The Jew in the Lotus - Commentary by Peter Myers; my comments are shown {thus}. Date September 4, 2001; update January 1, 2005.

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This book records a frank encounter between religious Jews and Tibetan Buddhists at the Dalai Lama's temple-monastery, at Dharamsala, India. Whilst many interesting features of Tibetan Buddhism are revealed, the Jewish disclosures are particularly important because, in the West, Jews are more closed, feeling unable to reveal their true thoughts and feelings. As an ex-Catholic, I found points of similarity with the Judaism thus revealed, but 2000 years of divergence also showed up as quite amazing differences. Christians might think that it's the Jews who've departed from their past, but I'm more inclined to think that the divergence has been done mainly by the Christians.

Christianity, in a sense, fused Buddhism and Judaism 2000 years ago. For an introduction to this topic, see The Religion of the Orient, by Martin Larson (also published as The Story of Christian Origins). Today, among some Jews, another fusion between Judaism and Buddhism is under way.

A closeness, even warmth, is shown in this book, between the Jewish and Buddhist participants. Why, then, are relations between Jews and Christians so frigid? I think it's because Christians keep clinging to their Jewish past. They should recognise that Christianity, whilst it developed among Jews as an ethnic group, was an entirely new religion: in effect, they should have severed themselves from the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible), stopped claiming to be the True Jews, and let the Jews be the Jews. If this were done, there would be no reason for continued animosity between Christians and Jews.

The conflict between Judaism and Islam is also a product of their closeness. Both spread by crusades (holy wars), both create relatively equal societies ruled by a theocracy (unlike caste-based societies, which entrench inequality), both create a single uniform value-system (whereas caste-based systems allow the lower castes to maintain separate traditions). Judaism and Islam could co-exist, except for the Dome of the Rock (at Al Aqsa mosque). If Jews could find another place to put their temple (for example, on an adjacent site), there might be peace in the Middle East.

Rodger Kamenetz, The Jew in the Lotus: A POET'S REDISCOVERY OF JEWISH IDENTITY IN BUDDHIST INDIA (HarperSanFrancisco, New York 1994):

{p. 6} I am a grandchild of immigrants, Jews with the luck to get to America soon after the pogroms opened the long twentieth-century European Jew-killing season. So I had no rational reason to feel uncomfortable in the Frankfurt airport. Surely these good German citizens would wish me no harm. Why hold a grudge with ghosts? Yet, despite my ongoing turbulence about my Jewish identity, my discomfort was visceral. German posters, German language, German people made me nervous, and I wanted very much to find the other members of my group. I wanted to be with other Jews.

That's when I saw the Torah. In a crowd of German students, a tall man held it to his chest like a father clutching a chubby toddler. He was balding, with a fringe of wild hair and a thin goatee. With his wire-rimmed glasses and blue serge jacket, he looked like a cafe revolutionary. He was, in fact, Paul MendesFlohr, a distinguished professor of Modern Hebrew Thought at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

What surprised me was my surge of joy upon seeing Paul's Torah. It wasn't particularly pretty. It wasn't even familiar-looking. This was a Torah in a tin case, used by the Sephardi Jews of southern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and meant to be read standing upright on a table. The case was decorated with an uninspired orange floral pattern. Yet it drew me and not just me. From all corners of that vast waiting room, our entire party gathered around it. A Jewish mystic would have understood the Torah's magnetism. For the kabbalah teaches that the Jewish soul is composed of many brilliant sparks. I like the idea of a sparkling, multifaceted soul, with bright bits of reincarnated rabbinic sages jostling around with earthier types, nightclub owners, and peasants. In a way, the Jewish soul is like an airport concourse, crowded with competing sparks of life. And in that German concourse, even for a rather secular jumble of sparks like me, a Torah still has strong powers of attraction. As Paul explained later, the Torah had been purchased in Tel Aviv that morning as a gift for the Dalai Lama. It was a printed replica, actually, not a real scroll, but that didn't matter. From the start of our

{p. 7} journey it served many purposes. Symbolically, of course, we Jews were bringing our Torah - our wisdom - to Dharamsala. But at a far more visceral level, during a sometimes difficult journey through India, the Torah acted as a magnet, keeping the sparks of our Jewish souls aligned and, some believed, keeping our Jewish bodies safe. That morning in Frankfurt, as we gathered around the Torah, I felt myself to be an unlikely candidate for this journey. I had hardly ever been what one could call a spiritual seeker. I was deeply interested in Jewishness - as culture and history. But I wasn't looking to Judaism - the religion - for answers to the deepest problems in my life. I presumed that the participants in this dialogue would have strong religious commitments. I would be standing outside of that.

As for Tibetan Buddhism, I considered myself too stubbornly loyal a Jew to go shopping. I'd never been much for gurus. Were it not for the efforts of an old friend, Dr. Marc Lieberman, it would never have occurred to me to seek spiritual wisdom from a Dalai Lama. Marc, a San Francisco ophthalmologist, was the first person to ever describe himself to me as a JUBU - a Jewish Buddhist. I've since learned that he is one among many, in a long line that goes back at least one hundred years.

The history of the spread of Buddhism to the West is complex and includes many different strands and influences, ranging from the impact of early translations of Buddhist texts on Emerson and the Transcendentalists to the nineteenth- and twentieth-century immigration of Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian Buddhists. Charles Prebish, a scholar and JUBU himself, has written of two distinct American Buddhisms. One consists primarily of traditional, conservative Asian-American Buddhist groups, which, like other ethnic groups, have brought their religion from the old country. The other, distinctively Western, Buddhism is both more innovative and less stable and draws primarily on non-Asian Americans.

In the past twenty years, JUBUs have played a significant and disproportionate role in the development of this second form of American Buddhism. Various surveys show Jewish participation in such groups ranging from 6 percent to 30 percent. This is up to twelve times the Jewish proportion of the American population, which is 2 1/2 percent.

{i.e. 2.5%; at that 30% level, the 97.5% of non-Jews would be contributing 70% of Buddhist participants, with a ratio of 16.7 in the participation rates. 2000 years earlier, Jews were also absorbing Eastern religions: the Essenes and Gnostics show a Buddhist parentage. Will the new JUBUs split from Judaism as those earlier ones did?}

In these same twenty years, American Jews have founded Buddhist

{p. 8} meditation centers and acted as administrators, publishers, translators, and interpreters. They have been particularly prominent teachers and publicizers.

The very first Westerner to take refuge in the Buddha on American soil was a Jew, Charles Strauss. He dramatically proclaimed himself a Buddhist at a public lecture that followed the World Conference on Religions in 1893. Strauss set a pattern for American JUBUs by becoming an author and leading expositor of Buddhism in the West.

Similarly, a more recent phase of American Buddhism owes much of its impetus to the beat generation of writers in the 1950s, who were led by a self-proclaimed "Buddhist Jew." Allen Ginsberg's openness, and his role as a very public personality, made his personal quest for wisdom influential, even paradigmatic, for a generation. Buddhist references are sprinkled throughout his poetry, but he did not become a serious practitioner until the 1970s. He remains a committed Buddhist, as the title of his most recent biography, Dharma Lion, indicates. {But has he ever publicly renounced his earlier nihilism?}

In a much more quiet, but perhaps deeper way, other Jews have been very important Buddhist teachers. In the early 1970s, four Jewish practitioners of Vipassana meditation - Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Jacqueline Schwartz, and Sharon Salzberg - returned from their studies in India and Thailand to found the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, which is today one of the most successful Buddhist teaching institutions in America. Goldstein and Kornfield have also collaborated on very popular books on basic meditation technique.

When a big surge began in the mid- 1970s, Joseph Goldstein told me, "a strong predominance of Jewish people took an active, leading role. I came back from India in 1974 and that year Naropa Institute first started a big summer program - like a spiritual Woodstock. That's when I first started teaching. That was a seminal year."

The Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, was founded by the late Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan teacher from the kagyu tradition. That tradition is not strictly monastic, and Trungpa became controversial for teaching a "crazy wisdom" that allegedly justified his own public drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, and violence. But perhaps in part because of his wildness, Trungpa could reach large numbers of disaffected young people who were, as Allen Ginsberg told me, "coming off the flower

{p. 9} power accumulation of trips of the sixties." Many were Jews, and Trungpa used to joke that his students formed the Oy Vay school of Buddhism.

A number of Trungpa's intimates were Jews who moved high up in the hierarchy of Vajradhatu, the Buddhist community in Boulder. David Rome served as his personal secretary. Robin Kornman, now a professor of Buddhist studies and a translator, was also in the inner circle. Sam Bercholz founded Shambhala Books, the first major publisher of Tibetan Buddhist works in this country. Others, like Nathan Katz, who came to Naropa to study Tibetan language, became scholars of Buddhism and translators of Tibetan texts. Today in American universities there is an impressive roster of Buddhist scholars with Jewish backgrounds, perhaps up to 30 percent of the total faculty in Buddhist Studies. Among them are Anne Klein of Rice University, Stanley Weinstein at Yale, Alex Wayman and Matthew Kapstein at Columbia, Charles Prebish and Steve Heine of Penn State, and many more.

The big star at Naropa that Woodstock summer of 1974 was a teacher of Hinduism, Ram Dass, a.k.a. Richard Alpert, yet another Jew. He told me in an interview that the percentage of Jews involved in the early boom phase of Buddhism was "inordinate" and "outlandish." He said, "I can give you nine explanations that are glib, but I don't think I can get hold of it." I could think of a number of reasons myself, none entirely satisfying. Where I came from, leaving Judaism for another religion seemed like a big betrayal.

{p. 12} Tibetans and Jews shared a similar sense of humor. When the Dalai Lama was presented with a tallis, in return he handed his guests the traditional gift of a silk katak. "I give you a scarf and you give me a scarf," he joked, and as the session ended, he walked away with another gift, a shofar, tucked into his robes. Though Marc later referred to it as a "crash course in Judaism 101," the initial encounter got great press, especially when, just a week after, the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize for 1989. Now the Nathan Cummings Foundation offered to support the major dialogue in Dharamsala that Lieberman had been dreaming of for two years.

Not everyone in the Jewish community applauded the news. An influential New York Jewish newspaper ran a sarcastic headline about the session, "Dillying with the Dalai." In the article, the two Orthodox participants, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and his wife, Dr. Blu Greenberg, were attacked for consorting with idol worshipers.

But even in liberal denominations the received idea is that all Eastern religions are "cults." Many assimilated Jews were horrified in the late sixties and seventies when charismatic leaders such as Ram Dass, a Jewish Hindu, or Allen Ginsberg, a Jewish Buddhist, led many other Jews out of the fold. Moonie, Hare Krishna, or Buddhist - what's the difference? They all ran together into every Jewish mother's nightmare - walking into a shopping mall and finding her boychik - or daughter - with a shaved head and a saffron robe, shaking a tambourine and chanting. To some in the Jewish community, Dr. Marc Lieberman personified the danger. His mother was active in Baltimore's Jewish affairs, his late uncle Morris had been a prominent Reform rabbi, and his brother Elias had followed in his uncle's footsteps. What had happened to this quintessential "nice Jewish boy," and a doctor yet? When the question of his background came up in the Jewish press after the first session with the Dalai Lama, Marc described himself with a mixed metaphor. "I have Jewish roots and Buddhist wings."

{p.13} I knew what Marc meant by wings: Buddhism had gotten him somewhere spiritually in a way Judaism never had. In the years since he'd begun meditating, he seemed to have become calmer, less neurotic, more at ease.

I also knew what he meant by roots. We both came from very intense, extended Jewish families - with all the obligations and neuroses that implies. I knew we shared some of the same Jewish finicks, the same paranoias. We'd been raised in the era after the Holocaust with an intense consciousness of Jewish suffering. We both knew the long history of anti-Semitism. Yet in our lives we had met few signs of discrimination. We'd gone to the finest schools; all doors had been opened to us. ...

My big question was - could he maintain loyalty in both directions? Roots and wings? For the time being, at least, he had gotten all of us off the ground. He'd worked tirelessly for two years writing grant proposals and in the months preceding the trip had handled all the niggling details involved in transporting scholars, journalists, and a few extra family members to Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh three hundred miles north of Delhi.

