Sunday, October 18, 2009

Points to ponder on Pema Chodron's book

There is an important point I would like to share here on the book review I did on Pema Chodron's book - The Place that Scare You. The story about the experience of the young woman and what Pema Chodron described as bodhicitta, elicited a response from someone. She wrote to me to say that her interpretation of bodhicitta is incorrect. She was comparing that one paragraph I wrote to her understanding of bodhicitta as stated in the Lam Rim texts. On the face of it, with just that one paragraph of that short story by Pema Chodron in my blogpost, it does seem that the definition of bodhicitta is incorrect. To her, it was more of a feeling of Equinimity; not Bodhicitta.

Upon reading the paragraphs of Pema Chodron's book before that particular story and the paragraphs afte that, it became clear, that Pema Chodron's understanding of what is bodhicitta is faultless. Instead the fault lies in the person who thought that it was wrong because she jumped to conclusions without first reading the story in the context of the book. In this person is a senior Buddhist. See what Pema Chodron said by "heightened neurosis"!! Many times the more learned we are, the more neurotic we become.

It also stresses one point I have known, i.e. different persons perceive differently on the same dharma message. That's why one person was able to achieve enlightenment and another do not, even though both of them receive the same teaching from the same teacher. When I read that story it was clear that the young woman did have compassion on those who jeered her. It was not only equinimity. Yes, she may not have expressed her wish for enlightenment but what is 'enlightenment'? And ask yourself, how can someone who had expressing such a deep connection to everyone not wish to be liberated from all these jeering? And if you know who Chogyam Trungpa was, you will know that this was a teacher that was unconventional in his dharma delivery methods. He was not a textbook dharma teacher. At the end of the day, he wants you to be able to interprete and understand the dharma in the context of our everyday life. Quoting text book answers without real understanding was clearly not adequate.

Anyway I do think that that American woman in the story was most probably not even a Buddhist. Being a renown teacher in the West, Pema Chodron have many Western fans who are not yet formal Buddhists. Pema Chodron was merely using a story and illustrating an important buddhist concept to both buddhist and non-buddhist in a way both could understand in the context of the Middle Eastern conflicts and deep hatred between Palestinians, Jews and Americans.

This person who wrote to me wanted to take out the story (because to her, the bodhicitta interpretation was wrong) before she would share it with others. She also changed the "Chogyam Trungpa lineage" to "Kagyu" lineage. To me, yes, Pema Chodron is a Kagyu lineage teacher but she was also a Nyingma teacher to many, since her master - Chogyam Trungpa was a teacher under both lineages. To me the word "Kagyu" lineage doesnot convey the entire scope of the fact that she was in Chogyam Trungpa line of teachers. Furthermore, I think when we do a book review, it is important for the person not to "curry-flabour" it with our own intepretation or our own lineage's understanding... especially if the author is from another lineage. If we are going to "curry-flavour" it, we might as well not read the book...or for that matter, reading anything. The thing is, I want to present the author's point of view; and if I donot agree, I need to say so in the book review. But I should not edit it in such a way that it presents differently than what the author originally wrote in his/her book. Hence I also refuse to let her edit what I wrote (and in the process distort Pema Chodron's point of view) and publish it in her newsletter.

I hope my readers would take note of this even when reading my posts in this blog.

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