These two oxymoron’s may seem to make no sense, to be internally inconsistent. And yet they are at the heart of living a fully human, spiritual life.
For much of my practice, the emphasis has been, had to be, to learn to see things as being just the way they are, that it’s all ok, that I will be ok regardless what life throws my way because I have returned home and will always return home to my true Buddha nature. To view myself and the world around me directly, with dispassion, free of labels, free of the intervention of my ego-mind.It has been about gaining the wisdom of acceptance. For there is no ending of suffering without acceptance.
I have achieved that state and it has been a source of peace to me and great comfort. I have also learned to take joy in each passing moment regardless what is happening, by being aware of the light, nature, all that I am grateful for, the gift of being alive.
But I have been aware that although I feel very strongly about the work that I do, I do not experience joy in it.And last night when I was reading a book titled The Map about manifesting, I realized why. Because something inside me said that my work was not going to amount to anything in that my books wouldn’t sell, my life coaching business would to take off, etc,; I would not make any money because I was no one, I had no name recognition.
I also realized that I feared that if I did put emotional energy into my work that I would become attached to it and I would once again be subject to the disappointment and frustration that is part of our samsara. I would no longer to able to view my work with dispassion; to say, “If it happens, great; if it doesn’t, that’s ok too.”I believed those oxymorons were inherently inconsistent.
These two things worked in combination to hold me back and deprive me of taking joy in what I do, in what is important to me, each day.In meditating one recent morning, I was aware that there was a time when I took great joy in what I did, that I believed not only that it had value but that people would find value in it. And so I pursued and achieved goals that most people said were unrealistic.
But one day I sent my first book to an agent, who was the agent of a well-respected NPR personality with whom I had a mutual friend. That agent told me, after reading my book, that no one would be interested in what I had to say because I was no one, I had no name.
I was devastated, but I persevered. I sent the book to a well-respected journalist, a cold call, who gave me a strong endorsement. And so I continued to pursue my dream, but nothing came of it.
And so it has been with everything I’ve done since then. What that agent said to me turned out to be my experience. Why this difference from my former life and efforts?According to The Map the reason is that I absorbed that negativity and it became one of my false core beliefs. Somehow this pronouncement by a total stranger, but someone with authority, was enough to change how I viewed myself and my prospects. I did all the right things to have success, I went through all the motions, but the inner conviction, the faith, was no longer there. That was the energy I was sending out to the universe, and that was what I received in return.
And so today I have started a new day, fresh. I have started affirmations regarding my belief in my projects succeeding, being valued by others. I am endowing my efforts with excitement; I can feel the books selling, the requests for life coaching coming in, and my financial situation being restored.
But back to the title of this post. While I am investing this kind of energy in my work again, I remain not attached; I can honestly say, if it works, great; if it doesn’t, that’s ok too.I have faith in my work, but I also view it’s success with dispassion.
But beware: it would be very easy to slip into being attached. Your non-attachment and acceptance must be firmly rooted.
I recently watched a spiritual video on YouTube that was all about rejoicing, praising the Lord, being grateful for being alive and all the good things in your life, past, present, or future. The video was by a charismatic Christian and I was originally put off by the display; it was over the top. I couldn’t relate to it. But after listening to Sister Sharon (Firm Foundation Radio Ministry) for a while, I realized that she was expressing her true faith, her connection with God. She had incredible energy and it was wonderful to be in her presence.
There has been nothing in my practice that even approximates the energy that she had. And I realized something. To successfully counter the influence of the ego-mind and all the emotions we have in response to the things we experience consistently, it would be extremely helpful to have that energy, that joy as part of our being, our spiritual life.
I certainly couldn’t see myself doing what she did. But I tried reaching back into my background to find something that had a similar energy, in a prayer-like setting, that I would therefore be able to do and feel natural doing it.
In one of my meditation images, I visualize me joining hands with my true Buddha self (the toddler) and my unborn Buddha mind on the “other shore” and dancing a joyful Jewish dance I learned as a child/adolescent. As I was searching for something in my past, that experience came to mind, and specifically one song we would sing as we danced the Hora – Hava Nagila. It certainly had the right energy,And when I looked up the lyrics, found that they translated as (which I never knew), “Rejoice and be happy, sing and be happy, awake my brothers and be happy.”I couldn’t have found anything more appropriate.
And so now, at the end of my morning meditation, before I get off my cushion, I sing Hava Nagila. What a wonderful way to start my day. And come back to it throughout the day. I also have connected with Sister Sharon’s energy numerous times. A real blessing.
When you are in this space, you are able to experience the benefits of faith being one with mind and mind being one with faith. Here there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today, there is only the present moment. This is the only reality; all else is thought.