Given my basic orientation, I was surprised when he sent me a preliminary announcement. He'd scribbled on the cover letter, "Join me for yak butter tea in Dharamsala?" I called him immediately. He was serious and invited me to come along as an observer and to write about the results. I promised to be annoyingly accurate. Now, four months later, while I tested my first Hindu dinner of the trip somewhere over the Kush, Marc stood in the aisle halfway between the flight attendant and Rabbi Greenberg. The stewardess was holding a tray of food, but the rabbi wasn't having any. The flight kitchen, based in Delhi, had translated the kosher meal the Greenbergs had requested as Brahmin vegetarian. The meal was rice,

{p. 14 } peas, potatoes, dal, and an excruciatingly sour Indian pickle chutney. Conceivably kosher - if only one knew how it was cooked, what oils and vessels were used. But of course there was no way for the Greenbergs to be certain. Kosher? Not Kosher? Brahmin? Chutney? Who knew? Dr. Lieberman tried to reassure Rabbi Greenberg that Brahmin vegetarian was glatter than glatt kosher. But in the end, the rabbi and his wife left their meals uneaten. I saw Lieberman stretched between two worlds, Orthodox Jewish and Hindu, his kosher roots straining and his Eastern wings flapping. ...

But he hadn't lost his visionary gleam. When he first pitched the dialogue to me, it was always in very lofty terms, a dream of Buddhist monks and Jewish rabbis, lamas and sages, meeting with mutual respect and sharing their wisdom. Clearly it meant much to him personally as well. The unthinking Jewish reaction - the received idea - about Jews like Marc is powerfully negative. Apostates. Converts. The words were ugly.

But he had never cut his roots to Judaism. And for just that reason, they still fed back a strong current of pain. Unlike some JUBUs, Marc kept a foot in both worlds. That impressed me. He mentioned that when he discussed the dialogue in the vihara, his Buddhist teacher in England remarked that of all his students, those from a Jewish background had the most difficulty letting go of their previous attachments.

I wondered too about this persistence of Jewish interest among people who had spent years in a lotus posture scouring their consciousness with Buddhist meditation. (I wondered about the persistence of my own interest sometimes.) JUBUs like Marc could not be done with their Jewishness even though their contacts with the Jewish world, and particularly family, were sometimes difficult emotionally.

Maybe a Jewish Buddhist dialogue could help heal the division between Jews and JUBUs. Maybe it could heal a division within JUBUs themselves.

{p. 19} Moshe Waldoks was also affected by the surroundings. "You come to India," he told me when I returned from our mini-tour, "you really feel how small we are. The Dalai Lama represents six million Tibetan Buddhists, but there are about three hundred million Buddhists in the world. We have only thirteen to fourteen million Jews. We're an infinitesimally small group." Yet the relatively tiny Jewish world can look as divided as all of India. These days, Jews can get as fierce with each other as Sikhs with Hindus, at least rhetorically. The wars are mostly of words, but the passions are vigorous and often divide communities and families. There are Orthodox Jews who would never step into a Reform Jewish temple,

{p. 20} and Reform rabbis who denounce the Orthodox as narrow-minded bigots. There are secular Jews who wish a plague on both houses. There has even been violence between competing factions of Hasidim in Brooklyn, groups in beards and black hats that most other Jews could hardly tell apart. A group of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn calling themselves T.O.R.A.H. (Tough Orthodox Rabbis and Hasids) has painted a swastika on a Conservative synagogue! Very often in Jewish life today the sparks are not from uplifted souls, but from the clash of iron-clad identities.

The landscape of American Jewish life has changed considerably since my childhood, and the recent tensions between denominations seem much stronger. In the 1950s and 1960s, Reform Judaism loomed large, followed by Conservative Judaism. The Reconstructionists were hardly on the map. There was also Orthodox Judaism, but of a fairly lax kind, the residual Orthodoxy of Eastern European immigrants like my paternal grandfather.

Reform Judaism seemed the wave of the future. The denomination had secure roots in the successful and wealthy German Jewish immigration of the 1830s. Baltimore was one of its strongholds and impressive Reform synagogues dominated Park Heights Avenue in the 1950s, where the successful children of immigrants had moved uptown. Reform Judaism was sleek and streamlined, discarding needless rituals and emphasizing the great moral heritage of Judaism. Its sophisticated, intelligent rabbis addressed current social issues in their sermons, and its cantors used choirs and organ music to create a stately, dignified service that any Gentile would feel comfortable with. That was important, because Reform Judaism was a way for Jews to remain both Jewish and American. And since that is what most of the children of the Eastern European immigration wanted, Reform Judaism was where the action was in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of that generation preferred more traditional prayer, and they found a home in Conservative Judaism. But it seemed likely that as the immigrant generation died out their residual Orthodoxy would also fade.

That didn't happen. Increasingly since the 1970s, Orthodox Judaism has been resurgent, and Reform Judaism has been on the defensive. There are two significant movements in Orthodoxy that account for this: the Modern Orthodox and the ultra-Orthodox.

{p. 21} To the majority of Orthodox rabbis in Europe, America was a trefe medinah, an unkosher land, and those who emigrated there were basically the poorest Jews, and the least-educated about Jewish religion. Among them, however, came some with deeper religious commitments. On the one hand, they faced the difficult task of adjusting to life in America while holding on to basic Jewish observances, such as keeping kosher in the home, and remembering the Sabbath day of rest. On the other hand, they wanted their children to compete in American life. Modern Orthodoxy attempts to balance secular education with Orthodox practice. Its most important and characteristic institution is Yeshiva University and one of the movement's most important religious leaders has been the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, a deeply respected Talmudic scholar who also held a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin.

Rabbi Soloveitchik was widely revered in the Orthodox world. His authority, however, was never fully recognized by another important group, the so-called ultra-Orthodox. (They would probably define themselves simply as Jews; other Jews, less observant than they, are considered goyim.) At their core, this group was the remnant of highly observant Jews who survived the Holocaust. The historian Arthur Hertzberg, who estimates that less than one hundred thousand of these Orthodox Jews came to America, characterizes them as "the first group of Jews in all of American history to come not primarily in search of bread but to find refuge for its version of Jewishness." In this sense, Hertzberg argues that they are the only Jewish immigrants comparable to the original Pilgrims in their commitment to purely religious values.

These later arrivals have transformed the Orthodox scene, and thereby the American Jewish map. Many of the leaders were the heads of distinguished European yeshivas who had always refused to come to America but had no choice after the Holocaust. Others belonged to Hasidic communities, the most well-known being the Lubavitcher Hasidim, led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. Most of the ultra-Orthodox are extremely uncompromising in their Judaism and tend to isolate themselves socially from American secular influences, and also from most American Jews. Through the force of their commitment, they have exerted a strong rightward pull on Modern Orthodoxy, and on American Judaism in general.

{p. 22} As a result, in recent years Orthodox Jews in general have moved to an increasingly separatist position, avoiding dialogue with other Jews, for fear of legitimizing behavior they could not approve of. I'd had some interactions with both Modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox, in the United States and Israel, and had an uncomfortable sense of boundaries being raised higher and higher. I recall an evening in Jerusalem with a group of baalei teshuvah, Jews who had converted to Orthodoxy. To them it all boiled down to one proposition: either God had given Jews the Torah at Mt. Sinai or had not. And they asked me to choose. I felt like I was being grilled.

The emotional undertone of today's Orthodoxy, at least as I'd encountered it, seemed excessively self-righteous and self-isolating. It came down to little things, customs, such as the refusal of Orthodox men to shake a woman's hand. I knew there were reasons for it: if she were menstruating they could not touch her, nor could they ask her point blank. But it seemed to symbolize a self-enclosure, another barrier or boundary between men and women, and also between Jews and contemporary life.

I had imagined that someone obeying God's law would feel more joy. I didn't always feel that joy. There often seemed a neurotic quality to the obedience, a Judaism by the numbers that I couldn't relate to. Anyway, these were the prejudices I came to India with. ...

{p. 23} So Waldoks knows the stakes of Jewish survival. . . "There isn't a serious Jew today, whatever denomination or affiliation, who is not still somehow traumatized that a third of our people were destroyed so viciously and in such a short period of time. It's like the amputee who still feels the phantom pain. The leg isn't there, but the pain is always there."

Waldoks characterized the basic split in Jewish life as between restorationists and secularists, those who want to re-create the past and those who want to abandon it. "It's ironic. You go to Israel and see the Orthodox right re-creating yeshivot based on the European model, with no attempt to redefine themselves in the new context of the Middle East. They say we have to be afraid of redefinition.

"And others say, 'Isn't the message of the Holocaust that we have to be totally liberal and work against any form of discrimination?' So Jews like that have been on the forefront of social action movements."

When Waldoks first met the Dalai Lama at the preliminary session in New Jersey, he felt challenged by him. "He got down to the brass tacks of what religious experience has to be. He asked us, 'Isn't the role of religion to create compassion in people?' And when religion stops creating compassion in people and unfortunately, we've seen religion as a source of divisiveness in the world, what's wrong?"

{p. 25} Dialogue presents special difficulties for the Orthodox. When Blu's father learned of the trip, for instance, he became so upset, that he made a special study of the Talmudic tractate, Avodah Zara. It has forbidding language about consorting with idol worshipers - including a requirement to kill them.

But over spicy yogurt in our Delhi hotel, Rabbi Jonathan OmerMan, a gentle mystic, mused over a Buddhist text with a very different message. True dialogue, he declared, must change the speakers from you and me to we and us all. Between true dialogue and Avodah Zara, there was obviously a huge gap, and a few hours later, our sense of where the group consensus lay would be tested directly.

Our Sikh drivers, led by the ever-helpful Tsangpo, lined up their white Hindustani Motors Ambassadors in the driveway of the Hans Plaza Hotel. Modeled on the British Morris sedan, their four-cylinder engines produced more noise than power. The tires were bald. Since it's called the national road of India, Route One has a deceptive ring to an American's ear. I foolishly expected I-95, a nice interstate with a median strip. But for much of the way through Haryana State, two lanes carried four lanes of traffic. The main road featured buses, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and moto-rickshaws. Large, slow trucks brought sand to construction sites. The sand was wrapped in burlap, in huge sloppy turbans that bulged into the oncoming lanes.

The shoulders offered no relief. They were crowded with their own parade: foot traffic, flocks of sheep and goats, huge lumbering ox carts with wooden wheels straight out of the Bhagavad Gita. At one point, we passed a quarter-mile-long Hindu Mardi Gras, with celebrants decked in red and gold robes, pulling a traditional temple cart. Inside was a man heavily made up around the eyes, who appeared to be in a light trance. The direction of traffic was not uniformly observed. Travelers on the shoulders often meandered onto the main road. Our drivers were extraordinarily adept, but as a matter of honor they occupied the passing lane for as long as possible, then swerved away

{p. 26} from the centerline, avoiding the impending accident with a daredevil nonchalance. Brakes squealed, tires rattled, and horns blasted as our driver squeezed out the last bit of thrill before veering hard left. It's customary for observant Jews to recite the Shema on their deathbed. In the first hour on the road dozens of Shemas escaped the lips of my fellow passengers. It was like the joke about the Israeli bus driver and the rabbi who arrived at heaven at the same time. A big fuss is made over the driver, while the rabbi is ignored. "What gives?" the rabbi asks. "I was a rabbi, he was just an Egged bus driver." And an angel answers him, "How many people did you get to say Shema7" That's why some took comfort in the protective powers of the Torah, said to guard Jewish travelers, and which Paul Mendes-Flohr in turn guarded carefully on his lap. We Jews were bearing other gifts as well: prayer books and artwork for the Dalai Lama. We hauled candlesticks and matzahs, yarmulkes, tallises, and prayer books through the countryside. The drivers spent a good deal of time at every stop shifting our baggage around, balancing on the roof racks loads that threatened to topple. So the metaphor came up naturally: to Moshe Waldoks, who'd met with the Cardinal of Krakow, there was always baggage in dialogue with Christians, namely, the "overhanging history of anti-Semitism and supercessionist theory" - the belief that Christianity had superseded Judaism. "Yes, they're very kind to Jews now, but it's hard to forget the past." In another conversation, in another car, Rabbi Joy Levitt, also active in interfaith dialogue, used the same metaphor, with a new twist. "We don't have any baggage with the Buddhists. We can meet them with open arms." But as she got to know her driver, Mr. Singh, a more basic problem came up. Sheer incomprehension. I can report the dialogue verbatim:

Mr. Singh: What do you do?

