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October 19, 2009

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My sense is that it is helpful to begin with some basic understanding of Psychological-style Zen before looking into issues of absolute Mind. Tibetan Buddhism addresses individual liberation before the cultivation of bodhicitta. In fact, bodhicitta is free to arise naturally when internal attitudes mature and obstacles are removed as a result of foundational spiritual practices. Perhaps the emphasis on psychology in American Zen results from a recognition of the benefits of a creating a strong foundation (of spiritual maturity) for Mahayana teachings.

It is true that the vast majority of American Vipassana teachers are psychologists, but I note also that this strong emphasis on psychology is also encouraged by leading pop-Buddhist icons including the Dalai Lama. I don't see anything wrong with it, but notice that Western Buddhists often get puzzled when they are later told about Dharma protectors turning into dangerous evil spirits!

Popular Buddhism has always been mundane and practical. In Asia, corporations send their managers to burn incense at the temple, believing that it will increase their quarterly earnings; while in the West popular Buddhism is becoming a set of self-help techniques to reduce stress and anxiety.

Agreed. The Vipassana/Insight Meditation Movement is particularly guilty... and is having an effect on Zen in America.

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