2019 marks 40 years of Lion’s Roar. But instead of looking back, we’re looking forward — to Buddhism’s next 40 years.
2019 marks 40 years of continuous publishing at Lion’s Roar. We’re maturing, and Buddhism in the West is maturing too, but it’s still early days by any standard. We see a landscape rich with diverse voices, traditions, teachings, and practices; societal and individual challenges that are more urgent than ever; and evermore opportunities for Buddhism to have a positive impact.
In our 40th-anniversary year, we’re peering into the future, bringing together some of today’s finest Buddhist thinkers to hear what they think is in store, or should be, for the dharma’s next 40 years.
On this page, you can find all of the introductions and essays from the series. Read, share, and come back throughout the year for thought-provoking perspectives on the future of Buddhism.
What’s the Message?
In our first issue, we asked leading Buddhist teachers (and one astute observer of spiritual America) what they feel is the most helpful message or teaching Buddhism can offer in coming decades. As people who benefit from Buddhist practice, we have a common project: to benefit people’s lives, society, and the future of the earth. This is in fact the common project of all humanity. To it we offer the brilliance of the teachings, the power of the techniques, and whatever wisdom is in our minds and love in our hearts. To be of benefit is the basic Buddhist vow. It is the basic human vow. Let’s talk about how to fulfill it with skill and foresight.
Meet the Blue Dragon
John Tarrant shares what he feels is the most helpful message Buddhism can offer in the coming decades.
Heal the Wounds and Trauma
DaRa Williams, Devin Berry, Noliwe Alexander, and Rosetta Saunders share what they feels is the most helpful message Buddhism can offer in coming decades.
Tools to Wake Up and Grow Up
Krista Tippett shares what she feels is the most helpful message Buddhism can offer in the coming decades.
Let’s Just Call It Love
Jack Kornfield shares what he feels is the most helpful message Buddhism can offer in the coming decades.
You Already Have What You’re Looking For
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche shares what he feels is the most helpful message Buddhism can offer in the coming decades.
The Importance of Diversity
It’s easy for privileged people to think of diversity as just about appearances—how a company looks, who’s in a community, what groups are represented on stage. People who run things would like us to think of diversity that way, as kind of superficial. Because real diversity challenges power structures and puts us on the spot about who we are as human beings.
This collection of five powerful essays on diversity and Buddhism is part of our year-long series marking the fortieth anniversary of Lion’s Roar. Our theme is the next forty years of Buddhism—how it can change, deepen, and, yes, diversify in order to be of most benefit to many different people’s lives, to our society, and to the future. Benefit, after all, is Buddhism’s only goal and the standard by which it is measured.
Becoming more diverse will be as challenging and transformative for Buddhism as for the rest of society. But while each of these important essays offers a powerful, sometimes damning critique of the Buddhist status quo, each also points to the tremendous progress and benefit that real diversity will bring. It is one of the most important things we can do to make the Buddha’s teachings a reality.
Gender and Sexuality: From “Other” to Others
Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara on how to move past our discomfort and old ideas and make Buddhist communities welcoming to people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
Beyond the Upper Middle Way
Convert Buddhism has a class problem: it appeals mostly to a narrow demographic of well-off college graduates. Buddhist scholar Ann Gleig offers some class consciousness to help Buddhism drop the barriers and benefit many more people.
The Infrastructure of Inclusion
Good intentions aren’t enough. The culture of the community must make diversity a reality. Crystal Johnson on the hard work of building a culture of “radical inclusion” at East Bay Meditation Center.
Noble Black Manhood: A New Rite of Passage
Diversity is more than just representation. It’s about really meeting the needs of different communities. Pamela Ayo Yetunde suggests how Buddhism can address the mass incarceration of young black men and its terrible costs.
The Invisible Majority
The vast majority of American Buddhists are of Asian heritage, yet they are too often ignored, mispresented, and even looked down upon. Chenxing Han offers four ways we can start to heal American Buddhism.