Joy Levitt: I am a rabbi.

Mr. Singh: What is it?

Joy: I am a priest. I am a teacher of religion. Do you know what religion is?

Mr. Singh: ?

Our Sikh driver had heard of Muslims and met some Christian tourists. To him, Jews were news.

{p. 27} That pricked my vanity. I didn't like to think that in vast areas of the planet, the story of my people is unknown. But India's Route One was teaching me a whole new perspective on population politics. After all, Jews make up less than half of one percent of the world's population. There are as many Sikhs in the Punjab as Jews on the planet. In the span of a few hours, we had driven past, and through, an enormous exodus composed of individual human struggles: a huge ox cart with wooden wheels stuck in a rut, the driver tugging his ox alongside; thin women breaking up white stones into gravel, others carrying stones on their heads; a young girl in rags carrying her naked brother. Just outside my car window there was enough human tragedy, comedy, and heartbreaking struggle to fill a dozen Torah scrolls. At one point, near a bazaar crowded with shops and shoppers, I saw tens of thousands of people. Our driver lifted his hand and waved vaguely to a bus. Heads poked out of every window, and a score of passengers balanced on the roof. One of them waved back to our driver and smiled. They knew each other. On that road, in that multitude, this chance encounter between friends seemed a miracle. I decided that the most important baggage Jews carry is an absolute conviction of our significance because we are Jews, because we have survived. On Route One, the whole grand story of Jewish survival, the tremendous importance I attach to my history, my Torah, shrank in perspective: to a single line, a single letter. I felt absurd: in the middle of India, did it really make any difference that we were Jews?

{p. 29} "We were eager to say something about being Jews, but it wasn't picked up. Our driver told him we were on the way to see the Dalai Lama. I could imagine some of the people being very curious. Could you imagine coming into a shtiebl in Brooklyn and someone saying, 'What are you doing here?' 'I'm on my way to the Dalai Lama.' 'Dalai Lama, what do you need a Dalai Lama for? Who's a Dalai Lama? Could you talk to this guy; after all, doesn't he wear little idols around him?' "

Reb Zalman's spontaneous davening in a Sikh temple had placed him squarely on the side of total immersion dialogue. Explaining to me later, he quoted from the Psalms, "I am a friend to all who respect you, O Lord." The Sikh guru and he are "in the same business, struggling to see holy values don't get lost. I see every other practitioner as organically doing in his bailiwick what I am doing in mine. When a non-Jewish person affirms me, I feel strengthened in my work. When I affirm a non-Jewish person, he or she feels strengthened in their work." Zalman also cited Isaiah's prophecy, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." Now that we are closer to having a temple in Jerusalem, Zalman thought, some day all people will be comfortable worshiping there as well.

I was electrified by his joyous crossing of boundaries, his davening chutzpah. It broke through my own neat categories. I associated Orthodox practice with insularity. Yet here was Zalman, making contact with another religion by davening maariv. ... In recent years, under the influence of the ultra-Orthodox, even Modern Orthodox Jews have been pulled away from dialogue with other Jews, not to mention praying with Sikhs. As for Zalman, his extreme openness probably would have challenged many Reform rabbis, let alone Orthodox or Conservative. On a more abstract level, I could also see this difference reflecting ancient competing impulses within Judaism: rabbinic and prophetic,

{p. 37} I believe in tikkun olam - that the world can be repaired. And that belief requires action: being a Jew means put up or shut up. In my own life that made sense. But in India, the idea that any individual could grasp, let alone modify, such a vast quantity of suffering felt absurd. The streets of Chandigarh smeared with dung, the tide of women and young girls carrying boulders on their heads toward a construction site, the multitude of beggars waiting to surround us at the airport at 4 A.M. - all accumulated into a sense of hopelessness. If Jews are responsible for relieving the suffering of the world, knowing the size of the task is critical. I felt how much I ignore, how often I redefine the world as my world, and suffering as the suffering of the Jews. I admit I was glad to leave the thick air of Route One for the thinner air of clarity and contemplation. At that golden hour I came upon Mr. Richard Gere, sitting on a lawn chair before a view of the Kangra valley, the setting sun illuminating everything below in a brilliant haze like a bowl filled with seething light. I sat beside him and said hello. He nodded, natural, not unfriendly. Gazing with him into the valley, I could pick out the route we'd traveled through a thick choking cloud of wood ash, dung smoke, car exhaust, heat, and light - the great burning heart of the world. Sitting next to Richard Gere, I knew I was among the blessed. After I mentioned our problems with roadblocks and demonstrations, he remarked, speaking perhaps as a multimillionaire, "It's not a good idea to argue with poor people."

{p. 38} "I didn't have a problem," Blu told me, "because Rinchen kashered the entire kitchen. They poured boiling water on the floors. They bought altogether new pots and pans, all new utensils. Everything was totally new and their cooking surfaces they had totally kashered. They cleaned it out thoroughly and they gli'd it, raised it to its highest heat. We went over with them in advance what they should do and we saw what they had done. Rinchen supervised the whole thing. Somebody else might have looked at this and said it was ridiculous, but the Tibetans took it very seriously."

{p. 39} Marc Lieberman stopped by to check in on us, still mulling over the discussions he'd had en route. He feared that the Jews were so concerned with bringing their Torah to Dharamsala, that they would engage in a onesided talkfest. There were some pretty good talkers in the group, so I could see the danger. Remembering his reaction to Zalman's proposal of a Buddhist seder, I asked him about his concern. He saw it as another example of what he feared, overreaching. ... Joy Levitt, while more open to Zalman's seder proposal, did wonder whether Tibetans felt their exodus was a memory worth preserving. "That's what Jews are about," she went on. "We're about remembering how shitty life was and how much better it could be. So do we want to say to them, you should sit down and tell the story of your trek over the Himalayas and do it with a Haggadah and have little games for the children?" We laughed at that. But to be fair, Zalman was not proposing a parallel between the Jewish exodus and the Tibetan exile.

{p. 40} The point was, the Dalai Lama had asked Jews for help. So I asked Marc if the seder, with its emphasis on parents teaching their children, wasn't an important and enduring secret of Jewish survival. Lieberman exploded. The tensions of shepherding us through India, and all the minor details he'd been saddled with over the past few days, like relaying phone messages and changing money, had evidently been taking their toll. "We keep asking what they want to know. Why don't we ask what we want to know? That's why I'm here. I did not bring a Chautauqua Society to Dharamsala to lecture Buddhists or Jewish-born Buddhists about Judaism." ... I thought the format itself practically dictated that Jews would teach and the Dalai Lama would listen, but Marc rejected that idea vehemently. "The topics were chosen because you could plug them in both ways. They are just as appropriate for Buddhists to talk to Jews about as for Jews to talk to Buddhists. How, for example, do the Buddhists really work? What's the reality of the Dalai Lama working with hot-headed Tibetans - keeping a lid on all the factions who urge violence and revolt against the Chinese? How do you work with that anger, that hatred of the oppressor?" That interested Rabbi Levitt, who'd worked in support of the Israeli peace movement. "Tell me about that," she said to Marc. "Who knows?" "I think he will be able to show us." But Joy was skeptical. She had been struck by the same phrase from The Dhammapada that I'd seen Zalman Schachter translating into Hebrew, "Animosity produces only animosity." "My fundamental issue in reading Buddhist texts," she said, "is what it means to love your enemy. I have a suspicion that they have a much

{p. 41} better take on those energies than we do. On the other hand, when I read this stuff about loving the Chinese, I want to know why. I don't get it at all. It seems unnatural." Lieberman smiled. "It's totally unnatural. The whole Buddhist thing is unnatural. The natural way of samsara is the perpetuation of more and more suffering. Nothing could be more unnatural than cultivating the pure kind of mind where you get off the wheel."

{p. 42} Refreshed after a good night's sleep and some vigorous morning prayers, the Jewish group sat around a long dining table at Kashmir Cottage for a hearty breakfast of eggs, milk, and cheese. Moshe Waldoks read to us from the Torah portion for the coming Sabbath, in which Abram journeys out from the land of Ur. He focused on Bereshit (Genesis) 14:18: "And Melchizedek, king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was a priest of the most high God." Then Moshe took us on a compact midrashic journey - through four thousand years of Jewish experience, from the terse biblical account to the rabbinic commentary to the Hasidic masters up to the present moment when, as we consumed bread and coffee, we thought about bread and wine. To the rabbinic commentators, Salem is Jerusalem, and Melchizedek - as a priest of God most high - is intimating to Abram what his descendants will be doing there when they become priests of the Temple. Then Moshe quoted a Hasidic take: "bread and wine" symbolize words of wisdom, and anyone who shares wisdom with another is as holy as the ancient priests.

{p. 43} That's how far we'd gotten when Zalman struck yet another blow for spontaneity with a zap of instant midrash. The story of Abram learning from Melchizedek, he proposed, is an image of the dialogue to come. Like Abram, we had journeyed far from home to learn wisdom from a great non-Jewish teacher. I was impressed. Suddenly, the Dalai Lama was Melchizedek. This kind of vigorous interplay showed me how, in yet another sense, the Torah might bring this group together. Then Zalman added another twist: just as Abram and Melchizedek had shared rituals, couldn't we share our seder with the Buddhists? That was one twist too many for Rabbi Greenberg. He responded with an accumulating syntax of carefully qualified clauses - Talmudic inflections. He had "a theological reservation" about doing a Buddhist seder, "because it begins to raise questions of crossing the line, and also, maybe unintentionally, patronizing them." Good-bye, Buddhist seder. The pattern would recur, the sides were shaping up. The traditionalists in the group, led by Rabbi Greenberg, spoke of preserving Jewish authenticity. But Reb Zalman believed that, in the Reconstructionist phrase, tradition should have a vote, not a veto.

{p. 44} Michael Sautman, our Dharamsala connection, joined us. He was a somewhat mysterious figure. There was, for instance, the matter of what he did for a living, and for whom he worked. I knew for certain only that he was a trained private pilot, that he had done relief work with Tibetans in southern India, that he was the Dalai Lama's personal student. He mentioned that after the dialogue, he was starting up a cashmere factory in Mongolia. Sautman was crisp, well organized, quick on the uptake, and very controlled. He was able to converse in Tibetan with Tsangpo or to bawl out our drivers in Punjabi if necessary. I sometimes wondered, in fact, how a practicing Buddhist could be so harsh with them. But he had reached very high levels of initiation in tantrayana and spent several hours a day practicing. He intimated to me that he was now able to visualize himself as a dragon-headed deity of some sort. His Jewish roots showed too: he'd worked very hard on this dialogue. His own dream was that the Dalai Lama would visit Israel. More revealing perhaps about his own apprehensions and expectations, Michael Sautman had brought his parents to Dharamsala just for this occasion. It was their first visit. It seemed that Michael, like other JUBUs, was looking for a way to integrate his Jewish roots and Buddhist wings. Sautman arrived with our schedule for the week. He was on his way to meet briefly with the Dalai Lama and wanted to hear what questions we might have him consider in advance. Like Lieberman, he was concerned that the Jews be open to learning from the Dalai Lama. "As far as learning what he's about," Sautman said, "it's a precious opportunity, in talking to a Buddhist master to gain some knowledge and wisdom." But for now, much as Marc Lieberman feared, Moshe Waldoks and others seemed more interested in what the Dalai Lama would like to learn from the Jews.

