Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
The following excerpts are from a TransBuddhists interview with Caitrìona (Cait) Reed, co-founder of Five Changes and Manzanita Village Retreat – www.fivechanges.com.
The full interview by Kevin Manders is here: https://transbuddhists.org/2016/05/25/community-member-spotlightinterview-with-caitriona-reed/
My work is informed by my understanding that everyone is challenged by change, by self-imposed limitation, and by the degree they can allow themselves to feel safe in the world. A lifetime of immersion in Buddhist practice and study has certainly left its mark, though I no longer describe myself as a ‘Buddhist’ teacher. I appreciate Buddhism most of all because of its implicit capacity to dispense with itself.
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When I met Thich Nhat Hanh, I had already been teaching Vipassana for five years. We met at an interfaith retreat in Santa Barbara. I spoke to him about ‘graduating from Buddhism’. He liked the phrase, and he played off the idea for the rest of the retreat. It became a theme for my life. Then I finally ‘graduated’ from Buddhism, or perhaps I just realized that classification of that sort really doesn’t serve me.
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My curiosity, my tendency towards syncretism, towards assimilating and integrating things, was my way of graduating from Buddhism. I believe that there’s very little to ‘let go’ of, mostly it’s a question of simply seeing things in a different light. It always seemed to me that the idea of ‘letting go’, the notion of liberation, were often taught as a way of avoiding the challenges we face. We’re connected umbilically to everything that surrounds us, and to four-and-a-quarter billion year journey together. My inclination is to embrace it all.
In that spirit I am currently informed by the likes of Alfred Korzybski, Whitehead, the Marseille Tarot, Richard Bandler, the Western scientific tradition, as I am by Nargarjuna, Thich Nhat Hanh, or the Diamond Sutra.
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CR: I find that the notion of “no-self”, especially as it often presented among first generation convert Buddhist communities to be misleading. The words Anatta, or Anatman, come from a very specific cultural and philosophical context, and would be better translated as “no separate self.”
The distinction is huge, and it’s distressing that so many people are mislead by such an obvious complication of a very simple teaching. It flips everyone back into the duality it’s supposedly trying to avoid. “No separate self” means everything is connected, everything is worthy of your attention, everything matters, everything counts. This confusion promotes disassociation, which is the problem that may westerners bring with them when they first come to the Dharma. From my perspective the way ‘no-self’ is often taught is a distortion of the Dharma, and is utterly at odds with the vitality of life, and the spirit kindness and generosity that I associate with Buddhism, and especially with the Asian Buddhist communities I’ve been fortunate to experience over the years.