The Discalced Dharma | Indian Religions | Religious Comparison

The Discalced Dharma

By Michael Segers Say it ain’t so, Shoeless Joe! One of my major issues as I practice/study Buddhism is sorting out the essentials from the baggage (on both sides) as I open my culture and myself to the Dharma. Of course, Christianity in the West has a lot of cultural baggage, but since the culture and the religion have pretty much developed synchronically, it is hard to unravel the two. Standing on the frontiers of Buddhism in the West, we have a rare opportunity and responsibility to decide what is what. Books propose Buddhism Without Beliefs (which we’ll deal with next term), and we’ve already considered such non-traditional concerns of contemporary Buddhism as feminism, gay rights, and ecology. We have laypeople undertaking heroic meditation unknown to cradle Buddhists, as well as whole sanghas with no interest in the devotional life that defines lay practice in many cultures. Of the Buddhist centers within a couple of hours of my home are four that I have visited, representing Thai Theravada, Chinese Mahayana, and Vajrayana, a practice from Tibet, although all the practitioners are from this country. Locale is about all they have in common, except… What are the basics of Buddhist faith and practice? Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, eleven other Tathagatas who succeeded Amitabha in the same kalpa, ten directions, nine dragons sprinkling the infant Siddhartha, eight hells, seven-limb prayer, six tusks on Samantabhadra’s mount, Five Precepts, Four Noble Truths, Three Jewels, two turtledoves, and a Buddha beneath a Bodhi Tree! Wrong tradition there: I meant Two Shoes Removed… Chinese, Thai, Tibetan, and US-American – they all remove shoes. Given that religious communities of strangers in a strange land are not only spiritual but also cultural refuges, when I visit such communities, I treat their culture with respect and shed my shoes. (According to an Internet listing, there is a “skyclad sangha” nearby, but I shall respect it from afar and keep my clothes on.) To return to that Tibetan sangha sans Tibetans, it seemed that taking off shoes was not part of the Vajra way (in chilly Tibet, do they remove their shoes?) but part of the whole repertoire of vegetarian diet, black tee shirts, and kombucha tea. Look, Ma! I’m a Buddhist! Deep bows for any vegetarian who may read this: I have respect for you, because you have dealt with an issue that many of us carnivores-by-default evade, but rejecting Mom’s pot roast or sushi can be as devastating as rejecting her religion, as some committed, conscientious herbivores have attested to me. The Buddha and the Christ walked a great deal on roads that, I guess, were not always paved. So, they and their followers had dirty shoes, and it would have been appropriate to remove them as a sign of respect. Yet, I find no record of either of them pronouncing one way or the other about shoes, neither “Thou shalt not” nor “Thus have I heard…” I get up in the morning, however, and encase each foot in its own little portable greenhouse, just right for growing Trichophyton (the athlete’s foot fungus). I step from the house to the driveway and into the car, drive to my office, where I cross the paved parking lot into the building. It is a sad awareness for me that I go some days without setting foot on unpaved earth.

482.) And yet. say goodbye to the blues. A student of mine once had an opportunity to spend some time in a household in another culture and country. At the age that joints creak when I sit on the floor.buddhistchannel. I’d have to ask for a folding chair. I’ll skip the lecture. without coming to any conclusion or I can remember informal situations in which several friends removed shoes. Calm your mind and body. God speaks from a burning bush to command that Moses remove his shoes. although my soul (which.japan-guide. In the Judeo-Christian tradition.” involving the British order not to remove shoes is considered an important point in the struggle for independence in Burma: http://www.0. put on samadhi shoes.html?0+29378.2463105.1.) The “shoe issue. on a CD titled Paramita: American Buddhist Folk Songs. By the time I remove my shoes at the end of the day. and not just because of the precepts.So.column?ctrack=2&cset=true. Walkin’ all the way to Buddhahood. Three pages of reflections about removing shoes in various cultures (mainly Japanese) begin at http://www. http://video. Just this week. Perhaps there is a reason for sitting cross-legged in meditation. and that a hand would be needed to help me rise again. Put on samadhi shoes. The first morning.1. .com/features/columnists/advice/chi1129askamynov29. there is a song called “Samadhi Shoes” (http://www. About that exercise mat covered with a sheet.0 Then. is something else going on? Is that all there is? Muslims remove their shoes before entering the mosque. she bounced downstairs barefoot. as a Buddhist. I would rather eat caviar off the shoe than drink champagne from and at least one was requested to put his shoes back on. that I would visualize a covered dish orgy.dharmaradio. Put on samadhi shoes.php?id=8. an advice columnist for the Chicago Tribune weighed in on the pros and cons of taking off one’s shoes in someone else’s home: http://www. to be told by the madrecita to bounce back upstairs and put on that it was disgusting and disrespectful for her not to have them on. I do not have) may be a filthy mess indeed.htm) with an ironic choice of imagery: He [the Buddha] put on samadhi shoes. Our teacher appears shoeless in a video. my soles are in somewhat better condition.0. (Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. “Gee. which has never gained much acceptance in the churches. but when does the fun start. sitting cross-legged on what appears to be an exercise mat covered with a bed and can I bring anything? Massage oil? Watermelon? Sheep?” (See how much baggage I carry from my southern Protestant background. I might say. and Hindus remove theirs before entering their m&total=1979&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0. but for talking… in the United States? I would find the situation off-putting. Walkin’ all the way to Buddhahood. an act repeated by the Pope and some country Baptists.

but this opportunity and this responsibility that I’ve claimed are full and heavy. as members of an allencompassing sangha. what standards can we find for determining where culture ends and Dharma begins? . with or without shoes. They should wish that all beings Fulfill the bases of spiritual powers. not the end that I originally aimed for. they indeed manifest emptiness. I’ll turn to the Avatamsaka Sutra to conclude it: When washing their feet.Would it be an example of skillful means for me to loosen my attachments and my shoelaces? On the other hand. Unhindered wherever they go. would it be an example of skillful means for others to loosen their attachments and welcome us all. When I take off my shoes. whether we are wearing flip-flops or Manolo Blahniks? The Heart Sutra teaches that it all is empty anyway. My question for our guest teacher is. My beginner’s mind brings this paper almost to an end.

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