A Gift of Dharma for 12.11.10

Lewis LancasterToday’s quote is from Lewis R. Lancaster, the mighty and prolific Buddhist scholar who was the first-ever recipient of the Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the groundbreaking program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a member of the faculty at the University of California-Berkeley for thirty-three years. In addition, he is the founder and director of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI), and was formerly president of my home institution University of the West. (Ask anyone at UWest, and they’ll tell you what a great guy he is — one of the nicest gentlemen you’ll meet.) This is it — from the Dharma Days calendar put together by the San Francisco Zen Center’s Dairyu Michael Wenger:

How does a Buddhist act?

Do I live like a Dharma Bum, believing in some form of renunciation and not using up the things of the world? Would I have to give up shopping…meat…sexuality?

The frustrating thing…about the Buddhist tradition is that at every level, whenever we define it, we have already lost it.

I ask myself how people can know that they are Buddhists. The one thing that all forms of Buddhism hold as their highest ideal is compassion. That seems as close to a universal answer as I can find…Buddhists, when they talk about compassion, say that if you are enlightened, you will have a deeper response to suffering. If insights do not lead to compassion, then it is not what the Buddha experienced at his enlightenment. This view makes an enormous difference.

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