Tricycle magazine has an excellent article entitled “From Monastery to Marketplace” that explores the ways in which the term “mindfulness” is being used to sell soap, books, and apps — to name only a few.
The author, Jeff Wilson, ultimately argues that what is being sold is a particular type of lifestyle — one that requires its own material accoutrements (new clothes, eco-friendly shampoos, maybe a Prius) and perhaps some self-branding as well.
I hope to write more about the increased presence of mindfulness in contemporary culture in the months ahead. (In the interim, I’m just trying to get through the opening weeks of school!) Some of this increased prominence may be for good — such as mindfulness programs in schools and prisons — and some of it may be less so.
Thich Nhat Hanh with Martin Luther King, Jr. (approx. 1966)
Below is Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation of the Metta Sutta. This text plays an important role in Buddhist practice and is chanted daily in a range of languages throughout the Buddhist world. It took on additional importance for me two weeks ago.Continue reading →
Some reflections on what I teach — and what I don’t.
Contemporary Buddhist nuns.
Last year was my first time back in a Religious Studies classroom after two years away. As I returned to the classroom, I began to think more about the range of voices in a religious tradition, and the ways in which some of them (especially the voices of women) were not featured as prominently as they could have been in my courses.
One reason for this, I now realize, dealt with definition. How do I, as the teacher – and thus, the learning-materials-selector – define the discipline? Take the example of one course I have taught, Asian Religions. What does Asian Religions mean? The way that I define and understand this term will have significant implications for the texts/art/films/etc. that I choose – and by extension, the texts that I leave out. Continue reading →
Check it out! I’ll definitely be using this in my introductory classes next year. He makes clear and accessible points about the internal diversity of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, reincarnation, the process of going for refuge, and the Buddhist teachings on personal identity and selflessness.
When I was working with my sixth graders, I wanted to give them a way to think through and understand the idea of dukkha. The Four Noble Truths do not make much sense if this central idea is not grasped, but I wasn’t quite sure how to make this idea accessible to them without either bludgeoning them with the truth (impermanence, death, loss, pain, etc. — not very appropriate developmentally) or skipping over it entirely.
It was at this point that I remembered once hearing Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a contemporary Tibetan Buddhist teacher, speak about “that skinny man from England with the big lips who teaches the Lam Rim [Stages of the Buddhist Path to Awakening].” This was the way in!