UU Sangha

Vol: IV Number: 3
Journal of the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship
Summer 2000

Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Identity:
A Grass Roots Investigation

Sam Trumbore

There is an ongoing debate within Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship Board as to our identity and purpose. Are we just a networking organization for Unitarian Universalists interested in Buddhism and Buddhists without Sanghas looking for like minded liberally religious folks? Is there any synthesis happening as Unitarian Universalists encounter Buddhism? Are we helping to forge a new kind of American Buddhism?

One approach to find answers to these questions is to look to the grass roots of our admittedly loose organization -- to our UUBF practice groups. In small groups across the continent these questions are being asked and provisional answers are being found. As there is yet to be created a meditation form or lineage called "Unitarian Universalist Buddhism," each group must decide what kind of Buddhism they will practice. Instructions for sitting practice vary with each tradition. Zen style Kinhin is not the same as slow walking meditation done by Vipassana students. Any chanting done will come from a specific tradition.

This spring, I surveyed the practice groups listed in the back of our journal to see how they were developing their identity. I asked questions like: How are your meetings be structured? How is the group led? Do you follow a teacher or associate with a Buddhist center? What is your relationship to Unitarian Universalism? If the group chooses to identify as Unitarian Universalist Buddhist - what does that mean? Each of our practice groups has faced these questions and come up with answers.

Fourteen groups responded to my questionnaire and provided a revealing window on the state of Unitarian Universalist Buddhism today. While there may be variant groups that are not represented in my sample, I found enough commonality to identify interesting trends and draw a few conclusions. Happily, few of the groups we've listed previously have folded and most are functioning well and growing with committed enthusiastic members who find their practice group fulfilling, meaningful and rewarding.

The groups in this survey were all started during the last decade, predominately in the last five years or less. Usually there is at least one person with significant meditation experience in each group who provides leadership and continuity. Most of the groups' leadership have roots in Japanese Zen Buddhism, Theravadan Buddhism as taught at Spirit Rock in California, the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts or the followers of U Ba Kihn/Goenka, and the teachings and writings of Thich Nhat Hahn. Even though a group might follow the practice style of one tradition, most of them draw from all these traditions for readings and teachings often mixing them together in the construction of their meetings. One important exception to this eclectic approach is the Desert Lotus Zen Sangha in Chandler, Arizona, an affiliate of the Pacific Zen Institute following the Harada/Yasutani style, led by Sensei James Ford, who is also a Unitarian Universalist minister.

Some of the other groups are also more closely connected to a particular meditation center, such as the UU Insight Sangha of Martha's Vineyard with Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts or the Black River Sangha in Springfield, Vermont with Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York. Almost all of these groups are American Buddhist organizations. Another notable exception is the UU Buddhist Meditation & Study Group in Davis,

California. This group formed with the help and support of a Sri Lankan group that later built their own temple nearby in West Sacramento.

As one might expect for a Unitarian Universalist group, there is a great deal of variety in how meetings are structured. The common element that unites them all is silent sitting meditation practice that varies in length from 10 minutes to 45 minutes. If there is more than one sitting period it may be separated by walking meditation, slow or fast. Other common elements for most practice groups are readings done before or after the meditation period and a discussion time.

Beyond the similarities, there is an interesting range of diversity of practice. Several groups recite the traditional Zen four vows and three refuges. A couple of groups recite Thich Nhat Hanh's fourteen precepts of the Order of Interbeing. A couple take the five precepts and chant the three jewels. Other traditional chants are done by a few more groups. Metta or loving kindness recitation guided meditation is used by some groups with more Theravadan influence and the Zen influenced groups will dedicate the merit of their practice to all beings. The Monterey Peninsula Mindfulness Practice Group in California sometimes has guided relaxation and "mindful movement" in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh concluding with about five minutes of "hugging meditation." The Red Rose Sangha in Lancaster Pennsylvania has a very popular mindful meal one Friday a month.

One mark of any Unitarian Universalist group is an interest in a chance to hear a presentation and talk about it. Some groups listen to a taped talk and have discussion. Others have someone do a presentation on a dharma topic. The UU Group in Vancouver, Washington has a check-in where each participant mentions something important to them about their day or week.