And when you are in this space, there isn’t a felt need to manifest anything because you are filled with joy and gratitude and faith. But it you do manifest, it will be coming from a pure place; your heart not your ego-mind.
Actually, one morning recently when I woke up, the words of Hava Nagila instantly came to mind, and I couldn’t believe what popped out of my mouth next, “I manifest abundance and know that I will want for nothing.”It felt totally natural coming from within me. And as a manifest should be, it was totally undefined, unspecific. What that abundance will entail, how it will come about, what “I will want for nothing” means – it could mean that I have so much money that I can have anything I want or it could just as well mean that I will be in a spiritual place where my wants are modest or nonexistent.
And this manifest, as compared to other manifests, did not provoke any push back from my ego-mind, at least not initially. It did later in the day, questioning how I could achieve abundance financially given my circumstances. It took me out of my energized space and slapped me down. Only the next morning when I meditated was I aware of what had happened and said “no” to my ego mind and returned to my heart, my faith, and to Sister Sharon’s energy.
One of the fears that all of us have is being alone– particularly in an irreversible existential sense. So for instance, we fret that if our enjoyed one passes away, and we have no close household, that we will be alone, not simply in the sense of not having somebody to provide assistance, particularly in aging, however not having anybody to speak to, to share one’s sensations with.
When I was at Shambhala when, somebody asked the instructor what to do when whatever breaks down. The instructor stated that your self, your real Buddha self, will talk to you and state, “You are not alone. I am here to help you. “
Since I do think that I have a real Buddha self within me, I believed just recently why not develop a relationship with my self?Why await catastrophe to strike?Why wait till you desire assistance from your real self?
In your self, you genuinely have a pal. And a pal who will constantly exist. I never ever had a fictional pal as a kid, as many kids appear to do. Despite the reality that I was frantically in requirement of pals, that I understood that I was not liked by lots of, I think I did not even have the creativity that some fictional individual might be my continuous buddy and pal. Or maybe I was simply doing not have in creativity, which I believe was more the case.
But that is the past. Although today I feel that I still have little creativity in that notice. So this will be a genuine difficulty, to develop a relationship in between my real Buddha self (the avatar of which is me as a young child) and me.
Interestingly, this belongs to one of the ideas I had when I reworded my youth story. In that narrative I developed a fictional pal to keep me business and play when I was left alone in the evening.
How do I develop a relationship with my real Buddha self? A relationship suggests that you experience and share things with each other. And so I have actually begun talking to my real Buddha self, sharing my observations, whether of nature, individuals, whatever, and my sensations with him.
And what I am finding is that due to the fact that I am speaking with a young kid, a young child, my interaction is filled with the happiness and marvel and energy that you would interact when speaking with a kid; really various from speaking with a grownup. And so I am in impact experiencing things now through the eyes of that innocent kid.
In so doing, I am raising myself from the ordinary, strained aircraft through which we usually experience daily life and rather am seeing things through the eyes, the aircraft of my Buddha self, my magnificent essence. This is genuinely providing myself happiness, experiencing happiness.
At some point, my real Buddha self will share its observations and ideas with me. Although the possibility is strong that he currently does this, however I am not mindful that he is the source of my own observations. Indeed, if these observations originate from my heart and not my ego- mind, then they would be originating from him.
In that occasion, a huge part of the relationship currently exists. What it stays for me to do is interact frequently with my real Buddha self. Make him an existence by my side at all times. That is my intent. I will manifest the existence of my real Buddha self at my side at all times.
“Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes.” — Günter Grass 1
Fair warning. This post is long and tends to ramble, but I think it is worth the read.
One year ago, almost to the day, Shambhala Publications published and distributed a book of poetry by Matty Weingast entitled The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns. The Amazon blurb for the book describes how Weingast has “reimagined” the poems of the Therīgāthā (Verses of the Elder Nuns), poems composed by the first Buddhist nuns about 2500 years ago.
