Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Then again, aren't we all Dharma Brothers and Sisters?

                                                                                                                                                  A Dharma Brother at the Clark Co. Fair, Vancouver WA, last summer.

Last night, after sitting, I chanted for All Known and Unknown Deceased Dharma Brothers and Sisters, such as the chant is called.  I did this on behalf of someone whose death anniversary was yesterday.

That person hadn't been  Buddhist.  He  had not been, like myself,  lay ordained as a  Buddhist.  He had no Buddhist name. 

But still it seemed appropriate to chant.  It's the thought and awareness that counts.  It's not like I'd made him a Mormon posthumously or such.  It's not like that at all.

In  thinking about yesterday, especially with the confluent KPC SLAPP controversy, I wanted to discuss a tiny bit about the point above - just who is a Dharma Brother or Sister?    I posit that having wisdom, compassion, and generosity means being as welcoming and giving to those whose mere presence is associated with  rageful resentments as it does X, where X = the person you'd do anything for in a heartbeat.  In my case it might include certain individuals in the set of TSA screeners, and X might equal their equivalent in Japan, for whom you would let them cavity search you in public as they continually profusely apologized.   It might include certain individuals where I work, and X might include Dharma teachers I've known.   It might include family members who still presuppose that everyone is a Christian.  It might include all kinds of folks for whom internet discourse has been rougher than it otherwise might have been.  It might include the person whose blog boasts of all kinds of Dharma goodies and connections in either or both sets.  It might include basically everyone. 

I generally don't make a big point of my lay ordination.  Folks in my tradition would have gleaned it anyway when they click on the "about" section and see I mention that I have a Buddhist name - you generally (at least) take jukai and then get a Buddhist name in my school.   (I had it done together but it's not a prerequisite).  I don't make a big point out of this, mostly because the name or the ceremony itself isn't important; what's important is the mindful attempts to endeavor to practice the vows.  I think it would be a violation of the spirit of the vows to consider only those who have taken any kind of vows as sharers or lay Buddhists or ordained Buddhists who would be designated as Dharma Brothers and Sisters.  The ceremony and the practice is a confirmation that one already endeavors to attempt attenuation of ignorance hatred and greed.  Of course it meant a big deal to me, and still does.   But because it's such a big deal I generally don't mention it.
And so even what's her name Jetsunma whom I'd only known about a few days ago is one too. So are my conservative Christian relatives.   And so on.


Kyle Lovett said...

I have a dharma name as well, Muso, but I don't think I've ever used it on my blog or anywhere else. It was from my first teacher, but after he died, I didn't feel right about using it. I don't know why.

Mumon said...


Me, I'd still use it: it represents a part of your life. Assuming that part of your life is worth keeping in mind, I'd use the name.

Incidentally, once or twice somebody on some other forum got accusatory that I wasn't using my "real" name, but rather a pseudonym. I had to explain that Mumon was a "real" name; just not the whole thing.