By JAMES ATLAS, New York Times, June 16, 2012
纽约，美国 -我为什么在北佛蒙特（northern Vermont）州的帐篷里呢？更不用说在一个佛教禅修中心的树林里，其实还算不上是帐篷的空间里，借助手机屏幕的一点光亮阅读萨姜·米庞仁波切（Sakyong Mipham）的《把思想变成盟友》（ Turning the Mind Into an Ally）？
如果你真想听的话（借用Holden Caulfield的话），我其实在闭关。也许我应该说，我在逃避曼哈顿狂热的生活，希望能找到悉达多·乔答摩（Siddhartha Gautama，注：释迦牟尼佛）2500年前在北印度菩提树下证悟以来形成的佛教传统的平衡与和谐。
我并不渴望最后象那对佛教徒夫妇那样，去亚利桑那州闭关，结果在一个偏僻的山洞中一人死亡，另一人由于脱水差点丧命。但象我这样追求精神食粮的人却大有人在。有如此多的人报名参加这次Vermont的闭关，以致于有人不得不睡在禅堂里的折叠床上。 （我幸运地得到了一个帐篷。）Paul D. Numrich博士，一位世界宗教和宗教关系的教授，推测现在美国佛教徒的数量可能和穆斯林一样多。
许多转信佛教的信徒被托马斯·A·特威德（Thomas A. Tweed）在《美国遭遇佛教》（The American Encounter With Buddhism）一书中称为“床头柜佛教徒”（nightstand Buddhists）。他们主要是天主教徒，犹太教徒（Jews）（对，我知道，是“Juddhists”），以及信仰其他宗教的难民们，他们都在床头柜上放了一堆佩玛.秋卓（Pema Chödrön）的书。
那么，他们是谁呢？如果我斗胆创造一个词的话， 叫新佛教徒？沉溺于黑莓手机的疲惫之后寻求平息“像猴子一样躁动的内心”？那些在一个饱受财政和认同危机的国度， 一个连Jeb Bush都暗指在“走下坡路”国度里的非正式信徒？那些纽约人杂志卡通画里高举标语牌的末日论者？充满危机的时代让我们形成集体灾难性的思维模式， 这是能让宗教活动蓬勃发展的条件。
或者也许，佛教讲述了我们目前的身心困扰。安德鲁.韦尔（Andrew Weil）博士在他的新书《自发的快乐》（Spontaneous Happiness）里，建立了佛教的修行和“开发心理健康互动模型”的关系。这一关系有充分的文字记载：在美国威斯康星大学情感神经科学实验室，研究人员发现，佛教禅修练习可以改变我们的大脑结构— 我们现在从大量的临床研究知道，这进而可以改变我们的生理结构。加州大学洛杉矶分校的正念认知研究中心（Mindful Awareness Research Center）正在收集有关“基于正念的认知疗法” （mindfulness-based cognitive therapy）这一新领域的数据，用以展示这种认知疗法和被中心主任丹尼尔·西格尔博士（Dr. Daniel Siegel）称之为“第七感” （mindsight）之间的正相关关系。他的著作中提过关于开发内心世界的能力，从而“重塑我们的神经通路，促进对心理健康起关键作用的区域的生长。”
上课期间，谈到了“感受”，“慈爱”和“我们善良的本性” — 夹杂着善意的怀疑。 （一位老师在我们长时间打坐后说：“可以重新回到对物质的纠结”。）但是，这不只仅仅是观察内心。我们也讨论了个人认为被撇在脑后的问题。一位老师提醒我们：“影响这个世界的是不健康的内心 – 包括文化，环境，社会，暴力，恐怖，偏见，生态灾难，以及所有人类的痛苦。”在西藏，他指出，寺院并不孤立于周围的世界，而是起到社区中心的作用……
入世佛教在西方已有传统，对我却是一个全新的概念。艾伦·金斯堡（Allen Ginsberg）和杰克·凯鲁亚克（Jack Kerouac），在美国早期的支持者中，不只是自扫门前雪。凯鲁亚克崇拜佛驼的 《达摩流浪者》（Dharma Bums）是性革命的先驱（他们的密宗双身仪式听起来很有趣）；金斯堡和安妮·瓦尔德曼（Anne Waldman）共同创建了科罗拉多州那洛巴大学的杰克·凯鲁亚克虚实诗学院。这是美国第一所经认证的佛教风格的大学。金斯堡曾在芝加哥召开的1968年民主党全国代表大会期间通过禅坐方式对警察进行了消极示威。
在阅读大卫·L.麦克马汉(David L. McMahan) 编辑的论文集《现代世界的佛教》（Buddhism in the Modern World）时，我被作者们实用主义的口吻所震撼，他们专注于麦克马汉先生指出的“全球化，性别问题，以及佛教面对现代，科学，流行文化和国家政治的种种方式。”他们的目的是使佛教活跃。
By JAMES ATLAS, New York Times, June 16, 2012
New York, USA — WHY was I in a tent in northern Vermont? Much less a tent in the woods at a Buddhist meditation center, reading Sakyong Mipham’s “Turning the Mind Into an Ally” by the light from my smartphone?