People become participants in these groups either because they are already Unitarian Universalists and have a Buddhist practice, are Unitarian Universalists and curious about Buddhism, or are already Buddhists and looking for a group to support their practice because they do not have a meditation center or group of their tradition close by. Most of the groups are over 50% Unitarian Universalist and bring members into the sponsoring congregation. The ones with low Unitarian Universalist participation (but not all) tend to be the ones closely connected to one particular school of practice.

Geography also works to shape the composition of the groups. David Cockrell of the Pueblo Sangha in Colorado told me they were the only Buddhist group in town so they had a broad range of traditions represented. In the Washington DC metro region there are a much larger number of UUBF practice groups and have become more specialized, yet the variation within the group is still present.

In just about all of the congregations, the practice group is respected and appreciated for what it contributes to the life of the congregation. Most of the groups are, in some way, sponsored by the congregation in which they meet, often a function of the religious services or adult education committee. Several groups include the participation of a minister. One reason for this almost universal respect and goodwill offered UUBF practice groups comes from the similarities between Unitarian Universalism and the American version of Buddhism taking root here. Skepticism, self reliance, encouragement to look to one's own experience, and eclecticism bring the two together. Three of our UU principles in particular: the inherent worth and dignity of all people; acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth; a free and responsible search for truth and meaning and respect for the interdependent web are all quite compatible with Buddhism.

Along with the compatibility between Unitarian Universalism and Buddhism, there is clearly uniqueness in these groups. Most of the groups are independent of any teacher or tradition, inside or outside the group, preferring to draw inspiration and guidance from multiple traditions. Reason and critical thinking are stressed in ways one might not find in ethnic Buddhist communities in Asia. The groups are mostly democratically run and peer led often relying on consensual decision making processes.

Unitarian Universalist appreciation of diversity shines through when reflecting on the benefits of the practice group. Even though the practice and understanding of Buddhism varies from person to person, a feeling of fellowship and spiritual support is found and valued in all of the groups. Most find the group meeting supports their own practice at home and in their lives. Gathering for silent meditation, watching the breath provides a quiet restful refuge from our busy, noisy world. The groups stimulate learning about Buddhist ethics, philosophy and psychology and offer encouragement to apply them in daily living.

Another way to understand what a practice group values is to ask what kind of advice they would offer to someone trying to form a new practice group. The survey respondents had many ideas. Probably most significant recommendation was beginning with a facilitator who is an experienced practitioner and refrains from serving in the role of a teacher. This allows for much more democratic leadership, an important principle of Unitarian Universalism. Several groups invite recognized Buddhist teachers in the community to come in as guests to speak with them but not to run the group. (Again, one notable exception to this is the Desert Lotus Zen Sangha which is led by an ordained person. Comparing and contrasting this kind of group with a lay led group would make an interesting future article.)

Organizing and establishing a regular program is beneficial to a number of groups. If possible, groups meeting once a week work well. The Desert Lotus Zen Sangha meets twice a week. Other groups only manage to meet once a month. Starting small is not a disadvantage but thinking too small can be. Just like a congregation, having enough space to sit and walk is important to support inclusion of new participants. Connecting with other UUBF practice groups can also be very beneficial, especially regionally, to organize half day and day long retreats. Longer retreats will deepen people's practice and support the bonds in the group.

Phil Gable of the Red Rose Sangha strongly advocates a communal meal integrated with practice. He writes "The meals are a great draw. Even doing them as a potluck would probably work. There's something about the combination of meditation and a communal meal that's magic."

Some groups are more evangelical than others. The Milwaukee UUBF practice group has their own brochure, web page and even advertises its activities. Email is proving to be a good way for the group members to keep in touch during the week and remind each other to practice.

