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The Angry Buddha (September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014


The Angry Buddha

MELVIN MCLEOD on the Enlightened Power of No

Buddhas are not the love-and-light people we think they are. Of course, their enlightened mind is grounded in nirvana—total peace—but in that open space compassion spontaneously arises. It has many manifestations. One is anger.

Anger is the power of no. The enlightened mind of the buddhas is enraged against the evils of samsara and the suffering it causes. It says no to the three poisons of ignorance, attachment, and aggression that drive cyclic existence.

This is the natural reaction we all have when we see someone we love suffer—we want to stop it. The buddhas are angry about our suffering, and they will happily destroy its causes. They aren’t angry at us; they’re angry for us.

Traditionally, it is said that the buddhas’ love expresses itself in four ways. These are called skillful means, the different ways wisdom and compassion go into action to relieve suffering.

First, the buddhas can pacify, helping us to quench the flames of the three poisons. This calm and pacifying buddha is the one we’re familiar with, whose image brings a feeling of peace to millions around the world.

But sometimes more is needed.

Melvin McLeod is the editor-in-chief of the Shambhala Sun and editor of Mindful Politics and the Best Buddhist Writing series.

Read the rest of this article inside the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Obstacles on the Path (September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014


Obstacles on the Path

If there’s a rock in your path, you have to move it, go around it, or climb over it. The same is true in meditation, says SAKYONG MIPHAM. You can’t just pretend obstacles aren’t there. You have to relate to them. 

In meditation, we are on a journey from here to whatever we are trying to accomplish, be it mindfulness, peace, or compassion. We are developing the ability to have a fuller experience of our lives. But as we gain understanding and insight, there is a buildup of residue, which in Tibetan we call döns, or obstacles. An obstacle is something that cuts the line of our intention. If, while sitting in meditation with the motivation of benefiting others, we realize we are thinking about work, then obviously our intention has been cut. We are no longer on our intended journey.

The tricky thing is that we don’t always know when obstacles are arising. To detect them, we have to know our mind and our intention. The point is to be vigilant as we practice. As we settle our mind through meditation, any kind of imperfection in our character becomes stronger. With awareness, we can manifest our own genuineness about any obstacle we face. Intention is important.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s most recent book is
The Shambhala Principle: Discovering Humanity’s Hidden Treasure.

Read the rest of this article inside the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

There Is a Path that Frees Us from Suffering / Gina Sharpe profile (September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014


There is a Path that Frees Us from Suffering

Insight teacher Gina Sharpe is working to create a truly inclusive sangha. The place to start, she says, is facing the truth that even Buddhist communities aren’t free from the suffering caused by racism. A profile by ANDREA MILLER.

Buddhist teacher Gina Sharpe once asked a student why she only attended meditation retreats that were specifically for people of color.

“Gina,” the woman answered, “I’m from the South. If I’m the only black person in a room of ninety-nine white people, there’s only one thing that’s going to happen.”

“What’s that?” Sharpe asked.

Then came the woman’s answer—graphic and powerful.

“A lynching,” she said.

Looking back, Sharpe pinpoints this as the moment when she “really got it.” While the white Buddhist community may be very sweet, very well intentioned, that doesn’t change people’s visceral experience. “It was nothing I could argue with,” Sharpe explains. “It’s an emotional wound that won’t heal.”

Originally from Jamaica, Sharpe has a complex heritage—white, black, and Chinese. “I’m so assimilated that I’m more comfortable than many people of color in a white world,” she acknowledges. As a Buddhist practitioner in the Insight Meditation tradition, she never had any qualms about attending retreats that were otherwise all white, and for a long time she didn’t entirely grasp how difficult it was for many people of color. Yet the first time she led a people of color retreat, she noticed an unfamiliar feeling of relaxation.

“I didn’t realize that when I’m not in a diverse place, there’s a certain amount of unconscious tension that I carry,” she says. When she practiced with other people of color, the tension dropped away.

Read the rest of this article inside the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

On Track with Paul Newman (September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014


On Track with Paul Newman

Between blockbuster movies, car racing, and salad dressing, Paul Newman was one of the world’s most recognizable celebrities. Yet, says MICHAEL STONE, he was one of those rare people who could sit still and watch the rain fall.