I have taken inspiration from and enjoyed the poetry of the Therīgāthā for years. Like most readers, I am in awe of Subhā’s dramatic story rendered in roughly thirty verses (read here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/thig/thig.14.01.than.html ). 2 That said, at this stage of my life I resonate more with verses about aging by Ambapali (read here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/thig/thig.13.01.than.html). The verses of this collection narrate Buddhist experiences as lived by women in harsh, patriarchal times. They represent lived Buddhism. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu’s translations linked herein are respectful of the original verses and cognizant of their context. I also appreciate Charles Hallisey’s 2015 translation that you can find on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Therigatha-Poems-Buddhist-Classical-Library/dp/0674427734/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=therigatha+charles+hallisey&qid=1613138212&s=books&sr=1-2
The contextual importance of the poems of the Therīgāthā, originally written in Pāli, cannot be overstated. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu describes the Therīgāthā as the “earliest extant text depicting women’s spiritual experiences” because some of the poems date back to the late 6th century BCE. And these poems are considered sacred text by Buddhists. The 73 poems in 16 chapters are part of the Pāli Canon and can be found in the Khuddaka Nikāya section of the Sutta Piṭaka. In fact, you can read them in Pāli and in translation by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu on the Access to Insight website here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/thig/index.html When you do read them, receive them respectfully, in their specific cultural and historical contexts. For as I aim to reveal in this post, approach matters.
What was the context of Weingast’s reimagining? What does this reimagining entail? Not translation, apparently. Weingast has noted that he cannot translate Pāli. He read translated versions of the poems and reimagined their essential meanings while he was practicing meditation and living with a group of Buddhist nuns. This situation does not constitute a replication of the context out of which the Therīgāthā was written. So how does a white American male begin to think that reimagining poems originally written by the first female Buddhist nuns living in an ancient culture in what is now southern Nepal/northern India is a good idea? And how does a Buddhist publication house like Shambhala support this reimagining?
The copyright page of Weingast’s book shows that the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data lists him as the translator, which formally categorizes the book as a translation. Under “Subjects” is clearly written: “Buddhist poetry – translations into English” and “Pali poetry – translations into English.” In effect, even though Weingast’s poetry is described as a “reimagining”, Shambhala is marketing this book as a translation.
I first learned about these translation transgressions from Twitter tweets, but Bodhipaksa of Fake Buddha Quotes states that Buddhist nun Ayya Sudhamma was the first to bring the issue to light last November in a discussion forum post on Sutta Central (link here: https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/from-lioness-roars-to-purrs-a-review-of-the-first-free-women-by-matty-weingast-therigatha/17940 )
In a later post on the website Fake Buddha Quotes, in an effort to more clearly explicate the situation, Bodhipaksa compares, word for word, Weingast’s reimagining of a poem by the nun Nanduttarā against a seminal translation of the same poem by K.R. Norman. In Weingast’s reimagining, Nanduttarā is unenlightened, still afflicted by sexual longings of a past promiscuous life, and trying to talk herself into staying on the Buddhist path. In Norman’s translation, Nanduttarā mentions nothing about a sex life, juxtaposes her past polytheistic ritual behaviours against her current path, and highlights the peace of mind from snuffing out all desire that is a hallmark of her enlightened state. Bodhipaksa asks of Weingast’s reimagining: “Is this a “free translation”? No. A translation doesn’t have to represent the original word for word, but it should at least communicate the meaning of the original” (link here: https://fakebuddhaquotes.com/the-first-free-women-as-literary-fraud/). Weingast’s transformation of the poem has changed the meaning of it altogether. The poem has been decontextualized and detraditionalized, rendering the important juxtaposition of religious behaviours moot. Further, there is no inference of Buddhist principles in Weingast’s version which desacralizes Nanduttarā’s poem. All of this amounts to demythologization on a meta narrative scale.
An Tran, whose short story anthology Meditations on the Mother Tongue was reviewed in 2017 on the Buddhist Fiction Blog wrote a great piece chronicling the critiques and defenses of Weingast’s poems. 3 He summarized the poetic scandal thusly: “Weingast’s poems bear little to no resemblance to the poems of the Elder Nuns. They often strip away concepts like rebirth, karma, and spiritual attainments, replacing these key Buddhist doctrines with distortions derived from Buddhist modernism, the post-colonial revisionist movement originating in the 19th century, which sought to re-imagine Buddhism in the guise of rationalist philosophy and romantic humanism (a more appealing approach in the West).” Tran does an excellent job of tracing this literary scandal and perfectly critiques the text. Please do read his online article at Lit Hub to get a better sense of how disingenuous is this text and its marketing.
Consequentially, Weingast spent time in interviews and on podcasts explaining his method and obfuscating the distinction between his concept of reimagining the poems from the publisher’s categorization of the work as a translation. And then, after many communications of concern from Buddhist practitioners and scholars alike, on 1 February 2021, Shambhala issued a note about The First Free Women, stating that it was not their intention to mislead readers about the generic disposition of the book. They are reissuing the work with a different sub-title and under different meta-data for categorization. But there was no true admission of wrongdoing.