Steve Seiberling of the Eno River Buddhist Community in Durham, North Carolina advises to expect that there will be disagreement within the group. He says this shouldn't be viewed as failure but rather as an important opportunity for mindfulness practice and growth. Stress should be expected because of the diversity of the Buddhist experience, connection and appreciation found in each group. Here is a more extended quote of his thinking:

I sense that UU Buddhist groups will often get to a point where they will find it necessary to consider taking responsibility for creating a form of Buddhist practice that more fully reflects our deepest values as UUs. Much of Buddhism resonates strongly with these values. However, many Buddhist traditions seem insufficiently conscious about issues such as religious authority, the importance of individual autonomy, the significance of ritual, the role of women, etc. To the extent that UU sanghas identify with a particular tradition, or really in any way seek to interpret Buddhism, I believe they will at some point encounter such issues, and need to figure out how to respond. Anticipating that the group will then need to engage in a humble, thoughtful process of critical evaluation, or risk having to compartmentalize UU values apart from some Buddhist cultural practices, seems very helpful based on my own experience.

Steve's thoughts on the nexus of Buddhism and Unitarian Universalism may be predictive of hurdles ahead for our practice groups. As the groups grow and mature and become more knowledgeable about Buddhism and experienced in the practice of meditation, the group may want to move beyond the dreams and visions of the founders of the group toward a new synthesis of our two religious traditions. Some of the group organizers will see this coming and are willing to step back, trusting the democratic process. Others will try to preserve what they have brought from their own understanding. This will become a work in process not to be avoided but engaged creatively, respectfully, caringly.

Will there evolve a lineage called Unitarian Universalist Buddhism? Time will tell. There are good arguments for and against such a blending of two religious traditions. What is exciting to see is the different directions our practice groups are going in an attempt to creatively, respectfully, caringly, bring the two together. One of my hopes for this journal is that it can be a place to support whatever development takes place next as Buddhism continues to come to the West.

As I've experienced in my practice, that nexus will be gradually revealed/discovered/awakened as we do it. It will become what it is becoming as it becomes.

Sam Trumbore is the editor of UU Sangha and minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, New York.


Dennis P. Ferrill

Make what you like of the whole millennium business; time is passing. I often find myself echoing David Byrne of the Talking Heads and asking, "How did I get here?" Itís the end of a year, some say a century and a millennium: itís the season of light in darkness and the season of hope. We need to ask ourselves, "How are we justifying our time?" "What are we doing to heal the wounds of the past and sow the seeds of hope?" Iíve told you before that I am a utopian. I believe that if we can live in harmony with the truth then we can have a world of peace and justice. I also believe that each of us is responsible for finding that truth; that this is our greatest obligation.

My good friend Daniel TwoEagles once said to me that there is one truth and there are many paths to get there. I believe this. I also believe that the pursuit of this truth is a fundamental human instinct, as natural to our lives as eating or sleeping. But like so much of our natural lives this piece has largely been lost, buried under the sea of entertainments available to our minds, bodies and spirits. I would like to talk about how to get it back.

I was originally approached to talk about Buddhism. As many of you already know, I am a practitioner of Zen Buddhism and a member of the Mountains and Rivers Order at Zen Mountain Monastery. This is the path I follow to the truth. But I canít really talk broadly about Buddhism. To be honest, I know very little about Buddhism and only a little about Zen. In fact, Iíve made an effort to avoid the kind of intellectual understanding that would allow me to stand up here and describe and explain what itís all about.

Instead of trying to understand, Iíve focused on what I call the heart practice of Zen. The kind of practice that involves your heart and as much as possible not your mind. So I can tell you about that. I can tell you about my own practice and what itís meant for my life. And more importantly I can tell you how I feel about spiritual practice in general, why I think we need it, why it may be more than what we normally think it is.

A basic tenet of Buddhism is that all things are transient. That all meetings end in partings Life is suffering, or so we perceive it, because of the cycle of birth and death, the rising and falling, appearing and disappearing of all things. That everything that comes together must ultimately come apart. Physicists call it entropy. The universe has a tendency toward disorder. Itís Sisyphus rolling the stone up hill only to see it fall away. Itís my daughter crying as she watches the seawater fill her sandcastleís moat and take down the walls only to rebuild them until she gets past her tears and makes a game of it. Itís the stars in the sky, so beautiful but each one dying in each moment. Itís you and me such extraordinary miracles of existence, but yes, each one dying in each moment.