If you really want to hear about it (to borrow a phrase from Holden Caulfield), I was on retreat. Perhaps I should say, I was in retreat, from a frenetic Manhattan life, hoping to find the balance and harmony that have formed the basis of the Buddhist tradition ever since Siddhartha Gautama discovered enlightenment around 2,500 years ago while sitting under a Bodhi tree in Northern India.
The fundamental insight of the Buddha (the Awakened One) is this: life consists of suffering, and suffering is caused by attachment to the self, which is in turn attached to the things of this world. Only by liberating ourselves from the tyranny of perpetual wanting can we be truly free.
Not that I am ready to renounce this world, or its things. “I am still expecting something exciting,” Edmund Wilson confided in his journal when he was in his mid-60s: “drinks, animated conversation, gaiety: an uninhibited exchange of ideas.” So do I. But I need a respite from those things, too.
I wasn’t eager to end like the Buddhist couple who went on a retreat in Arizona and turned up, one dead, one nearly dead from dehydration, in a remote cave. But I am far from alone in my choice of spiritual nourishment. The Vermont retreat was so oversubscribed that people slept on futons in the Shrine Room. (I was lucky to get a tent.) Dr. Paul D. Numrich, a professor of world religions and interreligious relations, conjectured that there may be as many Buddhists as Muslims in the United States by now.
Professor Numrich’s claim is startling, but statistics (some, anyway) support it: Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the United States. More Americans convert to Buddhism than to Mormonism. (Think about it, Mitt.)
Many converts are what Thomas A. Tweed, in “The American Encounter With Buddhism,” refers to as “nightstand Buddhists” — mostly Catholics, Jews (yeah, I know, “Juddhists”) and refugees from other religions who keep a stack of Pema Chödrön books beside their beds.
So who are these — dare I coin the term? — Newddhists? Burned-out BlackBerry addicts attracted to its emphasis on quieting the “monkey mind”? Casual acolytes rattled by the fiscal and identity crises of a nation that even Jeb Bush suggests is “in decline”? Placard-carrying doomsayers out of a New Yorker cartoon? Uncertain times make us susceptible to collective catastrophic thinking — the conditions in which religious movements flourish.
Or perhaps Buddhism speaks to our current mind-body obsession. Dr. Andrew Weil, in his new book, “Spontaneous Happiness,” establishes a relationship between Buddhist practice and “the developing integrative model of mental health.” This connection is well documented: at the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, researchers found that Buddhist meditation practice can change the structure of our brains — which, we now know from numerous clinical studies, can change our physiology. The Mindful Awareness Research Center at U.C.L.A. is collecting data in the new field of “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” that shows a positive correlation between the therapy and what a center co-director, Dr. Daniel Siegel, calls mindsight. He writes of developing an ability to focus on our internal world that “we can use to re-sculpt our neural pathways, stimulating the growth of areas that are crucial to mental health.”
I felt this happening during my four-day retreat. Each day, we sat for hours as bees hummed beyond the screened windows of the meditation room, a converted barn. It was hard to concentrate at first, as anyone who has tried meditating knows: it requires toleration for the repetitive, inane — often boring — thoughts that float through the self-observing consciousness. (Buddhists use the word “mindfulness” to describe this process; it sometimes felt more like mindlessness.) But after a while, when the brass bowl was struck and we settled into silence, I found myself enveloped, if only for a few moments, in the calm emptiness of no-thought. At such moments the seven-hour drive from New York seemed worth it.
During the lectures, there was talk of “feelings,” “loving kindness” and “the inherent goodness of who we are” — tempered by good-natured skepticism. (“Feel free to resume struggling with things,” a teacher concluded after a long “sitting.”) But it wasn’t all about looking inward. There was also talk of issues I thought we had left behind. “What’s affecting the world is the unhealthy state of mind — culture, environment and society,” a teacher reminded us: “violence, horror, bias, ecological catastrophe, the entire range of human pain.” In Tibet, he noted, monasteries aren’t sealed off from the life around them but function as community centers…
Engaged Buddhism — a concept new to me — has a tradition in the West. Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, among its early American proponents, didn’t just cultivate their gardens. Kerouac’s Buddha-worshiping “Dharma Bums” were precursors of the sexual revolution (their tantric “yabyum” rituals sound like fun); Ginsberg, a co-founder with Anne Waldman of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., the first accredited Buddhist-inspired college in the United States, faced down the police at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago by using meditation as an instrument of passive resistance.
Reading “Buddhism in the Modern World,” a collection of essays edited by David L. McMahan, I was struck by the pragmatic tone of the contributors, their preoccupation with what Mr. McMahan identified as “globalization, gender issues, and the ways in which Buddhism has confronted modernity, science, popular culture and national politics.” Their goal is to make Buddhism active.
As I drove out of the parking lot on the last day, ready — sort of — to return to what passes for civilization, I wondered whether I would be able to hold on to any of what I had learned — or if I even knew what I had learned, or had learned anything at all. Perhaps it was simply the lesson of acceptance — and the possibility of modest self-transformation. A teacher had said: “Don’t fix yourself up first, then go forth: the two are inseparable.” To enact, or “transmit,” change in the world, we need to begin with ourselves and “learn how to have a skillful, successful, well-organized, productive life.” That was a lot to ask from a four-day retreat, but at least it was a start.
My phone pinged. I could check it later.