{p. 45} Sautman sighed. "If you remember the first meeting in New Jersey, certainly there was an interest in Jewish mysticism. He is very interested in thought transformation - how one purifies afflictive emotions. In Buddhism it's done through tantrayana. He's also interested in issues of diaspora survival if there's some elaboration to be offered." Then Sautman repeated his request. Zalman spoke first about how both groups were at a crucial place in history. "I would like to ask His Holiness, what is it he would like to teach to us for our own consideration and close cooperation with what's happening on the planet?" "Give it to me in one sentence," Sautman said crisply. Zalman didn't hesitate. "Give me dharma talk. Give me dharma talk addressed to Jews." In the prewar Hasidic Polish community of his childhood, Zalman had been nurtured on Jewish mysticism. ... Starting in the sixties, he'd become an increasingly charismatic figure in Jewish circles and was active at the inception of the chavurah movement, when young Jews from the counterculture began exploring their Jewish roots. ... The Buddhist leader had brought with him into exile a Noah's ark of practitioners. Just as Jews had their specialists - mohels, mashgiachs, chazzans, kosher butchers - so the Tibetans had brought with them oracular mediums, thangka painters, "inner heat" meditators. To have the "totality of our tradition accessible means to have people who live that tradition. It's not enough to have books; like in Fahrenheit 451, you need people who are living books. For every form of Tibetan practice he needs a living being that practices it." But now, like the Jews, the Tibetans faced the dilemma of restoration versus renewal, namely choosing "which tools to keep and preserve." So Zalman had a second question to relay through Sautman. "As the question of diaspora comes up for him, there is a sorting out of what is local and belongs to Tibet and what is global. I would like to

{p. 46} know what he bases his discrimination on. This is our question in some ways too." Sautman ... looked around the table - "If someone could write up these points . . . " Zalman's prolixity revived his concern about the dialogue, which was the same as Marc Lieberman's. He cautioned us that the Dalai Lama "always sees himself as the lowest person in the room. So it's important when you conclude your presentations to think of ways to bring His Holiness into the dialogue. I'm not saying he's shy. But you have to bring his participation in. It's very important."

Then Blu Greenberg raised a more basic matter of protocol: how to address the Dalai Lama. Michael Sautman suggested sticking to the conventional, "His Holiness." But to Orthodox ears that sounded problematic. Blu Greenberg commented later that although all human beings are holy in relation to God, because we are created in the image of God, "that's different from saying there's an entity of holiness that's independent of a monotheistic God." She saw a potential problem in "ascribing too much power, too much infallibility or eternality to a human being. There's holiness and there's finiteness of human beings." "Maybe it was a fearful exercise," she admitted much later. Marc and Michael "were very generous-spirited through the whole thing, but in a way they took this as a bit of an insult. But I wanted to make sure, I wanted to satisfy myself about being halakhically correct."

{p. 47} Jewish delegates invited him into the rough and tumble of their discussion. (In talking about cultural cues in dialogue, Joy Levitt had joked earlier, "Jews have a signal when they want to speak - they interrupt.") In answer to Blu's question, the monk explained that there were thirty different titles with which to address the Dalai Lama, but "if you could say His Holiness, that would be the usual way." He said this so matter-of-factly I couldn't gauge how strongly he felt about the issue. Soon he, Nathan Katz, and Michael Sautman began searching for more answers to this unique Tibetan Jewish crossword puzzle. Kap gun was batted around, but turned out to mean "refuge" or "saving leader" or even "Savior," which rang funny in Jewish ears. I was interested in how much the discussion with Karma Gelek had to do with translation. Robert Frost defined poetry as what gets lost in translation, but I'd go further: culture is what gets lost in translation. It wasn't so much words as their historical resonances. How could Karma Gelek ever understand how Jews felt about "His Holiness," or the association Jews would make immediately with the pope and from there to the long history of persecution, proselytization, inquisition, and martyrdom? How to explain the peculiar tang of a title like kap gun once it got translated to "saving leader"? When Zalman heard it, he immediately asked, "Are there other forms, not weighted with salvation?" To a Jew living in a Christian world, this was a perfectly understandable reference, but in the ears of a Buddhist monk, Zalman's question must have sounded puzzling.

However, Karma Gelek did notice the various reactions and retreated on the "His Holiness" front, observing quietly, "If you would say rinpoche, nothing's wrong." (Rinpoche, which means precious one, is a general honorific for tulkus.) But it was too late. Now Zalman Schachter was hot on the case, taking up Blu's cause as his own - driven too by his curiosity and loving to explain Jews, Judaism, and himself to Karma Gelek, "We would like to say a word in honor - it's not that we don't want to honor - it's like saying we understand, we honor you as a source of teaching and blessing for your adherents. Could we say, great teacher?" By now, Karma Gelek had become totally flexible. "Yes, yes," he said, barely audibly. But Lieberman and Sautman objected. "That's too low."

{p. 48} So Zalman raised the ante, "How about illustrious teacher?"

Unfortunately, "illustrious teacher" was not a traditional Tibetan phrase. "Jewel of wisdom" was offered by Michael Sautman, but finally Karma Gelek ended the discussion when he observed that all such names were very formal and that "His Holiness usually doesn't like formal things."

I took a walk with Yitz Greenberg after the meeting with Karma Gelek broke. We walked for a while in silence. Something about the whole focus on this tiny point bothered me. It reminded me very strongly of what I didn't much like about religious Judaism, an obsessive, niggling quality. Or as a young woman learning about Jewish culture had told me once, to her, Judaism is an old man saying no. With Jews so divided into factions, and some of the factions so self-preoccupied and self-obsessed with tiny points of practice and law, how could we reach out to other groups? I knew that in some ways that same intensity about language was also what I relished and delighted in, in both Jewish religion and the Jewish mind. It had delighted me that morning with Moshe's and Zalman's midrash. But when the guidance system failed, Jewish verbal intensity seemed to nosedive, spiraling down into smaller and smaller circles. I ventured to Yitz that maybe the discussion was really about how Jews could hold a dialogue with Buddhists while maintaining their authenticity. I thought this talk had to be about something more than an honorific. He agreed, adding that, speaking for his group, "most Orthodox Jews feel religious dialogue is not possible. The number of Orthodox Jews involved in dialogue is not a minyan. But after twenty-five years - the more involved I am, the more comfortable I feel." Yitz drew the line in quite another place, which explained why he'd been so quiet after Zalman davened in a Sikh temple. Dialogue was distinct from joint prayers or meditations. "Unlike Zalman, I see liturgy as an affirmation of being a member." He spoke of his teacher, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, a distinguished professor at Yeshiva University and one of the foremost contemporary philosophers of halakhah. "Rabbi Soloveitchik made the distinction: on social justice we have a universal language, but theology is a more intimate language. Liturgy

{p. 49} conveys an affirmation that I'm in this system, so I would feel uncomfortable, for instance, in a Buddhist meditation." Or praying in a Sikh temple, no doubt. On the other hand, there was no question in his mind that Judaism takes place in real history and that Jews had to learn from other cultures. "If you play in the minor leagues, you have minor league cultures. If you play in the major leagues, you have a major league culture." Rabbi Greenberg was particularly concerned that Orthodox Jewish culture had withdrawn into itself, shunning contact with the challenge of pluralism. "The Orthodox Jewish community is third world in theology and philosophy. Having a political state of Israel now, I'm convinced the great religious challenge is going to be the pluralist issue. Each culture can no longer present itself as self-evident." Though he found this challenging, he also thought pluralism was positive. "First," he said, "because I think it is the will of God. The big question on the religious agenda is how are people rooted in their own religion able to respond to others. We must learn to affirm our truth while doing true justice to the other." An open encounter with pluralism prevented any religious person from thinking he or she possessed exclusive claim to the truth. In dialogue, "you meet these people with tremendous force and openness, and they're not preselected, they're not prefiltered, or loaded in your favor." I wondered if this was a risky game, particularly for people of faith. Pluralism can quickly lead to relativism and even nihilism. Because if there are so many different truths in the world, and each one is worthy of respect, why go through all the trouble of preserving any particular tradition. Why continue as Jews?

{p. 57} In short, I'd grown up the typical liberal American Jew, loyal to his tribe and family, and very proud of the ethical heritage of the Jewish people. My Jewish identity was like a strongbox, very well protected, but what was inside it? The interior meaning of being a Jew was indistinct, smuggled, inchoate - much like the Hebrew letters I could pronounce but not truly read. The irony is, I had to travel halfway around the world to Dharamsala to discover the utility of Jewish prayer. Our davening brought us together and changed the environment around us, transforming Kashmir Cottage, a Buddhist guest house, into Beth Kangra, the open-air synagogue of the Himalayas. Maybe Jews ought to pray outdoors more often.

{p. 58} Zalman Schachter-Shalomi brought his unique combination of Hasidic energy and existential confrontation. The morning he led the davening, he came up to me during the last part of the Shema, touched me on the shoulder, looked straight into my eyes, and said, "Your God is a true God." I found that a powerful challenge. I usually felt as I prayed in a group that I was assenting to ideas and images that were very foreign to me or that I didn't have time to check out. Zalman's gesture had cut through that in a very personal way. Something about his statement struck me in the heart as true, even with my intellect marshaling a thousand reasons why it couldn't be. My God is a true God? Which God was he talking about? Long white beard, old Daddy in the sky? Autocrat, general, father, king? Master of the Universe, doyen of regulations and punishments? These were the images that made me reject the very idea of God. But in a funny mental jujitsu, the more I struggled with these images, the more what Zalman said came through. "Your God is a true God" meant to me that the images and the language weren't going to be

{p. 59} Ten Jews, the required quorum, were present, but only if Jewish women counted. However, for Yitz Greenberg, the women did not count because the Talmud defines a minyan as ten Jewish males. Moreover, he could not participate when Rabbi Levitt's turn came to lead the service. I expected Rabbi Levitt to be upset. In fact, I expected her to come out fighting. After all, a prayer-illiterate like myself counted for the minyan, while she, who sang the prayers so lovingly, didn't. But she didn't see it as a civil rights issue. In fact, she asked not to be included in the rotation of prayer leaders, hoping to spare Yitz the embarrassment of being unable to join her. As she put it to me, "It's not a personal decision on his part, so there's no reason to blame him. He's following halakhah as he understands it, so I'm not personally offended." The group rejected her request. Instead, on the morning she led the service, Rabbi Greenberg came a little late and stood a little apart. It was an irony that for the Orthodox, interfaith work meant praying with Reform or Reconstructionist Jews.

{p. 60} Now we were faced with a new age pilpul: what brakha do you make for a Dalai Lama? True to form, Zalman had composed a brand new Hebrew prayer for the occasion, and Nathan Katz had prepared a Tibetan translation. But there were questions and objections. Rabbi Omer-Man wanted to know "the inner choreography" of the event, who we were saying the brakha to and what it meant. Rabbi Levitt thought the prayer too original, that it risked being "disembodied" from tradition. Blu Greenberg also disliked creating new brakhot, if traditional ones could be used. As the discussion dragged on, Marc Lieberman, obviously frustrated, broke in. "Folks, I think we're drifting into some real minutiae, and I'm not getting the big picture." "This is not minutiae for us," Yitz told Marc firmly. "Deal with us two minutes. We're negotiating now with true respect for Buddhism that doesn't violate anyone's integrity." Negotlating was an interesting word. I settled in for another long discussion. Zalman's prayer was attacked from right and left - perhaps logical, since he considered himself postdenominational. But Zalman, in turn, could quibble and quarrel with the best of them. Maybe this was the real secret of Jewish survival. We'd last forever because there wasn't time in the universe to finish our arguments. I felt like a kid in

{p. 61} shul sitting on shpilkes. ... In the case of the Dalai Lama, he could be blessed two ways, as a political or as a religious leader. There is a Jewish blessing upon seeing a Gentile king. There is another on seeing a Gentile sage or wise man. But instead of using one of them, Zalman proposed an entirely new brakha. He wanted to specially honor the Dalai Lama by blessing him as the equivalent of a Jewish sage. The traditional prayer for a Jewish chokham, a wise Torah scholar, ends, "Who has apportioned of his wisdom to those who fear him." For the last part, Zalman substituted: "to those who honor his name." I did wonder how the Dalai Lama, who did not believe in a creator deity, nevertheless could be said to honor his name. But Zalman's point was that for the first time Jews would create a prayer to recognize the sacred in other religions.

