Today’s interview is with the Triple Gem of the virtual secular sangha, Linda Blanchard, Jan Ford, and Dana Nourie. We’ll talk about revitalization movements, and how that’s impacting us in the early stages of the development of secular buddhist practice.
Hi, everyone. Happy Vesakha! For those of you not of the buddhisty persuasion, Vesakha is the yearly celebration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. It might seem strange, that last one. Celebrating someone passing away. In Buddha’s case, this is where he is reputed to have attained final enlightenment, or Parinibbhana. This was the culmination of his work, and whether the story is myth or record, one of the messages remains:
Death is not something to be feared.
Of course, for those of us facing death ourselves, equanimity might not be so easily brought to mind. If it’s a loved one we’ve lost, we do feel that bitter sting of suffering, of wishing that person were still with us, well, and happy. But that’s not how it works. We all die, it’s inevitable. And we can struggle and rail against it, but it will come nonetheless.
The Buddha, and many others throughout history, have shown us that death doesn’t have to be just about that suffering, that loss. That’s going to be there, we don’t need to feed it. We can, however, hard as it may be, also feel joy at this time.
My step-mom just died, two days ago. Since I was a little boy, she was very much my second mom. She taught me to dance 1-2-3, how to laugh heartily, and showed a skeptical kid that his dad’s new wife darn well could stand on *her* head, too! She loved us, unconditionally, with a heart of great compassion that her tiny frame seemed too small to hold.
But it did. And I was very, very lucky to have been loved by her, and to have been able to love her back. So, as it is when our loved ones must leave us, we can seek out, and hopefully find, that expansive warmth of their heart for the rest of our own lives. And, if we live those lives well, truly well…
… then that love will keep growing to the others around us, and around them. We just need to practice it. And that, to me, is what this practice is. Keeping it going. Expanding our minds and hearts to be lighter than they would otherwise be, to energize that growing in ourselves and others.
Thanks, mom. I love you.
And now, onto our regularly scheduled programming! This week we bring back our virtual skeptical buddhist Triple Gem, and talk about Revitalization Movements. So sit back, relax, and have a… Tequila Sunrise would be nice, but since I’m not on a tropical beach, I’m going to go with a big ol’ glass of orange juice.
Linda Blanchard founded the Skeptical Buddhists’ Sangha in Second Life in 2007 to get her questions about Buddhism answered, and there discovered friends and community, along with a better understanding of the dharma. She is currently, very slowly, learning Pali, the language of the oldest Buddhist literature.
Jan Ford teaches Sociology, Anthropology and Tai Chi Ch’uan at Santa Barbara City College and was a member of the Executive Board of the SBCC Instructors Association for the last few years. He has also taught at the University of Washington, Cal-State, Los Angeles and Antioch University.
He is celebrating his 51st year as a martial arts practitioner. He specializes in Chinese Arts, particularly Hung Ga Kuen, and now Tai Chi, but has also taught GoJu Ryu Karate, Thai Boxing and various grappling arts. Jan was well known as a fighting and kata competitor in the California tournament circuit for many years, and, at one time was ranked at the top of both classifications.
For many years he earned his living as the owner of Ford’s Martial Arts in Santa Barbara, but has also owned a bar, published a martial arts magazine, a community newspaper and was a community organizer. He also was a VD investigator for the US Public Health Service and drove a taxi.
Dana started her exploration of Buddhism in 2004 when she crushed her foot and a friend recommended Googling mindfulness. It may have been her friend’s way of telling her to watch what the hell she’s doing, but it brought up her discovery of Buddhism.
From there she took a course locally in Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, but became disenchanted with the rituals, prayers, and what seemed like very religious nonsense, and quit the course. She then explored Zen and Theravada Buddhism, and took a short course on the English translation of the Pali Canon. It was at this time she discovered the Skeptical Buddhist group in Second Life, the way they scrutinized the teachings, and based much of their attitude on Stephan Batchelor’s book Buddhism Without Beliefs.
She ended up dropping from the local sanghas as they are all based on a specific tradition, and instead Dana has stuck with the core teachings and a critical mind.
Dana does not label herself a Buddhist, though she does practice Buddha’s teachings and associates with Secular Buddhists. She feels that Buddhism should not be connected to any cultural or religious ties per say, and doesn’t care for the way some cultures have introduced superstitions and rituals, some stuff that is very “unbuddhist”.
“I would advocate for a definition of enlightenment that encompasses optimal psychological functioning. And that acknowledges that the majority of optimal psychological functioning is the quality of our relationships with others. The other parts being the quality of our intrapsychic relationships and the quality of our relationship with our environment.” — Will Davidson, The Secular Buddhist Facebook fan page, April 2nd, 2010.
- Anthony F.C. Wallace — Revitalization Movements
- FaceBook — The Secular Buddhist
- FaceBook — Skeptical Buddhists
- Second Life
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
- J/P Haitian Relief Organization
- Feed My Starving Children
- Universal Life Church
Category: The Secular Buddhist Podcast