Saturday, January 29, 2011


 I have always had the greatest respect and admiration for Gary Snyder, who is our iconic Buddhist American poet. In my opinion, he is the genuine article, unique, a person of pioneering courage, who is of great importance for the East-West dialogue. My respect for some of the other well-known Beats who said they were Buddhist is slightly more cautious. They were certainly pioneers, too, the first American writers to inject Buddhism into the popular consciousness at a time, the 1950s, when this country did not have the wealth of first-rate Dharma teachers and reliable translations of canonical texts that arrived over the next half a century. So for their ground-breaking effort we must thank them. But after a lifetime of studying Buddhism, and practicing on my cushion for thirty years, I think some of the Beats were not quite as rigorous and clear about what it means to live the daily life of a lay Buddhist who has taken the 10 Precepts (or vows), an upasaka or upasika, or as an ordained monk, as I might want them to be. But this is often a problem with the first wave of any new movement: it can be raw, requiring refinement; it is a first utterance that needs the dialectic of other voices and dialogue to sort out the initial mistakes or misinterpretations that may have been made.

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