{p. 64} Judaism there is a profound reverence for the written word - and a profound literalism. For instance, the Orthodox believe it is better to pray in Hebrew without understanding than to pray in one's own language. Even Zalman, at his most innovative, felt compelled to tie his prayer to a specific verse in Malachi. I thought again of the Frankfurt airport, how we'd been drawn to that Torah. I should think that anyone visiting a synagogue and seeing Jews revering and kissing their Torahs would think we worshiped our scrolls. Certainly my experience of Judaism was an experience with language - my quarrels, a quarrel with language. Though we would learn that Tibetan Buddhists have a tremendous textual tradition of their own, the daring of Buddhist metaphysics is to defy all conventions, even the conventions of Buddhism. Words are labels, and even the Buddhist teaching, or dharma, has no ultimate reality. In fact, I have heard Buddhist scholars argue that a person who says, "I am a Buddhist," cannot be a Buddhist, because to be a Buddhist means to have no attachment to labels. By contrast, the rabbis were very concerned with holding on to traditional language to preserve the continuity and authenticity of their Judaism. The words chosen for a prayer represented the consensus of clal yisrael, the unity of Israel. The discussion was not just a wrangling among denominations, or rabbinical showboating - though there were elements of that. Searching for the right words was a group attunement, a way to align all the energies of the Jews so they might face the Dalai Lama with a sense of unity. Now they could feel they were approaching the dialogue with integrity, working as Jews together.

{p. 68} Nathan Katz, a bearded and rotund professor of Religious Studies from the University of South Florida, spoke first. He wished to demolish Rudyard Kipling's old saw that "East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet." Instead, as a student of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish religion, Katz believed that Judaism and Buddhism had contact in the past. '(The ancient Greeks," he declared, "knew about the Buddha. Ancient Israel also knew about India. The Buddha and our

{p. 69} King Solomon share legends. Words from Sanskrit and Tamil are found in our ancient holy book, the Bible. We construct memory in the present, and by constructing memory we create our identity. What we remember constructs who we are, and that's an insight of Buddhist philosophy also. What we forget also makes us who we are. Both of us, Jews and Tibetans, have forgotten we go back a long way together. It's only recently that we've forgotten." Since we had all come thinking that this dialogue was unprecedented, Nathan was challenging some basic assumptions. In support of his argument, he reeled off intriguing evidence of contacts in the ancient world between Jews and Buddhists. He noted that certain words in the Bible such as the Hebrew for ginger and ivory have Sanskrit roots. (Interestingly, so does pilpul!) He pointed to the trade between Israel and India in the time of King Solomon. He said that the tale of the judgment of Solomon also appears in the Jataka tales, stories of the Buddha's previous incarnations. He explained that the basic Buddhist concept of shunyata, or emptiness, which derives from Indian philosophy, was carried by a Jewish scholar into the Arabic world where it became the mathematical zero. The Arabic numerals were transmitted to the West by way of a Dominican monk. As Nathan suggested, the peregrination of zero from Hindu to Jew to Arab to Catholic monk represents a strong refutation of Kipling: "Jews were the first refugees to come to India [in the year 70 C.E.]. You are the most recent religious refugees to India. We both found havens in this tolerant land." Given the burning cars and angry students we'd seen on the way up, I put a few mental quote marks around "tolerant land." But for all of its history, India has been highly tolerant of its Jews. Nathan had personal experience of this, for he had spent a Fulbright year in Cochin, researching a remarkable settlement of Jews on the south coast of India, who date back at least a thousand years. Moreover, as Katz explained, over the centuries there have been Jewish settlements in most of the regions surrounding Tibet, including China, Kashmir, India, and Mongolia. Hebrew manuscripts dating back to the eighth century have been discovered in Tibetan monasteries of Kucha in Mongolia. In the ninth century, a Muslim philosopher from Central Asia, al-Buruni, noted that the Jewish word for God cannot be pronounced and compared this to

{p. 74} This same openness has made him attractive to many otherwise disaffected Jews - by now a worldwide network of political activists, social workers, Buddhist meditators, writers, teachers, and rabbis who consider Zalman their rebbe. In his home base of Philadelphia, he guides a Jewish renewal spiritual community, P'nai Or, or "Faces of Light." It is currently expanding into a network of Jewish renewal chavurot called ALEPH, Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Zalman has toured the world giving workshops, showing how the accumulated wisdom of kabbalah can be applied to today's life, trying to enrich and vivify Jewish practice, doing what he calls "R and D work in davennology," the study of Jewish prayer. Today the Jewish mystical tradition is most actively transmitted within Hasidic groups like the Lubavitchers. Such ultra-Orthodox practitioners would probably feel prohibited from dialogue with Buddhists. So given the Dalai Lama's request to learn more about the Jewish esoteric, Zalman's unique role as an authentically trained disseminator of such teachings was crucial to our dialogue. But Zalman's kavvanah arose also from a strong sense of identification with the plight of the Tibetans in exile. Because he carries a living memory of pre-Holocaust Hasidism, of a world and way of life consigned to ashes, he respected the Dalai Lama in a very intimate sense, as a colleague who bore on his shoulders a tremendous burden. Before his presentation, Zalman turned and looked into his eyes. "I want to say that when a soul comes down to earth they show him first what he has to do here, that's our tradition. And I believe those who volunteer for difficult jobs deserve special consideration. When I think of the job you have to do, which is not only to guide your people through the crisis and, God willing, the restoration of your home, but also the risks you must take and the choices you must make of what is essential and what is to be left behind, I want you to know that I feel with you from heart to heart." When Rabbi Schachter finished, the Dalai Lama grasped his hand between his two palms and thanked him softly.

{p. 75} Nathan Katz had stressed that we construct memory in the present to create our identity. If so, the mainstream American Jewish religious identity has become highly exoteric, with strong emphasis on ethnicity and the politics of Israel. In such a context, Rabbi Schachter explained, "our teachings have been kept secret even from Jews for a long time. So every day, when people get up and say their prayers, there is an exoteric order. But hidden inside the exoteric is the esoteric, the deep attunement, the deep way." The deep way is the way of the kabbalah, "tradition" or "what is received." Kabbalah claims an ancient origin, has been passed from master to student mostly through an oral tradition, has drawn its inspiration from canonical texts, mainly Genesis, the Song of Songs, and Ezekiel, and has produced over the centuries a rich written literature, whose major works include the cryptic Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation), and the florid and lengthy Zohar, or Book of Splendor. Hoping to show the Dalai Lama points of contact and similarity between kabbalah and Buddhist tantra, Rabbi Schachter framed his entire presentation in Tibetan Buddhist terms. "I have been told," he said, "that Tibetans want to know the view, the path, and the goal." As he spoke, he flipped the pages of a chart he'd prepared in magic marker on a poster-sized pad - the chart was full of annotations in Hebrew, English, and Tibetan - with smatterings of Sanskrit thrown in too. " ... It occurred to me that thanks to Nathan Katz, Hebrew and Tibetan had met for the first time as holy languages.

{p. 77} The four worlds cosmology comes straight out of the Lurianic kabbalah, as transmitted through the early Hasidic masters and finally formulated by the Chabad Hasidism of the late eighteenth-century rabbi Schneur Zalman, founder of the Lubavitch sect. Rabbi Schachter's update blended Lubavitch teachings with contemporary psychology, opening up to me the utility of an otherwise remote mystical doctrine.. ... As Zalman gestured toward the second world on the chart, yetzirah, he mentioned casually that devas inhabit that realm, "according to our tradition."

{p. 78} The Dalai Lama interrupted. "What do you mean when you say deva?' In attempting to translate from Jewish to Buddhist, Zalman had used the Sanskrit term for a Buddhist deity. Though Buddhists do not believe in a single Creator Deity, they do speak of gods and goddesses. Some devas were depicted on the thangkas we had seen in Tsuglakhang as guardians of the dharma. Others are regarded as actual gods and demons belonging to the six orders of sentient beings. Still another interpretation is that devas are symbols or mental projections. Zalman retranslated. By devas, he meant angels. That touched off something magical in the Dalai Lama. For the next half hour the cosmic view was lost in a close-up of angels, angels, angels. "When we speak of angels," Zalman explained, "we mean by that beings of such large consciousness" - he pointed to his forehead - "that if an angel's consciousness were to flow into my head right now, it would be too much for me." He raised his eyebrows, and his streimel started to slide off his head. It was right out of Charlie Chaplin. An expansive angel was flipping Zalman's lid. The rabbi straightened his streimel and continued, "There are all kinds of angels. So that higher and higher for instance, we think each nation has an angel. Right now there1s an angel of Tibet and an angel of Jews that are also talking on another level. So I believe if we do it right, the Angel of Jews will put words in my mouth and the Angel of Tibet will hear them in you - and vice versa. The dialogue is not only on this plane." And with those words, it no longer was. The Dalai Lama was full of questions. He leaned forward, and the robe he had earlier wrapped so tightly around himself slipped off his shoulder, revealing his bare forearm and shoulder. "This angel . . . Do you regard just one angel or many angels?" Zalman answered with great delight, "Oh, many, many, many. Realms of angels." "When you say Angel of Tibet, Angel of Jews, there are many?" "First, on the lower level, each family, each group, each city has angels, but on the highest level there is one who contains and represents the consciousness of the totality. If I were to speak in terms of mythic language, we act out what they are doing." As Zalman spoke the Dalai Lama responded, oh, oh, oh, to each point.

{p. 79} "So generally," the Dalai Lama asked, "do you consider angels as servants of God?"

"Yes, including the black one, including Satan. All are doing God's work. All is in oneness, nothing is outside of God." {ed. comment: note the difference from Christianity - it never claims that Satan is in the service of God}

"Between the angels there are positive and negative? Or generally positive?"

"It goes like this. Even the negative ones are positive. Their job is sometimes to create negative energy. For instance, as I look at thangkas and see wrathful deities, I have the sense that the wrathful deities are also in the service of the cosmos, except that their energies sometimes have to come with strengths and fire and severity. So that's how it's seen. There are angels for rewarding people and for imparting wisdom and angels also for punishing and for testing. This is in our tradition."

Zalman wanted to move on, but the Dalai Lama interrupted, "So even those angels, do you believe they have different colors?" (He'd picked up on Zalman's reference to Satan as the black one.) His voice rose with interest. Reb Zalman answered warmly, "Oh, yes, yes. The description goes, there are fire angels, seraphim." He handed his charts to Nathan Katz and stood up to demonstrate. "Isaiah says there are angels with six wings." Zalman held out his arms, flapping his hands. "With two they cover their feet, with two they cover their faces, and with two they fly. And when the angels raise up their wings, they stand like a menorah." He lifted his arms into the air. The Dalai Lama turned to his translator, Laktor. "Menorah?" "Like a candleholder," the monk whispered back. Rabbi Schachter added, "With six branches. So we say kadosh, kadosh, kadosh - holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts." At each kadosh, Zalman moved his wings from thighs to face to flying position - and then finished the prayer, "the whole earth is full of his glory" - sweeping his right arm. He was an angel standing on high, viewing the whole earth spread below him. The Dalai Lama was delighted. "Oh, beautiful," he said. "The angels who praise God are called seraphim," Zalman continued. "Then there are angels that look like animals. One with a face like a lion. Another has a face of a bull. Another one has a face like an eagle and another has a face like the human being.