Shunryu Suzuki, the author of Zen Mind, Beginnerís Mind said that everything is always falling, against a background of perfect harmony. It is this falling, this simultaneous dance of dying that is the First Noble Truth: Life is suffering. And it is this underlying harmony that is the exquisite face of perfection we seek in Zen.

Our feeling of the pain of suffering, exists because of desire and attachment. It is fundamental to Buddhism that we are born in perfect harmony with a perfect universe. How could it be otherwise? It is only what we build on top of this perfection that keeps us from it. Why is it that animals, at the point of death, simply go forward into it as if it were just another of their life duties, while people make a study of their anguish over impending death from the moment they first see it coming? It is because we cling desperately to ourselves and the thing we think of as our lives. We are born with nothing and from there we begin to build. We build an idea of who we are. We have the idea built for us by years of conditioning. Our parents tell us that we are smart or stupid, good or bad, attractive or unattractive. Our society tells us what we must be in order to be good enough. We should drink the right drink, drive the right car, have the right job, use the Internet, smile a lot, and vote for a democrat in Vermont and a republican in New Hampshire. There are as many varieties of the story as there are minds in the world and then some. We live for the stories we write in our minds. They become truth, reality. They stand between us and our direct experience of life so that we see only the story and not the world. In effect, we live trapped inside of our notions of ourselves.

But ultimately the stories are not real, and somewhere inside we know it. These are not the things that give our lives value. We are something more beautiful than this. And so, as these false notions lose their relevance and we begin to see through them, we see our lives as we know them washing away. Without a fundamental grounding in the truth, the reality that lies below all of this, we see ourselves being swept out to sea like the sand castle and we donít know how to make a game of it.

If we want to escape this cycle we have to find out whatís true. We have to let go of our attachment to the story and see what lies below. We have to find out why the sea taking the sand is an act of compassion, how death creates life, why harmony lies within destruction. But the letting go, the releasing of our attachments, is the hardest part. Because when we let go of our stories, we believe we are letting go of ourselves, killing ourselves. Weíre afraid to die, even if our life depends on it.

We can end attachment by living according to the Eightfold Path. It is a life devoted to cutting away the overlay of delusion and dedicated to intimate experience of each moment. To realize the harmony, the perfection and completeness of our lives, we have to let ourselves go. That is spiritual practice. To go toward truth and harmony; to cut off our delusions: two sides of a coin.

Mystics and contemplatives have, for thousands of years, dedicated their lives to merging with the absolute, to going toward truth and harmony. It has arisen in every major religion and probably in every culture regardless of the presence of established religion. Wandering ascetics, hermits in caves, cloistered monastics, poets, philosophers, countless who have no identifiable title or category. Many of you have the same urge. Some pursue it and some donít. But the instinct is there.

Wordsworth, who in his childhood lived as close to nature as any of us can imagine, wrote in his poem Lines Composed a few Miles above Tintern Abbey of revisiting the place of his childhood, and of remembering the place even in distant cities. To these memories, he writes,

I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burden of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened; -- that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on, --
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

I remember reading these lines for the first time in college. I was at CalTech studying to be a mathematician, very rational and sure of things. The lines shook me. I felt something extraordinary stirring in my heart, a kind of wonder and wondering that came out of intuition and not mind. I was embarrassed but there was no doubting the integrity of the new feeling. Ultimately I dropped the study of mathematics and earned my degree in literature because of it.

But I also suffered from a sort of cognitive dissonance. Could he really mean what he was saying here? What is this Ďblessed mood?í What is this state of suspension of the body in which we Ďbecome a living soul?í What is it to be made quiet by the power of harmony; what is it to see into the life of things? Did he really mean this stuff that sounded so improbable or was it just poetic theory rewritten into autobiography?

