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Dreaming Buddhism and Awakening

Panel Chair: Stuart Lachs | Monday, August 24, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Some Buddhist schools in the West are presented in sanitized versions. One especially salient feature of these schools is the presentation of the leader as an enlightened being beyond the understanding of the mass of humanity. This imputed enlightenment divides the world into two groups: the enlightened master and everyone else. At the same time, this elitist perspective contradicts Western conceptions of Buddhism, according to which "spirituality" implies autonomy, rationality, and freedom. So how can Westerners comply to the new world views and practices these Buddhist teachers bring with them? How can they cope with the contradictions? This panel explores several cases of cultural misunderstanding and different co-adaptation strategies. We will explore the rhetorical and practical ways in which Western students are taught a radically different conception of Buddhism, and the ways in which and the reasons why these adaptive strategies sometimes fail.

Stuart Lachs

For Whose Best Interest?

Zen master Joshu Sasaki recently died at the age of 107. Though he was considered by some to be the pre-eminent tough old style authentic Zen master in the West, by other well informed people it was known that this was not the case. Sasaki is an interesting example of a traditional Rinzai Zen master and the organization built up by him shaping a Buddhist organization in response to and in interaction with his mostly western disciples. I will show how the meeting of a charismatic traditionally trained Japanese Rinzai Zen master, with in many ways a naïve and uninformed modern western audience in search for meaning led to a unique blend of modern and traditional Buddhism. But this unique mixture in concert with Zen’s legitimating story also facilitates a world unto itself, marked by troubling behavior by both master and disciples.

Andre van der Braak

Gurus and Charisma: New perspectives on the Student-Teacher Relationship in the West

As the confluence of Eastern religions with Western modernity matures, it is becoming increasingly clear that pre-modern Asian models of the relationship between charismatic gurus and their disciples are no longer adequate in a modern, or even postmodern, Western context. This paper discusses various possibilities for new perspectives on the student-teacher relationship, based on recent developments in transpersonal psychology and object relations theory that emphasize the dialogical nature of the self.



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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)