If you have made it this far into this post, you may be asking why I’m writing about poetry on a fiction blog. I’m writing about poetry because, in this case, perhaps it should be categorized and marketed as fiction, or at the very least, poetry in response to readings of the Therīgāthā, but definitely not Buddhist. Fiction as we know it is Buddhist when it represents and inscribes Buddhist principles into the literature of any language. More often than not, these principles are represented intertextually. That is, there is a narrative thread of Buddhist sacred text or traditional story that drives the fictional plot. And fiction itself, at its best, opens a third space for grappling with life, suffering, intersecting cultures and religious adaptations. There is truth in fiction, but it is not real. Thus we approach reading fiction differently than the way we approach reading a sacred text. We suspend our disbelief for fiction so as to allow the imagery and symbolism to inform our imaginations and glean insight from and through the experiences of characters unlike ourselves. We approach sacred text like the Therīgāthā very differently. We mine sacred text for truth. This is why undertaking translation requires an exhausting goal of veracity to the original, so that, as Grass said, the language and reader are transformed, yet (and I dare say because) the meaning has not changed.
How should a reader approach this text? My first answer is, really, not at all. But if I had to assign this in a Buddhist literature class, I would ask students to read with a view to give examples of demythologization derived from decontextualization, detraditionalization, and desacralization. I would ask them to compare the different forms of patriarchy revealed in good translations of the poems of the elder nuns versus Weingast’s work and expect to hear of contemporary entitlement, sexism, and erasure. And I would ask them if, as An Tran suggests in his Lit Hub article, the Shambhala tome is a sign of the decline of the dharma.
1. Grass G. Archipelago Books. 2012. Available from: http://archipelagobooks.tumblr.com/post/28908475284/translation-is-that-which-transforms-everything-so.
2. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff) (2015) Poems of the Elders, p. 3. Available from: https://www.scribd.com/document/375978299/Poems-of-the-Elders-An-Anthology-from-the-Therag%C4%81th%C4%81-and-Ther%C4%ABg%C4%81th%C4%81 or read the Therīgāthā on Access to Insight here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/thig/index.html
3. “How a Poetry Collection Masquerading as Buddhist Scripture Nearly Duped the Literary World” by An Tran, 3 February 2021 https: //lithub.com/how-a-poetry-collection-masquerading-as-buddhist-scripture-nearly-duped-the-literary-world/?fbclid=IwAR0Cc1TEoi-rRAODtihfFoSPwsMeoUwilc6q8Gi83kimuUK5MDTd-yiU95U
Buddhism in Dialogue with Contemporary Societies 20-22 June 2018 Museum für Völkerkunde, Gro ßer Hörsaal, Hamburg
The continuous encounter in between Buddhism and contemporary Western societies has actually currently left a long lasting mark on both celebrations, as takes place in any open dialogue. Arriving in the “West”, Buddhism has actually been challenged with the worths of European knowledge and human rights, articulated within the paradigms of Judeo-Christian culture. Buddhism has actually frequently been referred to as a sort of approach and way of life. Buddhist voices have actually signed up with conversations of nonreligious worths, Buddhist- motivated mindfulness practices are permeating restorative fields, while Buddhist neighborhoods have actually acquired fans drew in to what they view as a more logical and “less religious” faith. Yet Buddhism plainly makes up a profoundly varied system of beliefs and practices that are themselves in the procedure of large internal modifications in action to brand-new social truths.
To check out these dialogical procedures, this International and Interdisciplinary Conference “Buddhism in Dialogue with Contemporary Societies” unites 20 scholars of Buddhism and senior Buddhist instructors from the 3 mainstream customs of Buddhism, i.e. Therav āda, East Asian (consisting of Zen), andTibetan Buddhism They will resolve such concerns as:
What can Buddhist idea and practice add to today’s world?
How, and just how much, can or should Buddhism adjust in order to make those contributions in brand-new contexts?
What, if any, must be thought about to be core mentors or practices that can not undergo modification or adjustment?
What methods have Buddhist neighborhoods established to safeguard core mentors while reacting to quickly altering technological, social, and product conditions?
To make sure an effective scholastic result of the conference, the very first 2 and a half days will be devoted primarily to listening to the discussions on 5 panels followed by an extensive exchange with the speakers, participants, and professors. In the afternoon of the 3rd day, initial outcomes will be summed up and gone over with the interested specialist audience (amongst them practicing Buddhists and instructors of Buddhism) in addition to college student. Language: English; German translation if needed.
The leaflet with the complete program can be downloaded here.
The online registration is readily available here.
For all abstracts please see here.
About Jovan Maud
I’m a speaker in the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology at Georg-August University, Göttingen,Germany Interests consist of: multinational spiritual networks, popular faith in Thailand, spiritual tourist and commodification, and digital sociology.
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