I couldnít deal with the dissonance so I did the only reasonable thing: I went to the Harvard Business School. This, of course was the surest way to drive me back to the pursuit of truth and reality. And I can tell you now, after years of this pursuit, that Wordsworth meant it. That there is a path toward union with what is true and real, that there is an opportunity to see into the life of things, that we can move toward this perfection, that we can see what we havenít seen before, that we can become a living soul, that we can be made quiet by the power of harmony and find harmony in the power of quiet. That the practice of seeking oneness, strange as it sounds to our late twentieth century American ears is real, full stop. There is a serenity that goes beyond what our culture can see, that cuts so deep that it has no bottom. There is a life, invisible to our anesthetized minds, that surges up around us, that enters all things, that sings with the perfect harmony of creation.

But itís not so far from our training if we could only listen more honestly. Since itís almost Christmas, Iíll quote Jesus, although it could be almost any of the saints or prophets. From the Gospel of Thomas, verse 3:

Jesus said: "if your leaders say to you, Ďlook the kingdom is in heaven,í then the birds of heaven will precede you. If they say to you, ĎIt is in the sea,í then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside you and it is outside you.

And from verse 5: Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.

And verse 22: When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, Ö then you will enter the kingdom.

And lastly, verse 94: One who seeks will find.

It is a question of intimacy. If you seek, if you look inside and outside of yourself, if you eliminate the notion of inner and outer, of separation, of self and other, if you become utterly intimate with what is in front of your face, there you will find the kingdom of god. In verse 77 of the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said: "Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."

The Zen sutra entitled Identity of Relative and Absolute contains these lines:

If you do not see the way you do not see it even as you walk on it.
When you walk the way it is not near it is not far.
If you are deluded you are Mountains and Rivers away from it.

Reality, the ground of being, is right in front of us all the time. It is inside us and outside us. To be separated by Mountains and Rivers is not to be separated at all. Just enter into the mountains and rivers and you will be there. What are we all waiting for?

But there is another side to this coin: cutting off our delusions, our concept of self. We cannot find this perfect intimacy described by Jesus and Wordsworth without first cutting through the layers of conditioning that have made our mind-world what it is. How do we do that?

Master Dogen, the great thirteenth century Zen master, in his fascicle on Spiritual Entanglements, said that we must learn to "use entanglements to cut entanglements." The entanglement we are talking about here, the obstacle to living our lives intimately with reality, is the self. So using entanglements to cut entanglements is becoming so intimate with our notion of self that we see it for what it is and release what is false in it, let it go. Dogen also wrote:

To study the way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.

Jesus said:

"When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you dwell in poverty, and you are poverty." (3.5)

But he also said:

There are many standing at the door, but those who are alone will enter the wedding chamber. (75)

To examine the self, to know the self, to go there alone, is the way to the wedding, the union with the absolute. But it isnít easy. To study the self is to forget the self. I can tell you from experience that to sit in solitary meditation for a full week, with no eye contact and no speech, interacting only with the self is a painful thing. What do we see in that dark place? We see what we are. We see anger and greed and self-pity. We see self-love and self-hatred. We see how we have defined ourselves and all of the things that we cling to. We see how difficult it is simply to be quiet, to be still and follow the breath and hear the birds outside the window. We see that we are nowhere close to freedom, to really living with clarity in the moment that is our lives.

The solution to this difficulty is clear: We must let go. Itís very simple. We must let go of each of the notions we entertain as candidates for reality and we can release them only after seeing them one at a time in simple clarity. But once we do see them for what they are we will be free of them. The process is inexorable. I can also tell you that this hurts. To let go is excruciating. Let me give you one very difficult example:

