorant than it is miserliness. I am in no way suggesting that. Why feel compelled to petition Buddhists, as a Buddhist, to apply relative charity?

        1. José M. Tirado Author

          Simply because our world needs it. All forms of “charity”. Starving people, refugees, the dispossessed, the mentally ill, the masses of the “precariat”. We need to be out there putting words like “Compassion” to the test. Otherwise, we have no right to claim it as an ideal.

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        Maybe I should search more for similar articles in Buddhist online magazines, but I get the impression that they’ll be rare and far between. It seems that as far as centers are concerned, there are those that have no time to wrestle with these issues because they’re too busy practicing saving themselves, or where Buddhism is a cultural thing, or too busy in the in between of practicing and figuring out how you discover your true self in art, archery or flower arranging. Hearing about the issues of who our centers are primarily catering to is, well, an irritant, akin to an itch that should not be scratched. It’s probably more like something that seeks to be recognized yet we repeatedly ignore, or do the ‘advance practice’ wisdom move on it and, well, obliterate it. Probably too much of a stretch and I’m getting too creative, but parallels with faith/grace based Christianity is not hard to see, if we dare. In such a view, it’s not about our actions, not about what we do, it’s about the magically saving qualities of grace, and bringing others to it that really matters, and all other pursuits are insufficient. Thank you for your article.

        Aureliano Nava

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    Maybe some of what we see in Buddhism as it is expressed is cultural, and not necessarily Dharma. We must sift through it all, and not accept the more negative aspects of Tibetan and other Asian cultural norms.

    1. José M. Tirado Author

      Thank you Aureliano… Every time I have brought this up, I get beaten on and that’s been over 20 years now (maybe 30 actually). Things HAVE changed, and for the better but that there is still this deep, deep rooted elitism and racism within Buddhism in the West (Myanmar and the Rohingya certainly demonstrate that it remains an issue elsewhere, too). It is NOT talked about enough, although wonderful people like Lama Rod Owens and angel Kyodo Williams are doing fine jobs of addressing it openly. But I remain convinced that, as I noted in the article, the dependence on funds from wealthy benefactors inhibits scratching that “itch” as you refer to it. Too embarrassing, too painful. We have a long way to go but I´m with you on the need to add grace to this world through our compassionate concerns for others, IN PARTICULAR, the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalized, the sick, and the otherwise generally ignored by the Ted talkers, the jet-setting Lamas, and the fancy patrons who are able to buy time with the latest Roshi or Tulku of the Week.

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        “Ya acarrilado el peine, chingue su madre el piojo.” You and others are already leaning up against this resistance. Aren’t we not supposed to tilt in the direction of what we resists? If data is important in our present times, and if the Buddhadharma compels us to act and use the tools of the time to direct the skilfull means resulting in the liberation of beings immersed in suffering–it does–then the data available informs well on what you are exposing. How can, therefore, we ignore when doing so goes very much against the core of fundamental instructions? At one point, not long ago, these concerns were hard to bring to the surface and engage simply because we would be ‘trumped’ when our personal understanding and realization was yet nascent and could be easily questioned. This simply could be pointed to and we’d be quieted and we’d succumb to our own lack of confidence. We didn’t know better, so it was hinted, and we needed to learn to wipe our own dirty chonez, and liberate ourselves from our own messy confusion first. Well, no mas, sorry, but we’ve matured due to our diligence , study, and meditation, and we dare declare now our Lion’s Roar. Si, Se Puede.

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    As to the main, teaching of any kind finds no connection without consent,.

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    My local monastery, Kagyu Samye Ling, Eskdalemuir, Scotland, runs a soup kitchen for rough sleepers in Glasgow,and allows absolutely anyone to try living and working at the Retreat Centre,where teachings carry no monetary charge.
    However,those most in suffering often fear all religions are either fake or terrifyingly consequential.
    May I mention that unless Anattā is fully digested,so to speak, then spiritual practice can sadly reinforce a sense of a separate, individual, self-righteousness.
    As Huang Po has it ,”You cannot escape from an imaginary place.”
    And as I have it ,”Better the fourth than the Firth of Forth.”
    Lastly HH DL , “The age of religion is over,this is the age of secular ethics.”
    Even “The time of Lama’s has gone this is the time of Being Human.

    1. José M. Tirado Author

      Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your letter.
      I agree that

      unless Anattā is fully digested,so to speak, then spiritual practice can sadly reinforce a sense of a separate, individual, self-righteousness.>

      but my concern is that when the litmus test for compassionate action is set so high, it becomes an excuse to do nothing. This is my complaint. We are all flawed beings on the way to Enlightenment and, were I to think that my actions are so tainted by ego and that I must not take any actions until they are all cleansed, then it gives lie to the awakening of compassion (and the attainment of Enlightenment, in my opinion) as a process and less a state. I believe we must do what we can, always, everywhere, to alleviate suffering. Enlightened or not.

  11. Sonia Gomes

    That’s amazing article ! Thank you so much to bring this questions out and so timeless !
    Tottaly agree with your questions and I am also concerned about the proximity about teachings reach all beings , not only the ones that can pay and have good social condition .
    Hats off to you José ! We really need a new dharma aproach !

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