Dharma Bum Jeff on: "Buddhism in America"

The San Diego Philosophy Forum is pleased to announce that Buddhism Instructor, Dharma Bum Jeff, will speak on "Buddhism in America."

This event, open to the public, will take place 6:30-8:00 PM, Tuesday, July 23 at the North University Public Library: 8820 Judicial Dr. (near the 805 highway's Nobel Exit); Lib.

Light refreshments available. More information, if any, will be posted, as available, to SDPhil.org. 

Dharma Bum Jeff is an Instructor at the "Dharma Bum Temple”, San Diego's home for the study and practice of Buddhism in America. The Temple does not advocate one particular school of Buddhism.  Its mission is simply to be "a bridge for Western people to enter into a Buddhist practice. When one enters the stream of Buddhism, it can be confusing; so we help make it simple".

Jeff's teaching focuses on Buddhism's Four Noble Truths, its Eightfold Path, and its Six Paramitas. Additionally, he believes that "to speak about Buddhism is not enough... one must practice these basic Buddhist principle, and that, through diligent practice, one will begin to realize the cause of one's suffering, thus moving beyond suffering, into Nirvana[1].”

In 2005, two young westerners met in a Zen monastery in Taiwan where they shared a vision of a place in America that people could learn Buddhism and practice meditation, but feel comfortable in their own culture. By the end of 2006, the present Dharma Bum Temple was opened in a 1920's building in old Chinatown.

Their accomplishment was named the "Dharma Bum Center”.  The three founders all "thought Buddhism was cool, and practiced, studied, lived and worked around Buddhism." They also shared a love of Buddhism, Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac, and had romantic fantasies about being a monk or traveling the world in Buddhist monasteries.  As they put it: "we knew our karma had us born here in the USA, and so this is where we began our path of "propagating the dharma".

"We [each] had very traditional views about Buddhism, but also saw, historically, that as Buddhism [enters a new culture], it adapts to that new culture. [Therefore,] We had no sign, no flag, charged no money and to this day, the neighbors don’t even know we are here. People find us and when they do, it seems to be a special place. We had our official opening New Years Eve heading into 2007. There was tea and sake and many joyous people.”

“That year, we hosted many dharma teachers, all with their own style and presentation of Buddhism. What we wanted was simply a way for westerners to feel comfortable learning about Buddhism.”

“[P]eople arrive here ... seeking the wisdom and compassion that Buddhism teaches. They come here as people who suffer from the stress and anxiety that is caused by the reaction to the human condition. [And,] it is our belief that to talk about Buddhism is not enough, [that] Buddhism must be put into action in every day life. We liked Kerouac [enough to call] it the Dharma Bum Center..., but a Temple is not a place to drink, smoke and [Kerouac-style] talk mindlessly about Buddhism. [So, we differ from Kerouac's book in that our] temple is a place where with a clear mind, one sits in meditation and then is surrounded by [a community of dedicated seekers] who encourage each other support each other to practice Buddhism. So, we practice…. The Dharma Bum Temple is a home and place of refuge for all who enter. It is supported by the community and respected as a place grounded in legitimate practice... There is the practice of all forms of Buddhism here, but behind each practice is the ultimate teacher, Siddhartha Gautama, the Original Dharma Bum…" [2]

The name "Dharma Bums" comes from a 1958 novel by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. The semi-fictional accounts in the novel are based upon events that occurred years after the events of his more famous novel, "On the Road”.  The main characters are the narrator Ray Smith, based on Kerouac, and Japhy Ryder, based on the poet and essayist Gary Snyder, who was instrumental in Kerouac's introduction to Buddhism in the mid-1950s. The book largely concerns duality in Kerouac's life and ideals, examining the relationship that the outdoors and hitchhiking through the West had with his "city life" of jazz clubs, poetry readings, and [hedonistic] parties.

Some reviewers criticized "Dharma Bums" for being spiritually crude and lacking seriousness. Ruth Fuller Sasaki found it a good portrait of Snyder, but thought Kerouac knew nothing about Buddhism. She wrote to Snyder, "[Kerouac's] Buddhism is the most garbled and mistaken I have read in many a day ... I think everyone grants [his] sensitivity of reaction and his ability to vividly write those reactions. I found the first mountain climbing episode quite exciting. But as a novelist he shows no talent whatsoever and no imagination".  Alan Watts discounted it as "Beat Zen": "a shade too self-conscious, too subjective, and too strident to have the flavor of Zen”.

Snyder wrote Kerouac, however, that "Dharma Bums is a beautiful book, and I am amazed and touched that you should say so many nice things about me because that period was for me really a great process of learning from you...." but confided to Philip Whalen, "I do wish Jack had taken more trouble to smooth out dialogues, etc...." And, later, Snyder chided Kerouac for the book's "misogynistic interpretation of Buddhism. [3]”

[1] thedharmabums.org
[3] Wikipedia, July, 2013
[2]Loosely Based on "Dharma Bum History" (Oct 2, 2008)
The Dharma Bum Temple is located at 541 Second Avenue, Downtown, thedharmabums.org

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  • Andrew

    Mr. Jeff asked me to pass this along...
    Hi Andrew:

    I deeply enjoyed last night it was a lot of fun!...I know I covered enough information for probably 6 weeks of courses, and yet we only touched the surface on all of them...Please share the message with the group that I am grateful for their time and attention...I also should have left more time for questions...It would be my pleasure and honor to come back, just let me know when you think is a good time...Please feel free to pass on my information if people want to reach out...I lead the classes at Buddha for You on Tuesday nights at 7pm and Saturday at 11am if they ever want to attend...

    Thanks again my friend for all your help! I look forward to staying in touch and seeing you all soon...


    1 · August 12, 2013

  • Debbie A.

    Thank you for the treats!

    July 23, 2013

    • Andrew

      Thank Arthur Mitchell and Janice Mohseni!

      August 11, 2013

  • James C.

    Surprisingly, a Buddhist guy "in America" didn't have much difficulty talking to philosophers. A very good talk.

    July 24, 2013

  • Andrew

    Engaging dynamic and knowledgeable. Wished Q&A was longer though. Hope he speaks again.

    July 23, 2013

  • Debbie A.

    I'm really a maybe, but want so much to attend this!

    1 · July 10, 2013

    • Andrew

      I think he regularly teaches at the Temple, so you could catch him there if it's too much?

      July 10, 2013

  • Brent

    I will be out of town and I'll see you next time.

    July 10, 2013

    • Andrew

      Will miss your keen comments.

      July 10, 2013

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