For most of my life my relationship with my father was very bad. We had no intimacy at all and I could not feel any love for him. I was also an angry person and had frequent depressions. I was aware of all of these things but could find no way around them. My relationship to him was fixed in place, held tight by the story of my life. Some months after beginning my meditation practice with intensity I began to become anxious whenever I would sit. When I wasnít at the monastery this was usually for about an hour each morning before the family was up and about. I followed my teacherís advice and just sat with the anxiety, not questioning it but just letting it be what it was. It intensified and after a while I began to have dreams at night that were also full of anxiety, in fact they were terrifying. I knew that the dreams were connected with my father but I donít know how I knew that. Each night the dreams would worsen unless I was not planning to sit in the morning in which case they didnít come. Eventually the dream feeling began to merge into the sitting. It became painful and scary. I sat anyway. I decided to engage this demon as fully as I could so when it arose I just practiced it, I lived it, I breathed it. Finally I began to feel physical pain when the feelings came up. I would sit and my skin would begin to burn and a pain would form in my throat and I would feel as if I were literally on fire. It was unbearable, but I knew that it was only mind and Iíd sat through physical pain before so I just let it go. Then, over the course of two mornings of long sittings the fire and the pain spread over my body and rose up into my mouth and over my head as if I were being utterly consumed and I broke down in total wretchedness and exhaustion. On the second morning I felt the pain burn itself out as if a house had burned down and only smoldering cinders were left. I just sat and waited for the sensation to subside and when it did I had changed. I felt a lightness I had never experienced before. I felt happy and I had no anger left. I had a new feeling for my father. For the first time in my memory I loved him. For the first time in my life, unfettered by my story, I could see him for what he truly was. I had an intense longing to be with him.

I made plane reservations for the family to go out to Seattle where my parents lived and we spent the thanksgiving holiday together. It was the best visit I had ever had with them. The children loved him and he loved them. We were sad to leave but promised to go back soon. Two months later my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and five months after that he was gone. I was able to spend five weeks by his bedside as he diminished physically. We became close and talked a lot about what weíd been through. Late in his dying my father came up against a wall. He lived with a great deal of regret about his own life and it all confronted him at once. I was there when he got to that place and together we worked it through. It was hard for both of us, but it was liberating, and the weight that my father had carried all his life was taken from his shoulders. Before that moment he hadnít eaten in two weeks. He was near death. After we talked he put his arms up to hug me, it was all he could do. I hugged him for a long time. When I let him go he said the two most beautiful sentences Iíve ever heard. The first was: "if Iíd known how good that feels Iíd have done it a lot more often." The second was: "How about a sandwich?"

So it hurts to see the self, to let go, to move on. Itís a process we donít control and we donít like. But it leads to freedom. It saves our lives. It saves other peopleís lives.

Since then Iíve had other experiences of letting go. Theyíre all different, but they all hurt and they all create a new freedom.

As Mark Strand, former poet laureate of the United States wrote in his early poem titled Darker:

I have a key
So I open the door and walk in.
It is dark and I walk in.
It is darker and I walk in.

But itís not all darkness. My life is new and is made new again with every passing year. I live now with a kind of joy I never dreamed was possible. I feel a love for people and the earth and the universe that I never imagined. To walk into a forest and see a surging up of life that fills the trees and the earth and fills me is more aliveness than I believe I deserve. To hear the birds sing and to see, to know that the song rings out forever in all directions with no limits and forward and backward in time and that in this way all things are made into one, is a new vision of mystery that brings tears to my eyes. To know my childrenís hearts with new clarity is the greatest gift a father can hope for. My meditation practice, far from being a dark place, is a place of breathtaking serenity. It is a connection with the absolute that I will never lose. And as far as Iím concerned itís only just begun.

So what does this have to do with anybody other than me? Iím not trying to sell you on Zen. By now Iíve probably got you running for the doors. But I am trying to sell you on the idea of spiritual practice. Jesus and Moses went into the desert. The Buddha practiced asceticism and then sat under the bodhi tree. What can we do? How can we move into intimacy with perfection? How can we examine our selves and cut through the delusion, the conditioning so that we can truly see the world, see others, and awaken ourselves and our compassion? There are many ways to do it, but I donít think they are easy to find in our culture. We live in a world that worships the intellect and personal gain. We believe in rugged individualism and have long since stopped believing openly in what canít be proved, have long since stopped doubting our own pre-eminence over the cosmos. But I believe we must work, we must practice, we must make the effort. There is a saying that where a student appears, a teacher arises. First we must become students, we must ask the question. The rest will take care of itself. Our instinct for the absolute is there, but it is easily overridden because it is different from our other instincts. It calls for us to tear down our idea of self, not build it up. We must be courageous.

