Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Conference

Well, we're off to a good start at the First Annual Buddhist Conference. I had a dreadful drive in rush hour traffic out to the tiny camps of the University of the West in Rosemead--a great opportunity to remember the dharma. And, at registration, right away ran into Clyde Grossman of "Do No Harm," an organization that gives away free stuff reminding us of that most basic of all Buddhist principles. Until I traded in my old Prius for a new Prius last year, I had one of his bumper stickers on my car, and posted a picture of it on The Buddha Diaries. I was particularly chuffed because Clyde told me that he had read the entry in my blog that very morning, and that I had managed to put his own feelings about attending the conference precisely into words.

I hung with Clyde for a while, finding a shady spot from which to observe the geeks tribe assemble--over a hundred of us in all, including a good number of young people. Staved off the pangs of hunger with a handful of carrot sticks and a couple of broccoli spears, and had the good fortune to meet up with Ken McLeod, of Unfettered Mind, on the way into the lecture by Shinzen Young. A good, brief opportunity to compare paths, his leading him more than ever into writing; I interested more than ever before in teaching.

Shinzen spoke about his "happiest thought"--the idea, if I have it right, that science and religion will finally put their heads together to create an exponential growth curve in human consciousness, speeding us ever upward into a better world. As readers of The Buddha Diaries may recall from a recent entry, his thinking jibes more with my sister's than my own. I tend to be more pessimistic about human nature. I liked Shinzen's metaphor of the chicken and the egg. It's not the usual conundrum, "which came first?" Shinzen sees the chicken as the teacher, the egg's shell as the delusions of the ego that constrain the student, who pecks away from within to break out into freedom, while the mother hen helps by pecking from the outside. Outside the egg is the world of pure potential. Expanding on this metaphor, he sees not just the student, but humanity itself confined, as yet, inside the shell. The Buddha, then, is perhaps the teacher who will help us escape from the imprisonment in our delusions.

It's a nice thought. There's a good number of us pecking away as best we can, and I suppose that the Buddhist Geeks Conference, as much as anything, is about how we can make the most of the amazing technological power at our disposal to accelerate the action. But it's a tough shell to crack. I drove back home to hear the latest news about the current Washington fiasco, and I regret to say that my hopes are not so high as Shinzen's. Mindfulness and compassion seem to be in pitifully short supply still in our country--as they are, indeed, in the world beyond our borders.

1 comment:

mandt said...

Happy Birthday Peter!