I was a new ager when I was 17, a hindu for half a summer while 18, started identifying as Buddhist at the end of 18, started going to a Tibetan Buddhist temple at 19, and then took refuge this year with HHST at 20!....I remember thinking about an aspect of tonglen a couple of times as a kid. If any of you people played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you'd remember the character Bastila who was adept in a special force power called battle meditation, where she could boost the morale of entire armies (the Republic) while hindering the morale for the enemy (the Sith). It made me think, "if she had all that power then why wouldn't she just take all the suffering of all the beings upon herself and make them happy? If I could do that, would I? I would!". And then a few days after, I thought about it again, "Would I still do that? I would!". And then I proceeded to live the rest of my childhood as a little punk shit.
Thank you so much for sharing stories from your childhood, Motova. Your reflections dramatically show a Westerner becoming a Buddhist. That journey has been taken by many in the West, for Buddhism holds a special attraction for us, and exposure to a community practicing Buddhism can be spellbinding, especially to the young. What I believe happens is we see the joy and happiness in those practicing Buddhism, a joy and happiness that comes from somewhere deep within the heart, soul, and mind of the practitioner. And we want that too! So we begin practicing Buddhism. We take it all in: lock, stock, and barrel. We become that which we admire.
We all know that Buddhism traveled eastward from India, settling in China, then Korea, Japan, and most of Southeast Asia. And then it traveled to the United States, also a westward movement--from Asia. What happened everywhere Buddhism took root, was it became a local practice. What I mean is that there developed a Chinese Buddhism, a Korean Buddhism, a Japanese Buddhism, etc. This process was slow and organic. I believe the same thing will happen in the United States. One day we will have an American Buddhism, not Buddhism transplanted from parts of Asia, but American, a Buddhism that reflects the history, culture, and soul of America.
How will we one day have an American Buddhism? I believe it will happen by the actions of people like you, Motova, people who take an American artifact like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and see in it an analogy for some Buddhist truth. To questions such as "Would I do that?" they would say, like you, "Would I! Would I!" They would then rewrite the story as a Buddhist, and that story would become part of the teaching tools of American Buddhism, an American way of showing the practice of tonglen, for example. We must not only translate Buddhist teachings, we must also re-envision them for the American imagination. What makes Chinese Buddhism distinct from Indian Buddhism? For one, the Chinese developed and pay homage to the very fat Happy Buddha, whereas the Indians developed and pay homage to a large collection of very slim Buddhas. So what will the American Buddha look like? More importantly, what will distinguish American Buddhism from all the others?
Ultimately, we must answer the question, "What makes an American an American?" My short answer to that question is the United States Constitution. So then we would have to explore and determine the unique insights to Buddhism which the words and spirit of the Constitution provide. What, in short, will America's contribution to Buddhism be?