at Webster University, Hua Hin
I am writing from Webster University in Hua Hin right now. We are having a couple of classes here on Engaged Buddhism with this really nice and knowledgable guy named Ted Mayer. He is an anthropologist who has a lot of experience with, and interest in, Buddhism and Thai culture. He has a really neat perspective on things. He compared Buddhism to a big mountain scape. It is really immense, and you may have a very good idea of what the picture looks like from the foothills. But then you start to climb and the landscape changes, and you see new aspects of the original thing. You continually gain new perspectives on the land. Maybe one day you finally reach the top, and you have seen all of the different perspectives, or at least many and many of them. So from the outset, we start out in Buddhism (or really anything I would contend) with certain assumptions and ideas. Then we study a subject or we experience more of it, and we see new ideas, and realize that our original way of thinking about this subject is just one small facet of it. I thought this was a really great metaphor. Sticking with the metaphor, there are infinite paths you can take from the base of a mountain to the top. This is true in the literal sense, and in the metaphorical sense here. Buddhism is very fond of this idea. There are many ways to enlightenment. We talked about how Ascetism and Engaged Buddhism are two very different paths, but they both definitely strive to reach the same point. I thought that was an interesting and important thing to point out about engaged buddhism, because at first glance it may appear more secular than ordinary Buddhism. It may seem like it is more a humanistic social path than a personal religious path. In reality it is both. This is a fact of great interest to me, and somehow feels very poignant to my own existance. I will have to think about this idea quite a bit.