I’d seen Paul Newman around the track. He wore shades, he always had his collar up, and he seemed like the wise, rebellious leader of both his team and the entire paddock. He said good morning to everyone, like a man from a time when men were elegant.

I was twenty at the time, studying philosophy at the University of British Columbia, and depressed. In the summers I ran communications and marketing for a racing-car team owned by a wealthy businessman from Toronto. Through my girlfriend, Laura, I was introduced to Paul at a dinner in Monterey, California. Laura thought I’d be able to find a job with his team.

Our first private conversation was at the Homestead racetrack in Florida. Paul was sitting in an oversized chair in his custom bus, tracing his fingers down the window as raindrops streaked the glass.

“Michael?” He stood up and reached out his hand.

“Good to meet you,” I said.

“Do you bet?”

“Not really,” I answered, looking down at his white socks and running shoes.

“Have a seat,” he said.

There was just a small table between us, and my left knee was almost touching his. He was wearing a Kmart baseball cap and white golf shirt, and it was funny to see someone his age and so admired covered in corporate logos. Feeling like I needed to say something, I stated the obvious: “It’s been raining a lot.”

“How long,” he asked, “do you think it takes for a raindrop to go from the top of the window to the bottom?” His watch was on the table. Maybe he’d been timing the raindrops as he’d been sitting here alone. Maybe he wasn’t alone much. “Pick a raindrop,” he said.

I pointed to one on the window and he pointed to another. My raindrop moved slowly down the tall, tinted window, touched another raindrop, then shot down to the windowsill. Meanwhile, Paul’s thin, old finger traced the path of his raindrop as it dripped slowly down the glass, then crossed the window toward me and finally came to a stop right in front of my knee.

“Again,” he said.

This time I chose a drop at the top of the window. It moved sideways and then stopped. It was absorbed by another droplet and then the whole area pooled, becoming one large drop, which slid down. Paul’s raindrop made a slow, straight line to the bottom of the window, and he looked over at me and smiled.

Read this complete article inside the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Is Nothing Something? (September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014


Is Nothing Something?

THICH NHAT HANH answers children’s questions.

Children have a special place in the Plum Village tradition of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. There are special practices, vows, and programs designed especially for children and teens, and Thich Nhat Hanh often fashions the first part of his dharma talks with them in mind. He regularly takes questions from children, and by and large adults can identify with what they ask. Children may be smaller and younger and they may have a funny way with words, but their questions reveal that they, like adults, are grappling with the human condition. What follows are real questions from children and Thich Nhat Hanh’s insightful answers from a new illustrated book, Is Nothing Something? “I always try to give an answer that offers the best of myself,” Thich Nhat Hanh says. “I am much older than the children who asked these questions, but when we sit and breathe together, it seems that we are the same.” —Andrea Miller

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is energy. This energy helps us enjoy what is happening right now. Mindful energy can bring us a lot of joy. It helps us suffer less and learn from our suffering. A good way to get some mindful energy is to close your eyes and breathe easily. Just pay attention to your breath. If you can enjoy your in-breath and out-breath, you are creating mindful energy.

Is nothing something?

Yes. Nothing is something. You have an idea in your head of nothing. You have an idea in your head of something. Both are things that can create either suffering or happiness.

Why do I sometimes feel lonely and that no one loves me?

Sometimes the people around you are distracted and may forget to express their love. But if you feel like no one loves you, you can always look outside at the natural world. Do you see a tree out there? That tree loves you. It offers its beauty and freshness to you and gives you oxygen so you can breathe. The Earth loves you, offering you fresh water and delicious fruit for you to eat. The world expresses its love in many ways, not just with words.

How can I love someone who likes different things than me?

To love is to discover. If you keep on loving another person, you will keep discovering wonderful things about that person. You can enjoy the differences because it would be boring if everyone were the same. Even if the other person has a quality that doesn’t seem lovable, you can practice loving that person  anyway, just as they are, and not how you wish they were.

See more inside the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

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