Deepening Our Practice and Study
Buddhists focus a lot these days on spreading the dharma. We aspire to make Buddhist practices and teachings accessible and applicable in order to benefit as many people as possible. And rightly so.
But there is another, less glamorous job that is as important as widening the reach of the dharma. It is deepening the practice and study of Buddhism. That is the subject of these five essays in our fortieth anniversary series looking at key issues for Buddhism’s next forty years.
It is its profundity—the depth of its teachings and practices—that defines Buddhism. Without it, Buddhism is reduced to just another self-help system that, while helpful, only addresses the symptoms of samsara. It is deep practice and study that gives Buddhism its integrity and ensures its benefit in the future.
No matter where we are on our spiritual path, we strive to deepen our own practice and understanding. That’s one contribution we can all make. Beyond that, Buddhism in the West needs a foundation of expert teachers, meditators, and students of the dharma, and so we need to support their long-term practice and study.
That way, Buddhism will be like a great tree—its branches and leaves will spread gloriously because its roots are deep.
Why Meditation isn't Enough
We can’t just blindly meditate, says Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. Our practice must be illuminated by deep, critical study of the Buddhist teachings.
Deep Dharma for a Complex Time
Nisha R. Shah of Spirit Rock Meditation Center looks at how to support the development of the seasoned, knowledgeable practitioners that Buddhism needs. Our best guide is the three jewels.
Big Shout, Big Echo
It takes intensive meditation practice to wear away your habitual patterns and discover the enlightened nature underneath, says Barbara Rhodes.
University courses can help even committed practitioners expand their knowledge of Buddhism’s history and context, says Daijaku Judith Kinst. Academia is making a valuable contribution to the dharma, and vice versa.
To Go Beyond Words
Study and practice work together, says Judy Lief, to undermine ego. They’re the great disrupters.
I believe modern thought’s greatest contribution to Buddhism is to our understanding of the second noble truth—the causes of suffering.
According to Buddhism, the root cause of suffering is ego, our mistaken belief in a solid, separate, and continuous self, and the three poisons we use to protect it—aggression, attachment, and ignorance. We act selfishly in service to a non-existent self.
This is Buddhism’s essential, life-changing insight. By understandyaking and acting on it, we can reduce, and maybe even end, the suffering of beings. The second noble truth is the diagnosis that leads to the cure, and today our diagnosis is more accurate than ever.
Buddhism traditionally said that the cause of suffering was personal and individual. Now to the personal causes of suffering we have added the psychological and the political.
We understand how suffering and trauma are passed down within families, generation to generation. We work to break the cycle.
We see how ego and the three poisons operate on a vast scale in our political, social, and economic systems. We take action against injustice and work for a more caring society to fulfil our basic vow as Buddhists—to reduce suffering. Buddhists are political because suffering is political.
In this issue, we hear from five Buddhists on the front lines of right activism. Because in the next forty years, there’s no greater challenge facing Buddhism than the challenges facing our world.
How to Be an Ecosattva
How do bodhisattvas respond to the greatest crisis of our time? Appropriately, says Buddhist teacher and activist David Loy.
Liberation: It’s All or Nothing
None of us is free until all of us are free. In America, says rev. angel Kyodo williams, that means outer and inner liberation from white supremacy.
Don’t Just Sit There—Act
When we sit in meditation, we awaken to oneness. Then we take compassionate action. That’s what drives Andy Hoover’s work at the ACLU.
Confessions of a Marxist Buddhist
For a long time, Dorotea Mendoza hid her Marxism from her fellow Buddhists and her Buddhism from her activist comrades. Finally, as the dialecticians say, she resolved the contradiction.
We Will Come Back for You
Not so long ago their own families were held in camps like these. That’s why Japanese American Buddhists like Satsuki Ina will keep coming back until the tragedy on America’s southern border ends.
