Friday, March 05, 2010

Hokai Sobol - Emergent Dharma: By Any Upaya Necessary

I'm really liking the new articles being posted at Buddhist Geeks - and this one is of particular interest to me as I seek a postmodern Buddhism.

Emergent Dharma: By Any Upaya Necessary

Posted 02. Mar, 2010 by Hokai Sobol

“When in doubt, bow.”

– anonymous master

Emergent Dharma: By Any Upaya Necessary

Now we are conscious evolutionary beings, an evolving intelligence becoming aware of its own potential to go beyond present limitations. This very well applies to the way we go about Dharma. Living Dharma is about discovering the radical, indestructible, dynamic continuity, and then serving it fully, by best means available, for the benefit of everyone.

A Project for the New Buddhist Century

The days of initial immigrant Dharma are gone, but mainstream Buddhists still tend to frame a lot of their thinking in East/West terms, so the most frequently made threefold division isn’t View, Meditation, and Action, or even Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but instead it’s Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and Vipassana. Perhaps it’s due to marketplace pressure and the ubiquitous brand™ management, that influence our classifications. Or perhaps it’s an attempt to create an impossible diversity, for these three modes of the tradition have never co-existed alongside, their historical forms never touching in any manner whatsoever. What will come of them in a shared timespace remains to be seen. Meanwhile, we also have a number of Buddhisms known by their national designation, including Korean, Chinese, but also American Buddhism.

A different distinction, however, needs to be made. What we ought to discern at this point is the three horizons, invisible to classical teachings, within which all previous threefold divisions, including the Zen-Tibetan-Vipassana, can be approached, practiced and interpreted: the strongly felt but often unnamed traditional, modern, and postmodern frameworks.

Because these frameworks include worldviews, identities, values, needs, and self-evident truths, they exert huge influence on the way Dharma in any form is understood, practiced, organized, and promoted. Typically they produce fundamentalist, rationalist, and relativist approaches to every aspect of Sangha, of Dharma, and of Buddha.

In terms of historical development, traditional precedes modern which precedes postmodern. There’s an undeniable organic continuity between them. Nonetheless, because of a dialectic tension, the three are notorious for deep mutual distrust, known at large as culture war. Such behavior is somewhat tragicomical, being reminiscent of actions by three generations in a dysfunctional family. As Frederick Jackson Turner wrote, “The evolutionarily later always subsumes and includes the evolutionarily earlier.”

Whether our practice is in the Vipassana, Zen, Tibetan, or any other stream of Dharma with headquarters in either East or West, we may go about it in any of the three ways. And any of these three ways has moderate and extreme manifestations. Traditional brings many values to the table, but can also produce rigidity and dogmatism. Modern approaches will emphasize pragmatism and critical inquiry, while often sliding into rationalism and reductionism. Postmodern approaches will assert the need for sensitivity and inclusion, and yet discard the many virtues of tradition and rationality as oppressive and limiting, while unwittingly paving the way for extreme relativism.

Now, the way to go forward is to develop and sustain objectivity in relation to all these, because we need their healthy aspects to establish a robust Dharma for the 21st century. To midwife a relevant, emergent Buddhadharma, we need what’s best in traditional, modern, and postmodern stages of psychological, cultural, and institutional unfolding, in addition to the unhindered ultimate realization, however defined, measured, or tested. In the words of the Integral philosopher Ken Wilber, we must “transcend and include.” That, in short, is the basis for a new Buddhist century.
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Hokai Sobol has contributed 3 posts on Buddhist Geeks.

Hokai Sobol is a pathfinder, commited to the formulation of an authentic, no-nonsense spirituality for the 21st century. Teaching with groups and individuals, contributing actively online and offline, he is fostering the emergence and propagation of a non-sectarian, real world, 'post-eastwest' Dharma. Living in Rijeka, Croatia, with friends and partners in Europe, United States and Japan.


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