{p. 82} The question for the Hasidim is how to develop kavvanah, a strong spiritual intention, in order to lift everyday acts to higher realms. Visualizing a world in which every blade of grass growing has a cheering section of angels is a powerful help. At the rational level where contemporary Judaism tends to operate, it is important to discriminate. Logically, angels are either real or not real. But in the world of intuition, that logic no longer applies. Beautifully and profoundly, the image of two angels in dialogue captured the essence of the exchange between Rabbi Schachter and the Dalai Lama. Together they had raised the dialogue between Jews and Tibetans from the world of knowing to the world of intuition. And that was a very high place to be. As Moshe Waldoks admitted later, the Jewish delegates had no reason to be embarrassed because the "esoteric is like gefilte fish to the Dalai Lama." It became obvious that the Buddhist leader had noticed the divisions in the Jewish group because a little later he joked about it. This, after a rather long consultation with the lamas behind him on a point of Buddhist doctrine. When he finished, he turned back to us and said, "I consult and they agreed. And they're the more Orthodox type." Over the ensuing laughter, I heard Yitz saying to Moshe Waldoks, "You see, it's the same the world over. Covering your right flank." Perhaps because of Yitz's spin control, the Dalai Lama looked for confirmation from Zalman. "What you are explaining about angels, do you find it mentioned in the Torah?" "Yes," the rabbi affirmed. "In the five books of Moses it says when God closed offthe Garden of Eden, he planted there an angel with a flaming sword. He sent angels to Avraham our grandfather, to announce the coming of a child. Our grandfather Jacob sent angels to his brother. The word angel also means messenger, so you can read it as messenger or as angel. If you have an inclination to mysticism, you say angel, and if you want to see everything as plain reality, then you say messenger." But Zalman still had two more worlds to take the Dalai Lama through and not much time. He had traveled from assiyah (doing) to yetzirah (feeling) - where the angels dwell. The realm above the angels is beriah, first creation. "If I were to borrow a word from your tradition I would say samsara is

{p. 83} here." He explained that beriah is the beginning and source of the object world, the source of name and form and individuality, though it is "not yet object," but instead, "the divine mind conceiving of objects." Above beriah is the realm of atziluth, emanation. Atziluth "is so infinite that it's both full and its empty. It's full of God and it's empty of everything, no object in it." This linking of God to a concept of emptiness was a crucial point of contact with Buddhism, as we would see. Rabbi Schachter was giving the kabbalistic road map of God's creative processes. But because man was made in God's image, it is also a map of human creativity. The four worlds cosmology gave me a new vocabulary: one could speak of an intuition arising in the realm of emanation, becoming a thought in the realm of creation, being formed into a particular shape in the realm of formation, and eventuating in an action in the realm of function. There is a fifth level, as Zalman had hinted, above emanation - known to the Lurianic kabbalists as "Adam Kadmon" - but that was not discussed.

{p. 84} "Here is where all the laws come in," Zalman continued, "to which all Jews are obligated. We speak of 613 of these laws." "Six hundred and thirteen?" The Dalai Lama seemed impressed by the count. "Six hundred and thirteen. So when a person in your tradition becomes a monk, he takes on 250. In the same way, when a boy becomes bar mitzvah, a girl becomes bat mitzvah - they take on the commandments. And from that time on there's an expectation of doing what leads to purification."

{p. 85} "Yes. So at the level of thought when I understand this, why should I get so upset? The story about the wheel that turns - we use the same word, galgal ha-hozer. Today he is poor, tomorrow he is rich, it's all on the wheel" - Zalman's voice lilting, almost chanting - "it's all on the wheel. And the word that we use is gilgul, being on the wheel." The Dalai Lama pronounced gilgul to himself a few times. It made an important contact between the two traditions - for Zalman was touching again on rebirth. He cited a bedtime prayer from the Art Scroll Siddur. "Before going to sleep: Master of the universe, I here forgive anyone who sinned against me, my body, my property, my honor, . . . whether he did it in this transmigration [gilgul] or another transmigration." They would return to the subject, but the Dalai Lama had more questions about what he'd heard already. At the dialogue in New Jersey, the Buddhist leader had deferred any discussion about God or atheism, explaining that it was best to save such discussions over apparent disagreements until the two religions knew each other better. Now, evidently, that time had come. "Of course," he said, "you know Buddhism does not accept a creator. God as an almighty or as a creator, such we do not accept. But at the same time, if God means truth or ultimate reality, then there is a point of similarity to shunyata, or emptiness." Shunyata is also called by the Tibetans "dependent arising," the interrelatedness and interdependence of all things and beings. All phenomena that arise do so through previous conditions and relationships - nothing stands independently, permanently, or absolutely. All is interrelated. Such interrelatedness implies enormous individual freedom and responsibility.

{p. 92} Actually, we Jews have a rich menu of crises to choose from. The expulsion from Spain in 1492, the Inquisition, and the Crusades were all terrible disasters. And the Babylonian captivity provides fascinating parallels to Tibetan history. But all of us were thinking most about the Holocaust. Seeing photographs of the Chinese destruction of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, temples, and libraries, I recalled the systematic Nazi destruction of synagogues. {ed. comment: but no mention that one Jewish faction - the Marxist - had created the very Communism that later devastated the monasteries of Tibet? Even if only to disown that faction - why not acknowledge it?} When I read about celibate Tibetan nuns and monks being humiliated and tortured, I remember the SS forcing rabbis to spit on the Torah before shooting them. And the death of more than a million Tibetans as a result of the occupation brought up the inevitable charge of genocide. {ed. comment: but the Palestinians accuse the Jews of the same.} As Rabbi Lawrence Kushner had told the Dalai Lama when they met in New Jersey, "The Chinese came to your people as the Germans came to mine." The parallels are not exact - how could they be? The Holocaust took place quickly, and extermination was the conscious goal of the Nazis. The Chinese are not seeking a "final solution," though by favoring Han, or ethnic Chinese, over Tibetans, a strong element of chauvinism is playing itself out. Their principal aim is to dominate and exploit the Tibetan territory, to make Tibet part of China by eliminating any vestiges of Tibetan resistance. But the result of their suppressing Tibetan nationality, culture, and language through decades of brutally repressive rule may well be a genocide played out in slow motion. One-third of the Jewish people were murdered while the world stood by. Much the same is happening right now to the Tibetans, and not a single nation is protesting with any force. Though many Jews wish to reserve the Holocaust as a unique historical event and object to its use as an analogy for other people's suffering, that doesn't trouble me so much. My problem is, the analogy offers the Tibetans too little in the way of hope.

Perhaps Yitz might have chosen to discuss the Babylonian captivity instead. At about the time of the Buddha, in 586 B.C.E., the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and led fifteen thousand Jews into captivity in Babylon. The intellectual leadership of priests and scribes left the country while the poor Jews remained on the land. This resembles in some ways the Tibetan case. In exile, the educated Jews carefully compiled their sacred writings - as the Tibetans are doing today at the Library of Tibetan Works and

{p. 93} Archives in Dharamsala. Jews kept their religious teachings alive and, within a generation (by 516 B.C.E.), were able to return to the land and, ultimately, rebuild Jerusalem and its Temple. Upon their return, they reformed their religion and democratized it further, much as the Dalai Lama is attempting to adapt his religion to contemporary circumstances. Obviously the Babylonian story offers much more hope. But I knew why Yitz chose instead to make a parallel with events surrounding the Roman destruction. The Tibetans might well be facing a long exile. And not far from his mind also was the Holocaust and the theological questions it raises. I would put these questions simply. How can Jews affirm faith in God and his covenant with the chosen people after Auschwitz? The question is settled for most secular and liberal Jews - they can't. ... In contemporary Orthodox Jewish theology, Rabbi Greenberg's own substantial contribution has been the concept of the "voluntary covenant." According to Eisen, "The word 'voluntary' is crucial to Greenberg. It emphasizes that the initiative - now, more than ever - is on the human side rather than on God's. It suggests that we will be faithful, we will uphold the covenant, even if God in the Holocaust did not." Therefore, Rabbi Greenberg told the Dalai Lama that the covenant is "the most seminal idea" in Judaism. The covenant that began with Abraham has not been abrogated - even at Auschwitz. Instead, he affirmed to the Buddhist leader his own faith: "The creator God seeds the

{p. 94} universe with life. Humanity can become a partner with the divine in making the world better or perfect."

What has changed is the human role in the partnership. And that happened, not in recent times, but "about nineteen hundred years ago, halfway in the history of the religion. The Jewish people in Judea were conquered by the Romans and their Temple destroyed by the Roman empire. It was devastating." Rabbi Greenberg explained that Jews could no longer make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, offer sacrifices, or receive divine messages through the priestly oracle. They were cut offfrom direct access to God.

"Then within a century or two the people lost the land altogether. So it was a major crisis. We lost many great teachers and important religious figures." In the first century, many interpreted the Roman destruction as abandonment by God, the end of the covenant. "And since the whole Jewish idea of covenant is that the world can be made better, this would be such a victory for evil that many Jews simply gave up. They assimilated and joined the very dynamic culture around them, Hellenism. Another large group, the Zealots, put all of their energy to recapturing and rebuilding the Temple. They reconquered Jerusalem for two years, but then they were crushed again." The final revolt against the Romans ended in the mass suicide of the Zealots at Masada in 73 C.E. The Romans not only destroyed Jerusalem, they renamed the capital and drove her people into exile. More than one million Jews died at that time, and Jews did not regain sovereignty in the land until 1948. But Judaism did not die. The religion was saved by the first-century sages, known today as the rabbis, the teachers.

Yitz explained, "There was one great rabbi of the time, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. The Talmud says, when the Romans had Jerusalem surrounded and were about to destroy it, he was able to break through to the Roman emperor and was given one wish. He said, 'Give me Yavneh and its scholars. I want to set up an academy there."' There he told his students they would outlast the exile by teaching, interpreting, and preserving the tradition. "Yochanan ben Zakkai basically said, 'If we don't have our Temple, but we have our learning, our texts - our Bible with us, we have the power by learning to create the equivalent of the Temple. It's a portable homeland.' "It's not enough to preserve. His

{p. 95} power was to say that as partners in the covenant, fallible humans have the authority to add new insights {ed. comment: i.e. the authority of the rabbis is equal to scripture; this is similar to Catholicism, with its infallibility of Pope or Council, but not found in Protestantism}, so that their activity was the equivalent of a renewal of the convenant. Their courage to renew preserved the past." After Jerusalem was laid waste, the rabbis found a home in Yavneh, a tiny town near Ashdod. There, in a vineyard, their leader, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, declared the academy of rabbis successors to the Sanhedrin.

As Yitz told the story of the first-century sages, I felt the power of our being there, as Jews. Dharamsala, as much as one can argue by analogy, is surely the Tibetan Yavneh. In this small Indian town, with no more than five thousand souls, lies the main hope for the survival of Tibetan Buddhism. And I could see - with a little squinting - the Dalai Lama and his leading abbots and monks as the Buddhist equivalent of Yochanan ben Zakkai and his sages. The Dalai Lama interrupted Yitz's history lesson to ask the inevitable question about the covenant, "The concept of the chosen people, is it right there from the beginning, or later developed?" Rabbi Greenberg answered that it was relatively early - and begins with the first Jew, Abraham. "Chosenness means a unique relationship of love. But God can choose others as well and give a unique calling to each group. Each has to understand its own destiny and can see its own tragedy not simply as a setback but as an opportunity." "Certainly," Yitz added, "I never thought I would learn from a Buddhist monk until you came to the world. In the same way, the Jewish people in their tragedy had an opportunity to be a model of how one persists, how one takes suffering and ennobles it. In essence, this was the challenge they faced in the first century." ... In the

{p. 96} past God might have parted seas, rained down manna, performed signs and wonders to save the Jewish people. But God was no longer going to step in and do the miracles for his human partners. Listening to Yitz, I had to reflect that the first-century rabbinic remakmg of Judaism was an extraordinary feat. For six hundred years, after the return from Babylonian captivity, the Temple in Jerusalem, the site of pilgrimage and sacrifices, had served as the mainstay of religious life. Then, in one blow, Temple, Jerusalem, and priests were gone. Along wlth them went all the magic and grandeur of ritual - the incense and sacrifices, the awe of the High Priest entering in the Holy of Holies. In their place, the rabbis evolved the text of laws and the stories and debates known eventually as the Talmud. The memory of the Temple was never lost - but it was turned into literature. More than two-thirds of the Talmud is devoted to descriptions of Temple rituals and implements. In that sense the Talmud is much more an imaginative literary text than a collection of laws. The rabbis declared that reading about the Temple laws was now the equivalent of Temple service. And this sort of sleight of hand, though brilliant, is a step back from the immediacy of ritual, what we'd seen, for instance, the day before in the Dalai Lama's temple, with its rich incense, colorful banners, and deep throat chanting. More - the magical side of religion, especially the yearning for a messiah - was subdued, if not basically suppressed, by the rabbinic sages. And this became a dominant cautionary note in rabbinic thought for centuries to come, extended not just to messianism but to mysticism in general. It is still dominant in Judaism today, in all of its branches. Reason became the keynote of Jewish religion, and though some of the rabbinic sages were themselves mystical practitioners, the Talmud certainly expresses strong cautions against too much interest in mystical topics. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai had had good reason for such caution. He had seen that excessive messianic faith had led the Zealots to challenge Rome, only to bring destruction on all of Israel. He is quoted in the Talmud as saying, "If you are holding a sapling in your hand, and someone tells you the Messiah has come, plant the sapling first, then go look for the Messiah." Maybe I'd been in Dharamsala too long, but I

{p. 97} could almost hear Rabbi Greenberg saying much the same to Rabbi Schachter. Yitz had another point that he wanted the Tibetans to consider: democracy. The rabbis succeeded because they had democratized religious education. "If God is not going to speak in visible ways, if we don't have the Temple that's so awesome to the average person - then we have to educate every single Jew." This was another interesting proposition to thrust into the Tibetan exile context, especially as the Dalai Lama and his high lamas were more Sadducee than Pharisee, more aristocratic high priest than democratic rabbi. Like the Tibetan gelukpa monks, the first-century rabbis became an elite religious group and held themselves to a higher discipline than ordinary Jews. I suppose they were a little like Yitz and Blu, keeping strictly kosher while others kept plain kosher. But at the same time, "they taught everyone to study and brought everything they knew to the people." Without mentioning it too pointedly, Yitz brought up another difference between rabbis and monks. "The rabbis are not celibate, so that in their answers and teaching, they would speak with the credibility of sharing the problems of everyday people." What the rabbis did in teaching the people - they often traveled from town to town - was to utterly transform and reinterpret every feature of the old Temple cult. He told the Dalai Lama, "Each of the holy days was reinterpreted to bring in a stronger historical element, and additional holy days were added to remember the tragedy. On Tisha b'Av, they would retell, relive, and reenact the actual destruction. Why? So that no Jew anywhere would ever forget the destruction or accept the world as it is. Such holidays reminded the Jews, 'We are in galut [diaspora], we are in exile, we are not in our homeland.'" In the New Jersey session, the Dalai Lama had already expressed admiration for Jewish home ritual. Now Yitz explained in detail how keeping kosher or making blessings over bread and wine became the equivalent of the original Temple rites. He offered them now as potential models to share.