A Time of Reformation
Religions aren’t like parents: they don’t get to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Buddhism, like other religions, preaches all kinds of good things—love, wisdom, compassion. But the real teaching isn’t the preaching. It’s how we live. It’s how our communities reflect our values.
There was a time when Buddhists could think their religion was just a bit better than the others. But with Buddhist-led wars and ethnic cleansing, high-profile scandals, and honest analysis of Buddhist communities, we see that Buddhism is too often contaminated with the same chauvanism, abuses, and injustices as the rest of society.
Of course this isn’t surprising. The Buddha taught immaculate, universal realities like the four noble truths and three marks of existence. But as for the rest, Buddhism is a creation of people, and it has always evolved. It is in our hands. That’s why we have such a magnificent opportunity.
As we look ahead to Buddhism’s next forty years, what greater gift can we give to the world than to make Buddhism a model of how to live together with harmony, loving-kindness, wisdom, and justice?
To do that, Buddhism needs to reform and progress, unafraid to look at ourselves honestly and change what needs to be changed. We will benefit, and so will the world.
We won’t achieve perfection in our communities, anymore than any of us will achieve perfection personally. But more and more, step by step, we will be able to say, “Do as we do.”
Sangha Can Be the Next Buddha
Kenley Neufeld offers three ways we can rethink community and fulfill Thich Nhat Hanh’s aspiration for the Buddhist community.
Beyond Projection: Healing the Teacher–Student Relationship
Buddhist teacher and psychoanalyst Pilar Jennings looks at the psychological pitfalls teachers and students can fall into.
Women Are Not Second-Class Buddhists
Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo calls for an end to the inferior status of Buddhist nuns, and of Buddhist women generally.
Dare We Update the Dharma?
Buddhist teachings have been changing and evolving from the beginning, says scholar Roger R. Jackson. He suggests some ways they can be updated to reflect modern values and knowledge.
Buddhist teacher Trudy Goodman looks at the history and harm of sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers, and what we can do to stop it.
The Next Generation
Thich Nhat Hanh said that if you want to know the past, look at the present, because everything you see is a product of the past. And if you want to know the future, also look at the present, because the future is being created right now.
As Johnny Edward Dean Jr. says in his essay here, the future of Buddhism is now—you and I are co-creating it through the kind acts and sincere contributions we make today. But the literal truth is also true—the future is in the future. Having just celebrated my sixty-eighth birthday, I know I’m not going to be part of Buddhism’s next forty years (at least not in this body). The future belongs to young Buddhists like the five who share their thoughts, hopes, and ideals here.
I think you’ll be heartened—I know I am—when you read what they have to say. They are thoughtful, engaged, and whole-hearted in their dedication to the well-being of others, qualities I see in so many of their generation. The future of Buddhism—and the world—will be in good hands.
This is the fitting conclusion to our series. The essays, thirty in all, address some of the key challenges and opportunities that will define Buddhism going forward: message, diversity, deep practice and study, reform, and the next generation. Together, they offer an inspiring roadmap for Buddhism’s future.
We have presented this special series to celebrate Lion’s Roar’s first forty years. I hope we have many more years working together with you to benefit people’s lives, our society, and the development of Buddhism. We don’t even have to wait. Our future is now.
More Yokes for More Folks
The Buddha told a famous story about a blind turtle and a golden yoke to illustrate how rare the chance to discover the dharma is. Let’s make it less rare, says Bri Barnett, for oppressed and marginalized people.
Connecting Young People to Deep Practice
Reflecting on his experience bringing Buddhism to college campuses, Aaron Stryker says engagement, integration, and depth are three things young people are looking for.
When I Think About the Future of Buddhism
I see inclusivity, change, kindness, and community, says Tara U. I see "Namo amida butsu."
We Need More Heart
It’s not just about mind and meditation, says Ravi Mishra. To meet the needs of this time, Buddhists must take special care to develop their hearts.
The Future Is Now
The future of Buddhism will be decided by how we act right now, says Johnny Edward Dean Jr. He’s putting his faith into action on the South Side of Chicago.