Letting in Some Air

I love my sangha, Boundless Way Zen. And I have to write a difficult post about it.

open windowLet me say, first of all, that I’m not writing this out of any sense that if I were in charge, I would of course do things better. It became particularly clear to me, while I was on sesshin (weeklong silent retreat) this summer, that knowing better and doing better are two different things. Having served as chant leader in the past, I know when various bells and clappers are supposed to be sounded, and so I noticed when mistakes were made. And also, from the hard experience of having held this post in the past, I was well aware that when it’s actually my responsibility in real time to do this job, you’ll hear me, too, ringing the bell at the wrong moment. So while I feel I have to write about missteps I see being made by some in leadership positions, I am not claiming that I would do any better if I were in their shoes. I have a profound respect for the spiritual direction I have received from all the Boundless Way Zen teachers. Continue reading “Letting in Some Air”

Taking Vows, Attaining Nothing

taking vows titleTricycle.org has posted a set of four dharma talks of mine that they recorded, with this title. You can find the link at

https://tricycle.org/dharmatalks/taking-vows-attaining-nothing-a-zen-perspective-on-personal-and-social-projects/

Continue reading “Taking Vows, Attaining Nothing”

Is There a “Buddhist Economics”?

Conversations with David Loy, Clair Brown and others…

It’s been an interesting couple weeks. Buddhist scholar David Loy and I, along with Jeff Seul, engaged in an online conversation on the One Earth Sangha website about Buddhism and economics. UC Berkeley economist Clair Brown and I, meanwhile, engaged in an email conversation about her new book on the topic.

In the same couple weeks, I also find that I’ve been called a “rubbish”-writing, rent-seeking “neoliberal economist” by a Buddhist blogger.* But, lest you think I only get criticism from the left side of the political spectrum, I’ve also just recently been labeled as an impractical, hopelessly idealistic “windbag” by a well-known actual neoliberal economist.**

What is my crime, in their eyes? Continue reading “Is There a “Buddhist Economics”?”

Hard Times

Is the world the problem? Or something else?

Vases/face

How do we meet hard times? Like perhaps many others, I woke up on November 9th, the morning after the United States presidential election, thinking “I’m not living in the kind of country I thought I was.” The world suddenly appeared to me as far more harsh, more dangerous, and less reasonable than I ever would have thought.

I have been struggling with how to respond to this. While I’m still groping and muddling about, at least one thing has been clear: I’m pretty sure that responding to manifestations of greed, anger, ignorance, and fear with more greed, anger, ignorance, and fear is not going to be helpful. Continue reading “Hard Times”

Enoughness: A Reflection on the 2nd Precept

Is it possible to cultivate a sense of “enoughness” with regard to relationships?

question on index card

My teacher, Josh Bartok Roshi, gave a dharma talk at an all-day sit recently. Which I missed. (I was helping a friend move.) But although I arrived late in the afternoon, Josh shared with me a set of reflections he had handed out. These were lists of “Values based on” various precepts, vows, and liturgical pieces. One stood out for me: A meditation on the 2nd Grave Precept.

In our liturgy book, the second of the Ten Grave Precepts is worded, in its longer form, as

 Self-nature is inconceivably wondrous. In the realm of the unattainable Dharma, not having thoughts of gaining is called the Precept of Not Stealing. The self and the things of the world are just as they are. The gate of emancipation is open. Being satisfied with what I have, I vow to take up the Way of Not Stealing. (p. 48)

The corresponding entry on Josh’s handout is: Continue reading “Enoughness: A Reflection on the 2nd Precept”

Buddhism and economic transformation

Economies have no essential nature. Once this is recognized, many more opportunities for change present themselves.

golden buddha eric pouhler

Many of us, informed about world events and motivated by love and compassion, feel the need for profound economic transformation. We started long ago to question injustice, consumerism, and military-industrial ties. The growing specter of climate-change related disruptions has convinced even more people that ‘business as usual’ is not a viable option.

But what form should this transformation take, and how can we make it happen? I believe that insights from the careful study of both economics and Zen Buddhism can help us along this path—no matter what faith tradition we come from (if any).

I began studying social science, and eventually earned a PhD in Economics, because I thought these studies might help me to contribute to solving the problems of global poverty and hunger. Continue reading “Buddhism and economic transformation”