{p. 100} The sacralization of memory has been an essential feature of Judaism throughout its history. We can see it today as Jews work hard to keep the memory of our Holocaust victims sacred. The Buddhist leader had now gained a more specific understanding of how Jews transformed the painful memory of exile into a source of strength and hope. For almost two thousand years, Jewish rituals and prayers constantly reinforced the same message - we have to return to our homeland. This tenacity had its reward, and this was the Tibetans' favorite part of the Jewish story - the happy ending. Soon after Israel's success in the Six Day War, Jamyang Norbu, then president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, published a history of Israel, meant to inspire the Tibetans by example. The Jews had recaptured their homeland, why not the Tibetans? And Nathan Katz recalls in 1973 seeing a banner in Dharamsala that read "Next year in Lhasa" - a clear reference to the perennial call at the end of the Passover seder. The glow from the Six Day War has long since faded, and these days many young militant Tibetans find more immediate analogies to their situation in the struggle of the Palestinians, which shows how fickle and complex the uses of history are. But the Dalai Lama made it clear: he still found the example of Israel inspiring. But can the Dalai Lama and the conservative lamas and abbots behind him transform their religion as Yochanan ben Zakkai had transformed his? Yitz focused on several possible problems. He seemed to be suggesting that the monastic isolation from ordinary life could be a problem in the new situation of exile. "Judaism," he declared, "takes this-worldly activity much more seriously than Buddhism historically has. But I hear in your teachings already the recognition that it will never be the same. One of the new elements is this affirmation that the liberation of the Tibetan people - the improvement of the human condition, improved ecology - is a valid religious activity. This is in essence what the rabbis said. We are affirming life, we are called to take this responsibility, and we are going to correct this imbalance, we are going to get back to Israel. The genius was, you don't surrender to force. So if you prepare properly, whether it takes nlne years or nineteell hulldred years, you'll make it." The Dalai Lama pronounced the presentation excellent and practical. ...

{p. 101} But the Tibetan leader's curiosity did not end there. He wanted a little give-and-take. "So according to new circumstances," the Dalai Lama said, "a certain new idea developed. How was it developed?" I could see that as the central figure in the Tibetan drama for the past thirty years, he was thinking about the rabbis from his own position, wrestling with the questions of leadership Yitz had raised. How, he asked the rabbi, could profound changes be made in a religion, except through a single leader? How had the rabbis succeeded in democratizing religion?

Each of the various Tibetan Buddhist sects could trace their lineages back through a hierarchy of elite masters. In the thirteenth century, the Sakya Pandit, leader of the sakya sect, became the religious tutor of the Mongol emperors, the descendants of Kublai Khan. In exchange, the Sakya Pandit was given political rule over Tibet, while acknowledging China's authority. A century later, with the decline of the Mongols, Tibet regained full independence. But the same pattern was reestablished in the seventeenth century, this time by the gelukpa sect, and its leader, the Dalai Lama. In this way, the XIV Dalai Lama combined spiritual and temporal roles as the head of a religious hierarchy. Yitz Greenberg saw some advantages to this, since the person most exposed to the new realities also had the most authority. But at the same time, he was also challenging the Tibetan leadership. He told the Dalai Lama that Yochanan ben Zakkai had saved Judaism not because he was its most profound sage, but because he had worked democratically, transferring the burden of religious practice from a hereditary Jewish priesthood, the Levites, to every Jewish household. "His secret was to get the average Jew involved."

In turn the Dalai Lama showed that he could challenge as well as be challenged. He asked a question, which if properly considered, really cut to the heart of the contradictions in American Jewish life. "So after Israel was established, did some of these traditions change - or not yet?" He wanted to know if contemporary Diaspora Judaism continued to emphasize exile in its prayers and practices now that the problem of exile has presumably been solved, now that there is a state of Israel to return to. He smiled mischievously. The Dalai Lama's sect is artful in dialectics and he had touched a Diaspora nerve, though in such a gentle way that

{p. 102} Yitz was delighted by the question and the rest of the group broke into laughter. I'd often thought that "Next Year in Jerusalem" had utterly changed its meaning now that Jerusalem is only an El Al ticket away. "I think we are going to vote for you for Chief Rabbi of Israel after you finish here," Yitz said with delight. "I mean it." Rabbi Greenberg admitted that today's Diaspora Jews are living through a theological crisis as profound in its own way as the original exile and dispersion two thousand years ago. Because the entire structure of remembrance built up by the rabbis is obviously undermined if exile is no longer enforced by outward necessity.

He explained that the Orthodox Jewish community is deeply divided over how to interpret the Jewish state. Many traditionalists resist the recognition that "Israel is a transformational point that asks Jews to take more responsibility for their fate today." Rabbi Greenberg and others see that "as two thousand years ago, we are again being forced to face a major moment, where religion is called upon to its limits, where a people stretches its mind to preserve its past and its future." For every Jew in the Diaspora, observant or not, the fact of Israel raises gritty, personal questions. Most of us in that room had at one time or another seriously flirted with aliyah. But relatively few American Jews are willing to give up their material comforts for a life of struggle in the promised land. One exception was the next presenter, Paul Mendes-Flohr. He'd made aliyah as a young man, on the idealistic principle that this was the most authentic path for a Jew in the twentieth century. His idealism also showed in his politics: he is a peace activist and had organized an interfaith dialogue group, Rainbow. As Professor of Modern Jewish Thought at Hebrew University, and a prolific scholar, Paul specialized in the work of Martin Buber. ...

{p. 103} As an Israeli, Paul had a very different answer to the Dalai Lama's artful question about continuing the memory of exile. Unlike Rabbi Greenberg, he did not interpret the return of Jews from exile as a problem in theology. It meant, instead, the reentry of Jews into the political world, "a source of joy and of pain. The joy is the ingathering of our peoples from the four corners of the earth, of seeing our children dance and sing in Hebrew. The pain: our return has been accompanied by a tragic conflict with another people." He pictured for the Dalai Lama what it would be like when his own people returned, if they had to face conflict with the Chinese now living in Tibet. "We have a similar problem with the Palestinian Arabs."

The Dalai Lama asked him about violence. "The use of force, from the spiritual viewpoint, what would you say?"

"A necessary evil. We're not proud of it, we're not happy about it." The Dalai Lama reflected. "This is reality, because of your own survival." I felt that subject would need a lot more ventilation but Yitz Greenberg, an ardent defender of Israel, steered the conversation around to a different point. "I was thinking about how the resistance in Tibet began with some of the Khampas fighting." The Khampas are fiercely independent tribesmen in eastern Tibet who began an active guerrilla attack on the Chinese in 1956. They are the Tibetan Maccabees. "I'm not asking you to betray your tradition of nonviolence," Yitz said, "but in a way the reassertion of Tibetan dignity and the right to have Tibet began when certain Tibetans saw the oppression as so overwhelming that they had no choice but to fight. I know it's a conflict but . . . " {ed. comment: the CIAÕs support for the Tibetan insurgency can hardly have endeared the insurgents to the Chinese Government; were a foreign country to support the Hawaiian secession movement, or an eskimo or Black (negro) secession movement, would the US Government react differently?} The Dalai Lama took it from there. "Yes, from the Buddhist viewpoint, theoretically speaking, violence is considered just a method, so the method is not very important. What is important is motivation. The goal.

{p. 104} "Violence is like a very strong pill or drug. For a certain illness it's very useful, but there are a lot of side effects. So then the worst thing, at the moment when you are about to decide, is that it's very difficult to know what the result wiil be. Only when things happen, then afterward, time goes, then you see whether war or violence really produces satisfactory results. Like the Second World War or the Korean War, I think there were some positive results. But the Vietnam War, now the Gulf War, nobody knows what the result will be. So therefore always it's better to avoid, this I feel."

As I interpreted it, the Dalai Lama was not saying that violence is justified. Justice and justification are very much Jewish and thereby Western concepts, foreign to the Buddhist worldview. Violence is a tool, a drug, only permitted if the perpetrator could know that there would be satisfactory results. The catch is, who would be in a position to know in advance the outcome of a violent act? Really, only an omniscient Buddha. Paul Mendes-Flohr would state at the end of the trip that what really moved him in his encounter with the Tibetans was living in a community that so absolutely abhorred anger. He had worked for peace for years at the political level, and he was painfully conscious of the effect of constant war and conflict on the Israeli psyche. He particularly grieved over its effects on Israel's children. So he was speaking from the heart when he asked the Dalai Lama for advice about "learning how to deal with our conflicts in a more imaginative and nonviolent way." ... As we filed out ... I introduced myself to Alex Berzin ... The Dalai Lama called him "my rabbi"... it was hard to tell whether he was prouder of being a Jew or a Buddhist.

{p. 105} He was impressed by the preparation of the Jewish group and the creative ideas they offered. Evidently other dialogues had been more off the cuff. He thought "His Holiness showed a great deal of interest. It was very lively." Alex spoke very formally and languidly for an urbanized Jew. It did cross my mind that maybe he'd spent too much time on the meditation cushion. I asked him what the purpose of dialogue would be from his point of view. He thought it might help "His Holiness to explain about Buddhism back to the Jews in a much more knowledgeable way." Was he talking about proselytization? Alex denied that vigorously, and I could see why we were making each other uncomfortable. He was using "His Holiness" in every other sentence and that was giving me the creeps. I knew too that he'd gone around the world teaching Buddhism. So he probably heard in my questions about proselytization a note of reproach. At that point, I had a certain prejudice that maybe Jews who went over the deep end into Buddhism would lose their individuality and become like zombies. ... I was also trying to sort out the power I had felt emanating trom the Dalai Lama. The whole debate about "His Holiness" had now shifted in my mind. I was thinking about the Tibetan honorific for the Dalai

{p. 106} Lama, kundam, his presence. That is what Michael Sautman had thanked him for, and it made a lot of sense. There was a power to his presence that went beyond his sharp intellect, his fine sense of humor, and his capacity to digest a great deal of material. In the course of three and a half hours the Dalai Lama was introduced to topics as challenging and various as kabbalistic angelology, contemporary politics in Israel, the response of the rabbinic tradition to the destruction of Jerusalem, and evidence of early historical encounters between Judaism and Buddhism. Yet he followed them all. His normal attention was extraordinary, but it was clear when a subject wholly absorbed him. He would lean forward in his chair and seemed to magnetically draw from the speaker what he needed for his nourishment. Zalman Schachter told me, "There were times I was close to tears just from the intensity of his listening." Also astounding was his modesty. Several times, he prefaced an allusion to Buddhism with "our weak point is." He certainly didn't attempt to promote the superiority of his religion or viewpoint. The specific questions he asked about Judaism were truly outstanding. "How did the rabbis develop new ideas?" or "After Israel is established, do you still follow the same traditions?" These are not obvious questions to jump in with from another culture. It was uncanny how much he was able to think like a Jew. He seemed to operate very easily in the realm of intuition, what Zalman had called thinking through identification. Perhaps the direction of his questions also revealed his own preoccupations with how to reform a religion while in exile. About 115,000 of his people are now living in a new situation, some in Dharamsala, more in the rest of India and in Nepal, others scattered in Europe and North America. They are the first generation of a Tibetan diaspora, and Yitz Greenberg had noted that they face two crises at once - the crisis of exile and dispersion and the problems of modernity. Young Tibetans growing up in India or in Europe are not always interested in cultivating Buddhist practice. In that sense the Dalai Lama and the rabbis share a problem: how to keep religion relevant in a highly materialistic and secular culture; how to renew without losing continuity.

