Tag Archives: gurus

a buddhist carnival – 9th edition, part 1

welcome to the 9th edition of the buddhist carnival. it’s only been nine months? it seems like a long time, and a good long time. i always look forward to putting this carnival together.

even though there are still problems with blog carnival, we have a very nice selection of articles on buddhism this month; in fact, i will give you thoughts and excerpts of all of them. as i often do in this carnival, i will to stick to the middle way and not burden you with too many links; rather, i’ll serve up the carnival in two portions. this is the first one; you can expect the second one by next monday.

let’s start.

what is zen? who teaches it?
lately, i’ve enjoyed starting this carnival with a buddhist poem. chris from martial development was kind enough to supply one, in both his and my ongoing (and probably futile) question of what is zen, really, and is there such a thing as real zen? he quotes a ch’an (chinese zen) master in his post zen habits of master hsuan hua

the dumb transmit to the dumb,
one is teaching but neither has any idea.
the sifu goes to hell.
where will the student end up?

does a teacher need to be enlightened?
if we want a teacher to be more than “dumb” – how much does she need to know? what are the requirements? tom stine discusses the difference between enlightenment and encountering the absolute:

a teacher is not lesser because he hasn’t fully awakened. there are still many, many people who need what he or she has to offer. the grave fallacy that so many run into, which probably leads to a certain amount of difficulties, is the notion that a teacher needs to be “done” to be a teacher. but it isn’t so. all that is required is honesty with yourself and those you teach and interact with. much can be learned, much can be shared.

meditating: like a cat at the mouse hole
this, for example, can be shared (and here is an interesting thought: to what degree are these blogs that talk about buddhism our teachers?)

sarah uses the disney characters tom and jerry to illustrate how our mind likes to jump around during meditation (and even more at other times but then we usually don’t pay attention)

the swami turban on tom’s head is no accident. don’t think for one minute that i don’t loooove sitting on my sage meditation mat which looks lovely against my orange curtains and green buddha, ready for instant enlightenment right here in queens. but after following no more than three glorious breaths in and out, millions of insane thoughts come tumbling down. they are as obnoxious and adorable as jerry in those little aladdin pants! how the hell am i supposed to ignore that?! in classic over-achieving, runner sarah mode, i try to attack the problem by blocking the thoughts. but no dice. jerry’s not going anywhere.

buddhism and art
from the art of walt disney to another art form: here in vancouver, we have a new exhibition by performance artist zhang huan.

a line running through zhang’s art is his enduring relationship to buddhism. in a 1998 performance, pilgrimage”wind and water in new york, he threw himself down repeatedly on gravel-covered ground, imitating the prostrations of buddhist pilgrims, to the sounds of tibetan buddhist music.

in his shanghai studio, he has produced immense self-portrait busts using ash gathered from burnt offerings and incense in buddhist temples. he has also created huge representations of the fingers and limbs broken off buddhist statuary during china’s cultural revolution. these works function as a kind of reclamation of belief and, through it, a declaration of freedom.

(image of zhang huan by designboom)

blogathon: guru shopping

canadian mental health associationthis is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch).

to donate, email me or use this URL: www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=d2252. you should be able to get there by clicking the link;if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps. thank you!

and here’s a guest post from my friend jael

today, i thought i would go guru shopping. i thought it might be fun, and i might learn something. plus, even though i am such a quirky person, maybe there is a guru out there somewhere who would suit me. maybe even teach me. i’m not very teachable about spirituality, though. i think i know what’s best for me, and i won’t be bullied into changing my mind. so any guru trying to teach me is not in for a picnic.

a reiki master and yoga teacher i know has a picture of a guru in her space. in the picture, a head shot really, he is smiling all the way to his eyes, and he has a white beard. when i saw all the love in that picture, i thought, “even if i am stubborn, i can probably find a guru that would suit me on the internet, if any of them are anything like this guy. this guy whose name i don’t know. maybe i can even find him in one of the guru images on the net.”

first stop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/guru

no pictures of any gurus in this entry. however, the article includes a long list of gurus dating back to the 1400s and even further. a section on gurus in the west has a list of at least 20 people, some of whom were born in the mid-to-late twentieth century.

there is one who has trained in homeopathy, reiki and naturopathy. that would really suit me. we already speak some of the same language. this fellow http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/rudrabhayananda came from an affluent background, if we are to believe the information in the wikipedia article. wikipedia itself states that the article does not have enough third party references in order to be verifiable as accurate. also, additionally, the website quoted in the article was down at the time of writing. oddly enough, i am disappointed. we have lots of similar interests, but the broken webpage is a dealbreaker.

i searched through all of the other western gurus in the list, and didn’t find an image of the guy from my local reiki master’s office. there’s one man who died a few years ago who looks a bit like the picture i’m looking for, but none of his pictures are nearly as good, i mean joyful, soulful, loving.

if i want to find that picture, i need to ask my friendly neighbourhood reiki master.

the tradition of recognizing gurus crosses many cultures, mostly hindu, buddhist and sikh. wikipedia does a good job of summarizing the role of gurus in these contexts.

there are also citations from articles criticizing the whole idea of a guru. one in particular from the same wikipedia article on gurus:

in their 1993 book, the guru papers, authors diana alstadt and joel kramer reject the guru-disciple tradition because of what they see as its structural defects. these defects include the authoritarian control of the guru over the disciple, which is in their view increased by the guru’s encouragement of surrender to him. alstadt and kramer assert that gurus are likely to be hypocrites because, in order to attract and maintain followers, gurus must present themselves as purer than and superior to ordinary people and other gurus.

and how do you tell the difference between a hypocrite and the real thing on the internet? you can’t. you have to be there. the best i can hope for, guru shopping on the internet, is a link to someone in my city who is a true spiritual seeker, or “wanderer” as i like to think of us. i know many people in my immediate circle who fit that description. plus they’re accessible, free, and innocent. they have no idea that they are spiritual inspiration for me.