Out But Not Down

We like to think that we can see more clearly than Asian Buddhists what's of genuine value in their traditions and what's simply cultural baggage—as if we didn't have cultural baggage of our own. And how do we know what's "just baggage"? A beat-up old suitcase might contain your jewelry and keys.

—Thanissaro Bhikkhu

I've become very fond of Thanissaro Bhikkhu. He's a Western white-guy turned Theravada Buddhist monk who has created some great guided meditations and Dhamma talks anyone can download free from dhammatalks.org. Theravada is interesting to me because it's a very traditional form and doesn't simply embrace some of the more superstitious Buddhist beliefs (e.g., rebirth as literal reincarnation occurring on one or more literal realms of existence), but sees these beliefs as intrinsic to the teaching (or Dhamma). Personally, I have a very hard time reconciling such notions with my own experience and a layman's nominal understandings of modern Science's best understanding of Reality as we collectively imagine it. However, it seems undeniable that we are born, we suffer, and we die. The Buddhists have developed some interesting and proven techniques for approaching this phenomenon. They're worth a listen.