The social science literature is full of claims about the differences between men and women, blacks and whites, rich and poor, and so on. But how can we also examine similarities? This post offers a method.
Men vs. women. Blacks vs. whites. Rich vs. poor. Muslim vs. Christian. We hear a lot, in the social sciences and in the popular media, about how different various groups of people are in their preferences, traits, or behaviors. The finding of a “difference” based on empirical research is considered interesting and publishable! But it also, alas, often leads to much misunderstanding, and even invidious stereotyping.
This is because differences get a lot more attention than similarities. Because similarities are rarely reported on, we have a tendency to slide into thinking that differences are much larger than they actually are. It’s an easy slide from categorizing people under some labels—for example, drawing on people’s self-identification as “a woman,” “a man,” “white,” or “a person of color”—to thinking that traits and behaviors divide easily into the same categories. Continue reading “Index of Similarity (IS): A Tool for Breaking Down Stereotypes”
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”?”
Zen meditation practitioners encounter what is commonly called “monkey mind.” I’ve found I have (with apologies to nice Chihuahuas) a yappy Chihuahua mind.
To seek Great Heart with thinking
mind is certainly a grave mistake.
Zen meditation practitioners encounter what is commonly called “monkey mind”—our small, thinking minds that continually swing from thought to thought and from desire to desire. At a recent retreat, though, my small mind appeared with a slightly different personality. Instead of a monkey mind, I found I had (with apologies to nice Chihuahuas) a yappy Chihuahua mind. It was small, loud, persistent, and aggressive. And like many small dogs, it seemed to think it was big and tough…in utter ignorance of its actual tininess. Continue reading “Yappy Chihuahua Mind”
My dharma buddy Jeff Seul, a lawyer, and I co-wrote this article published in Trike Daily:
Is the world the problem? Or something else?
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”
Why is a veggie burger better than nirvana?
Did you hear about the Buddhist coroner who got fired? In the space for “cause of death” on the certificates she had to fill out, she kept writing in “birth.”
I’ve been musing lately about the relationship between Zen practice and humor. Continue reading “Wise. Cracks.”
About eating chocolate…and wanting the piece that is still in my hand.
In Zen, as in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, there is talk of characters who have two heads. In Adams’ book, it’s a character named Zaphod Beeblebrox. In Zen, it comes from a talk by the 9th century Chinese Master Linji:
…There are indeed so far none who have presented themselves before me all alone, all free, all unique… They are all ghostly existences, ignominious gnomes haunting the woods, elf-spirits of the wilderness….Do you think you deserve the name of ‘monk’ when you are still entertaining mistaken ideas of Zen? You are putting another head over your own! What do you lack in yourselves?
Zen teachings tell us continually that “this is it,” that there is no need to keep seeking for something beyond, for something outside of ourselves. I’ve made a practice for myself of asking “Which head am I in?” Am I in this head that rests on top of my neck, connected to my spine, my heart, and the feelings and sensations that are going on right now? Or am I feeling, thinking, and acting from the additional head I’ve constructed on top of that one? Continue reading “Another Head”
Is it possible to cultivate a sense of “enoughness” with regard to relationships?
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”
Economies have no essential nature. Once this is recognized, many more opportunities for change present themselves.
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”
Based on a talk given at Harvard Divinity School, sponsored by the Religions and the Practice of Peace Initiative, on Feb. 18, 2016.
MANY BUDDHISTS—as well as many non-Buddhists!—have raised concern and alarm about the climate crisis and other crises facing our society and our world. Clearly, we need to take urgent action. As Buddhists, we have a pressing moral obligation to do what we can to relieve the suffering of all beings on the planet, both now and in the future. Our hearts yearn to make things better.
And clearly much of the climate change disaster is caused by economic activity. If you graph carbon dioxide emissions and industrial output over a long period of time, the two graphs look pretty much identical. The development of large scale, fossil-fuel burning industries was accompanied, in Western societies, by the rise of large corporations, global markets, and a rising emphasis on consumption as a source of well-being. Great wealth has been created, but this wealth has been very unequally distributed, and has often come at the cost of environmental and social sustainability.
It’s abundantly clear that we can’t go on with “business as usual.” People and other sentient beings are already feeling the disruptive effects of a set of historical and social developments that, as a whole, have taken far too little account of the effects of our production and consumption on the rest of nature. We urgently need to change how our economies work.
But how? Continue reading “Beyond “Small is Beautiful”: Buddhism and the Economics of Climate Change”