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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers.

"The Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers," by Donna Quesada is primarily a book that long-time teachers, new teachers and students studying for a teaching job will find helpful. I must say, however, that while there are some helpful Buddhist tips for anyone, they are fairly basic and can be found in greater depth in books that are primarily about Buddhism in general. But, for less ardent students of Buddhism, it might just be the right amount of Dharma mixed with career advice.

This book is really geared toward the teaching community, and how they can use mindfulness techniques to keep teaching fresh for both teacher and student. The book advertises itself as helpful to anyone and while that it's true, you have to read through a lot of specific advice to teachers. Still, I can see how the tips the author gives would be helpful to anyone who feels stuck in a rut with their career.

I get a lot of books and this one wasn't horrible but it wasn't great, either. I'm probably give it a 6 out of 10 rating; one being worst on that scale and ten being best.

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Getting a Buddhist Tattoo.

I've written on this subject before but seeing how it's in the news again, I figured it was time to revisit the topic:

As our ancestors emerged from the ancient mists of the Neolithic age, they carried with them a deep reverence for spirituality. It was as beneficial to their survival as their closely guarded fire. Even to their rudimentary brains, they understood that the universe around them was special, and radiated with a spiritual energy. All of nature seemed to be pulsating with a vibrant glow that echoed a timeless message of divine power. In reverence of that energy, they began marking their bodies with tattoos. These also served as messages before the time of written texts and languages. Tales of their history and spiritual beliefs were laid out upon their bodies as a sort of semi-permanent record.

It is a tradition that is carried forth by modern humans who mark their bodies to honor ancestors and their spiritual beliefs. They often carry inspirational meanings for those who wear them. Some believe that tattoos are a sign of disrespect for a body that is considered a sacred temple. However, for those who believe in the power of tattoos, they see it a bit differently; those with tattoos often agree that the body is a sacred temple, and that they are honoring that temple by adorning it with sacred and personal symbols of spiritual inspiration.

The belief by some Buddhists that tattoos are disrespectful of our bodies is odd given that Buddha spoke of not attaching too much importance upon the body due to it's impermanent nature. Despite this, some Buddhists in Thailand are decrying Buddha tattoos done in their country as insensitive; which puzzles me a bit because Buddha didn't even want his image to be used at all!! So, if getting a Buddha tattoo is disrespectful than so is adorning Buddhist temples with gilded Buddha statues (as is common in Thai Buddhist temples). The bigger lesson here, in my view, is to not get so attached to an image that we become angry, distressed or otherwise thrown into suffering over an image that is nothing but a symbol.

So, if you want a Buddha tattoo, I say, go for it. Just don't expect that tattoo to bring you long term happiness, or forever stay beautiful. Just like all things of this world, it will one day fade and completely disappear with the death of your body. I personally feel it's also important not to get a tattoo with the intention to "impress" people. Then it becomes purely about the ego. In addition, seeing it as something that protects you from suffering is a misguided view within the Buddhist teachings; as there is no magic in this world to help us avoid doing the work to over-come suffering. There are no short-cuts in samsara. No symbol, chant, ritual or prayer will take the place diligently following stepping stones of the Dharma toward ultimate liberation from suffering. No one can do the work for us. No symbol has the power to help us avoid the process of personal refinement.

A tattoo is no different than any of the helpful symbols in life; they are fingers pointing at the moon. In other words, they are helpful but only as guide posts pointing the way. The guide posts can't transform your suffering into the pure freedom of Nirvana. But, still, tattoos aren't any less disrespectful than a bird pooping on a Buddha statue in the temple garden!! Or, the ornate carvings that add to the beauty of most Buddhist temples. I don't believe that we shouldn't have a little fun in this life, either. We shouldn't take ourselves so seriously all the time.

~Peace to all Beings~

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