You might well ask why I think this is so important. Because the future of the world depends on it. We live on a planet torn by conflict and injustice. People who hate are killing. People who are full of greed are taking. Look at the century we are closing. What do you see? And every day we are spending billions of dollars on campaigns to reinforce our notions of personal gain at the expense of others. Until we can see that there is no separation between ourselves and others, that anger and fear and greed are all built up in defense of an idea of self that is utterly useless and wrongheaded, we will not stop bombing and robbing and enslaving. We are all fully enlightened. We all have perfection in us. When will we see it? The point of spiritual practice is to wake up to that perfection; the point of Zen is to save the world, one person at a time.


Let me respectfully remind you,
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us must strive to awaken
Awaken -- Take heed,
Do not waste time by night or day.

Dennis P. Ferrill is a student at Zen Mountain Monastery with Daido Roshi, and a member of the Peterborough Unitarian Church in Peterborough, New Hampshire. This sermon was delivered at the Peterborough Church December 19, 1999.

A Buddhist Bibliography for UUís

(Continued from the last issue)

Theravada, including Vipassana (Insight Meditation)

Classic Texts

The Tipitaka ("The Three Baskets"), also known as the Pali Canon, includes:

The Vinaya Pitaka ("Basket of Discipline") -- monastic rules of the Buddha

The Sutta Pitaka ("Basket of Discourses") -- the sutras of the Buddha -- includes the Dhammapada

The Abhidhamma Pitaka ("Basket of Scholasticism") -- texts of disciples and scholars


Goldstein, Joseph and Jack Kornfield

Seeking The Heart Of Wisdom : The Path Of Insight Meditation. Boston : Shambhala, 1987.

An introduction to Vipassana.

Kornfield, Jack

A Path With Heart : A Guide Through The Perils And Promises Of Spiritual Life. New York. : Bantam Books, 1993.

Salzberg, Sharon

Lovingkindness : The Revolutionary Art Of Happiness. Boston : Shambhala, 1995.

Highly recommended explanation of the Buddhist meditation practice of metta (Pali for lovingkindness).

Mahayana, including Zen (Chían, Dhyana), Nichiren, and Tendai

Prajñaparamita ("Perfection of Wisdom") includes the Diamond Sutra. The Heart Sutra is a distillation of the Prajñaparamita

Lotus Sutra, particularly important in Tendai and Nichiren

Pure Land Sutra, particularly important in Pure Land Buddhism

Lankavatara-sutra, particularly important in Zen

Sutra of Hui-neng (or Platform Sutra), particularly important in Zen

Mumonkan and Hekiganroku, collections of Zen koans

Tibetan / Vajrayana / Tantric Buddhism

Lopez, Donald S., Jr.

Religions of Tibet in Practice. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1997.

A scholarly and thorough, but also accessible, introduction to the varied aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.

Chödrön, Pema

The Wisdom Of No Escape : And The Path Of Loving-Kindness. Boston : Shambhala, 1991.

Start Where You Are : A Guide To Compassionate Living. Boston : Shambhala, 1994.

Two works of the highly regarded American Buddhist nun on practice and compassion.

Classic Texts

Kanjur ("Translated Word") -- teachings of the Buddhas

Tanjur ("Translated Treatises") -- commentaries by teachers

The Tibetan Book Of The Dead

Women and Buddhism

Murcott, Susan

The First Buddhist Women : Translations And Commentaries On The Therigatha. Berkeley, Calif. : Parallax Press, 1991.

Poems of enlightenment, written by women contemporaries of the Buddha who became his followers.

Boucher, Sandy

Turning The Wheel : American Women Creating The New Buddhism. Boston : Beacon Press, 1993.

A mosaic of women teachers, scholars, nuns, and followers of the Buddhism evolving in our country.

Shaw, Miranda

Passionate Enlightenment : Women In Tantric Buddhism. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1994.

Groundbreaking research and lyrical analysis of the outspoken, independent female founders of the Tantric movement, and their role in shaping its vision of gender relations and sacred sexuality.

