Roundtable on Race

With regards to online posts on diversity, Firehorse has proposed a discussion on race, diversity and Buddhism. The proposal has been making its rounds on the net.

How about a Buddhist bloggers’ roundtable or panel discussion on different topics related to race, diversity and Buddhism? But the goal would not be to show how someone is wrong or convert others to your viewpoint, it would be to practice what Katie calls “mindful blogging” and do it in the challenging context of a dialogue about race, diversity and Buddhism.

My feelings are mixed. It’s a noble aspiration—a forum for the expression of these sensitive issues, mindfulness of the visceral emotions this discussion nearly invariably evokes, a safe and supportive space where one can be heard without screaming above the din.

But to be perfectly honest, I am afraid that such a discussion would legitimize as progress certain types of discourse that fundamentally are not. What I’m talking about includes the things we’ve heard before and Wite-Magik Attax, among other derailing tactics

On a personal level, involvement is surely worthwhile—if that entails bending oneself towards listening more mindfully, engaging more mindfully. If it were me, I probably wouldn’t “enjoy” it, but I would surely appreciate it. Such are true benefits—but they seem shallow if purchased at the expense of buttressing the arguments and rhetoric of apologists for the status quo.

All in all, I suppose it’s worth the risk, in spite of my fears. If there’s an open seat, I’d love to reserve a spot. I’m curious to see what comes of it.

Like Teaching Basketball Online

Brad Warner insists “Zen cannot be taught via the Internet or on a blog.”

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t keep this blog as a way of teaching Zen. Zen cannot be taught via the Internet or on a blog. Same as you couldn’t teach someone how to play basketball via the Internet or on a blog.

Sure you could teach a lot about basketball via the Internet, its history, its major players, statistics, descriptions of playing techniques. You could even put up some helpful videos or give advice to people who emailed questions. But you couldn’t really teach basketball that way. You would need to be face-to-face in the same gymnasium. No two ways about it.

Not a Zen practitioner myself, I have no honest opinion on the Zen-to-basketball comparison. But I would say it applies to the Theravada—if you’ve never place rice in a monk’s bowl before, you might want to add a new line to your spiritual checklist.

Online Non-Sanghas

I had been planning to write about “virtual sanghas” but Dogo Barry Graham beat me to the punch. Predictably, his words are much more precise than what I would have written.

So it will probably surprise no one that I think there is no such thing as a virtual sangha. A bunch of people, one of whom may be a Dharma teacher, typing on keyboards is not a sangha.

A sangha practices together. Practice means the hard, inconvenient work of getting up and getting to the sangha meeting, sitting zazen, having dokusan, doing zazenkai and sesshin, and, day-to-day and week-to-week, working with your teacher to unravel the conditioning and core beliefs that run your life. It means engaging and interacting with the sangha, doing whatever tasks you are assigned to keep things working efficiently.

I’m not suggesting that there’s no point to blogging about your practice, or that the internet isn’t the great resource it is. But it’s no sangha substitute.