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How to be a 21st-century Buddhist

How to be a 21st-century Buddhist

In these interviews, recorded by a team from, Venerable Thubten Chodron answers questions about her life and what it means to be a Buddhist in the 21st century.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama talks about this a lot, because he wants us to be 21st century Buddhists.

Some of the things that he mentions are learning about other Buddhist traditions, learning about science, dialoguing with science, communication with other religions, and more inter-religious dialogue, social service, and benefiting society directly. And although he didn’t add this explicitly, if I can speak for him or maybe I just speak for myself, I think gender equality is something that is very important for 21st century Buddhism.

Finding examples to illustrate the teachings that are relevant to our contemporary culture, in whatever country we live in, so it’s going to be different for different countries. Because just to read the Tibetan texts, sometimes the examples, the stories, they don’t really click with us, we don’t get the point of them. So having other stories and examples I think would be very helpful.

Also, within Buddhism there are different ways to teach the Dharma, and different orders in which you can teach the topics.

For Western Buddhists, in regards to the lam rim sequence, and His Holiness agrees, and this is why we’re doing the series of books called “The Library of Wisdom and Compassion,” for Westerners, and His Holiness said also for the Tibetan youth who have a modern education, they need a lot of other background material before getting into the traditional lam rim structure.

And even within the traditional structure, there can be certain ways of adjusting it so that it is more suitable for people of contemporary culture. So we’re not changing the teachings, but maybe changing the order. Because in certain cultures, certain points are easy to understand. In another culture, those same points are more difficult to understand, so it may be better to put those more difficult points later, and put something else earlier.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.

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