Women Active In Buddhism


A recommended directory of Buddhism and women, including women activists (such as Aung San Suu Kyi ), teachers, scholars, an events calendar, a substantial bibliography and descriptions of female Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Clark, Catherine Holmes

A Bibliography In Buddhism For Feminists.


A very selective list compiled by a Unitarian Universalist

Books for Children

Martin, Rafe and Manuela Soare

One Hand Clapping : Zen Stories For All Ages. New York : Rizzoli International Pub., 1995.

Landaw. Jonathan

Prince Siddhartha : The Story Of Buddha. Boston : Wisdom Publications, 1996.

Coatsworth, Elizabeth Jane

The Cat Who Went To Heaven. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1930.

Gerstein, Mordicai

The Mountains Of Tibet. New York : Harper & Row, c1987.


Lee, Sherman E.

A History Of Far Eastern Art. 5th ed. New York : Harry N. Abrams, 1994.

The classic introduction to the arts of Asia, including China, India, and Japan, from the 5000 B.C.E. to A.D. 1850. See in particular: Pt. 2. "The International Influence of Buddhist Art."

Olinsky, Frank

Buddha Book : A Meeting Of Images. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1997.

An evocative collection of images of the Buddha, from all around the world (not just Asia) and from ancient to very recent times.


Buddhism. (Flammarion iconographic guides) Paris ; New York: Flammarion, 1995.

The book for those who want to understand more about Buddhist art, including the iconography and identification of the many different deities.

Buddhist Art and Architecture from BuddhaNet


Includes canon of physical proportions for Buddha images, hand mudras, mandalas and their symbolism, thangkas, symbolism of the stupa and photos of Borobodur Temple.

Cook Books

Brown, Edward Espe

The Tassajara Bread Book. Berkeley, Shambala, 1970.

Madison, Deborah

The Greens Cook Book : Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine From The Celebrated Restaurant. New York : Bantam Books, c1987.

Two cook books that grew out the Zen community in the Bay Area.

Tonkinson, Carole

Wake Up And Cook: Kitchen Buddhism In Words And Recipes

Collection of commentaries, blessings, meditations, anecdotes, and recipes, with excerpts from Thich Nhat Hanh, Shakyamuni Buddha, Lew Welch, John Cage, and Gary Snyder.

Have a favorite book and like to write a short review? Email or write to your editor!

This bibliography is based on the recommendations of Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, Phil Chanin, Alan Leiserson and Anna Belle Leiserson.


Editorial Insights

Finding Our Roots

Surveying our UUBF practice groups has been a delight. I wish I'd had time to speak with a representative of each group in person to learn about the different dynamics of each group. I hope the analysis and conclusions will be useful to our practice groups for reflection on what each one of you is doing.

Some of the practice groups are doing things that others would appreciate reading about in more detail. Please email/mail information on unique innovations you are using and I'll include them in a future issue.

Update on GA 2000 in Nashville

With any luck, this issue will arrive in the mail before the end of spring and the beginning of UUA General Assembly in Nashville. The UU Buddhist Fellowship program is scheduled for Friday, June 23rd from 1:45pm to 3:00pm. It will take place in the Nashville East Room of the Renaissance Hotel. We will present a panel discussion led by our own James Ford. The Title is Returning to the World with Bliss-Bestowing Hands. Here is the description, written by James, of the event as it will appear in the UUA Progam: "James Ford, a Zen sensei and a UU minister, will lead a panel discussion on Buddhist practices and how they shape our lives as Unitarian Universalists. Other panelists will be the Unitarian Universalist Rev. Joel Baehr, senior practitioner of Tibetan Dzog-chen and Dorrie Seishu Senghas, long-time Zen student." Our event is tentatively scheduled for Friday, June 23rd.

As our president Dorrie Senghas noted in our last issue, we will have a table in the exhibit hall for the first time. We will need help there, and we would very much appreciate your suggestions for the table. If you can volunteer to help staff our table, please contact Dorrie at dsenghas@zoo.uvm.edu or stop by the table and volunteer your time.

Please Renew Your Membership!