{p. 107} That was also the question Yochanan ben Zakkai faced, and Rabbi Greenberg had made me appreciate the relevance of first-century Jewish history, especially hearing this remarkable story told in the presence of the Dalai Lama and his monks. For those moments, Dharamsala was Yavneh, and I was powerfully moved that Jewish history could be so relevant to another people. All the suffering, the martyrdom that had always been so bitter and difficult for me to accept, now appeared a lesson hard earned, and a precious knowledge, even a Jewish secret of survival. That was very exciting. I recognized that Rabbi Greenberg's lifelong dedication to dialogue, within the Jewish world and with other religious leaders, is a key to renewing Jewish life, and keeping Jewish history alive. His belief that our history is meant to be - must be - a blessing for others is inspiring, unlocking old resentments and releasing the stored energy of our Jewish past. The history Yitz told the Dalai Lama was, inevitably, simplified. The rabbinic party had its origin in the Babylonian captivity, when Jews learned to live without a Temple. And so Jews had the fortune - or misfortune - to rehearse exile and develop its theology for more than six hundred years before the second, and longer lasting, exile began. Yochanan ben Zakkai did not appear out of nowhere. What is true enough is that the Talmudic project as a whole represents a radical change in Judaism. As much as Yitz, as an Orthodox thinker, might want to emphasize Jewish continuity, I saw in his parable of Yavneh an important lesson in Jewish discontinuity - and Jewish renewal. I noted Yitz's words to the Dalai Lama, that to preserve tradition, the rabbinic sages had to find the "courage to renew." This linked Y to Z, Yitz to Zalman, tradition to renewal, in my mental alphabet. It is an Orthodox article of faith that the essence of the Talmud was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai as an oral teaching - and then passed down to the time of the rabbinic sages by word of mouth. This belief I cannot share with Yitz. I view it instead as myth, affirming a necessary sense of continuity in a religion that has changed completely between Sinai and Yavneh. At a crucial juncture, with survival at stake, Judaism made a quantum jump across a historical discontinuity ...

{p. 110} "All religions," he said, "not just Judaism, are now being placed in a new situation. At first I thought the culture was forcing us. But I've come to believe this pluralism is God's will. Can you learn to propagate your religion without using stereotypes and negative images of the other? If we can't, all religions will go down the tubes - and good riddance - because we're a source of hatred and demolition of other people." One thing Yitz had done was demolish my own prejudices about Orthodoxy, at least his brand of it. His Judaism was not an old man saying no, but rather an extremely intelligent and very real engagement with contemporary life. Other, more fundamentalist Jews, as well as Christians and Muslims, resist pluralism as yet another seduction of contemporary life to be shunned. They view themselves as pious keepers of the faith in a world of sinful secularists. By contrast, Rabbi Greenberg was finding true piety in dialogue. He told me that afternoon at Thekchen Choeling, "Dialogue is an opportunity to learn the uniqueness and power of the other and then see if I can now reframe my own religion to respect that power, to stop using negative reasons why I'm Jewish. It leaves me no choice but to be a Jew for positive reasons." Pluralism challenges Jews to discard old stereotypes about themselves and about others. My own barriers against Gentiles had been based more on ethnic pride than religion. Actually, ethnic pride was a large component of my religion, a heritage passed down to me by my father. He grew up in an entirely Jewish neighborhood - the same one depicted in Barry Levinson's film Avalon. It was the era of restrictive clubs and beaches, and he remembers a sign in the Baltimore suburb of Catonsville: No Jews or Dogs Allowed. My aunt told me she never even met a Gentile until she was a grown woman. Along with this isolation came a Jewish counterculture. Since Jews were a minority, anti-Gentile attitudes seemed like fair revenge. A lot of it came out in humor. I remember my father's joke, "Why did God create Gentiles?" Answer: somebody has to buy retail. Or my grandfather, who used to comment in Yiddish whenever anyone made a bad business decision - "goyishe kopf' - Gentile head. There was a similar contempt for the dominant religion of the other, Christianity, a mockery of

{p. 111} the "dumb goyim" for believing anything so absurd as that a Jewish guy could be God. I remember once in Jerusalem, a concentration camp survivor told me, "They took this nice rabbi - and made him fly!" I grew up in the fifties in a suburban neighborhood so Jewish, the public school closed down on Simchat Torah for lack of attendance. So I picked up my share of stereotypes, too. Jews were smart. Gentiles were dumb. Jews were good in business. Gentiles weren't. Jews had a great sense of humor. Gentiles couldn't tell a joke. {ed. comment: not allowed to by Law, perhaps?} At the same time, my life offered me constant opportunities to assimilate and exposed me to wider realms than the self-imposed ghetto. In high school and college, I met all sorts of smart, savvy Gentiles who could tell great jokes - and plenty of dumb Jews who couldn't make a dollar. That didn't matter. The stereotypes remained part of my identity - part of who I was. As an American Jew, I was the un-Cola: not Christian. And that carried with it all sorts of received ideas and stereotypes. In a sense, Christian anti-Semitism makes it easy for Jews to get away with these sorts of attitudes. But what I had just witnessed persuaded me to take a second look. I could even understand why Yitz believed that pluralism is God's will. His experience was that dialogue with other religions could be deeply clarif,ving of his own. He told me, "Jews have been the victims so much we forget that we have a lot of negative images of others. Rav Kook, the great chief rabbi of Israel, said that every hateful or negative image of other traditions that's in our own should now be seen as a mountain we have to climb over as we try to reach God." We were looking at a mountain as he spoke. The gray granite of the Dhaula Dhar peak sparkled in the rosy light of the setting sun. Within Jewish teaching itself there are certain negative images of other religions. Some of the rabbis speak as though Gentiles are not fully human or do not have souls as Jews have. By contrast, others insist that the righteous of all nations will have a share in the world to come - the Talmud is full of competing voices. And so was I. I visualized the obstacles in my own thinking, whole Himalayas of aggression and defensiveness that formed a rock rib of my Jewish identity. I had to wonder if the strongest elements weren't the negative ones.

{p. 112} By forging a reactive identity, I had failed to see that there might be something more to Judaism than simply an opportunity to be sarcastic precious as that was. Because in denying spiritual power to other religions, particularly Christianity, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, my own Judaism - as a religion- - had also become a verv dry and unexamined affair. (As an identity, it was quite juicy.) The image of a mountain blocking a view was really hitting me and not just because the Dhaula Dhar range was so gorgeous in the setting sun. Zalman's teaching about four worlds and angels was all new to me - and not just me. That glimpse of angels made me realize that I had missed tremendous areas of a living spiritual depth in Judaism. Why had I missed them? Part of it was that I identified spirituality itself with Gentiles. Perverse but true. If they had faith, they gave faith a bad name. In my stereotyping, I included the idea that Gentiles were credulous and superstitious, that the whole realm of being holy and godly was something for Catholics in their confessionals and for the evangelicals I called Holy Rollers. I grew up near a convent and remember being both frightened and somewhat in awe of the nuns there. I knew they had given themselves to God - I never thought that way about my rabbi.

After all, as a child I didn't know many spiritually minded Jews. I knew rabbis, of course, but they were affable, or highly intellectual. None of them struck me as full of religious enthusiasm. That would have been embarrassing. Religious enthusiasm I consigned to the distant Jewish past, the shmaltzy world of Fiddler on the Roof: So I understood Rav Kook very well - the contemptuous attitudes I had toward Gentile spirituality had blocked me from ever looking for spirituality in Judaism. They were the mountains I had to climb over to reach God. Yet I don't think a dialogue with Christians could have led me to this place. I had too many resistances there - I was too aware of how many times in the past Christians had killed Jews in the name of their savior. The beauty of dialogue with Buddhists, as several of us had noted, was they had no baggage with Jews. Tolerance is a very strong Buddhist tradition. {ed. comment: but where did the Christians get their intolerance from? If Christianity was, in some sense, an amalgam of Judaism and Buddhism - an amalgam that todayÕs JUBUs are attempting for a second time, 2000 years after the first attempt - which of these two sources provided the intolerance? Surely this question answers itself.} In ancient times, strangers meeting along the Chinese Tibetan border would greet each other, "Sir, to which sublime tradition do you be-

{p. 113} long?" That was the spirit in which the Dalai Lama approached Jews. And that was the key to the success of the dialogue so far. He had asked us for our "secret." It was good that he asked, but that he thought that we had such a secret w as sweetest of all. He had reflected Jews back to themselves with an uncommon generosity of spirit, with no hostility, grievance, anger, certainly no contention. In that reflection, Judaism was revealed more fully and beautifully.

{p. 116} The Dalai Lama's presence - his "holiness" - was a living affirmation of the power of Buddhist teachings. That was unsettling because up until that point, despite a certain lip service to the concept of dialogue, the Jews had largely conceived of themselves as bringing their Torah to Dharamsala. But Zalman Schachter was not surprised at what was unfolding. He told me that evening over dinner, "I didn't come just to sell, but also to buy."

{p. 117} Some monks argued that Buddhists should not associate with alien sanghas, to avoid contact with negative people and negative thoughts. Ironically, the negative person who was the subject of the discussion was that champion of dialogue, Rabbi Greenberg, who was scheduled to address the group. We were seeing firsthand that the Dalai Lama's brilliant tolerance was not practiced universally in his community. In fact, it has been said that were he not the Dalai Lama, he would be considered a heretic. Faced with the immense task of preserving Tibetan religion in exile, some monastics have become ultraconservative restorationists. They seek to preserve tradition by rebuilding Tibet in India. They are the Counterparts of ultra-Orthodox Jews such as those settled in enclaves

{p. 122} I turned to specifics. What was the Buddhist explanation of the Holocaust?

He answered, that "from the point of view of the Buddhists, the Holocaust itself is a result of past karma. Those people were not necessarily Jews in their past lives when they created the actions that they reaped in that form. But when your karma ripens there is nothing that can protect you." A young Israeli visitor joined in and asked if the geshe viewed the Holocaust as a national karma, like the exile from Tibet. "This is a common karma. If you purify actions before their ripening, before their fruition occurs, then one doesn't have to experience the results. On the other hand, once the results have ripened to manifest, then it's too late, there's nothing that can extenuate, you have to experience them, that's the only way to get rid of that negative momentum." I was taken aback by the geshe's explanation of the Holocaust, because it sounded like blaming the victim. The issue would come up again in my conversations with Jewish Buddhists. It bundled several points of contrast between the two religions. How does one respond to evil? What is essential for survival of a people? What is the meaning of terrible group suffering?

{129} That's when I learned those dark little wheels had been bored out of a human skull - intended to make you reflect on impermanence. It sure worked for me. I gave them a sniffand they smelled slightly salty, a faint perfume of their previous owner. The Tibetans made quite a trade in human bones: in various shops I saw trumpets made from a human femur, with skeleton intaglio. In old Tibet a dead body would be carried up into high places for a sky burial - to feed the vultures. Ground burial was impractical in frozen soil, but the custom also reflected a Buddhist view of the body - as an impermanent frame that the mind stream entered and left, one with no personal value. Buddhist texts argue, I am not my body, nor does the body belong to me.

{p. 137} As for the questions about the meaning of life that so haunted Chodron, Joy said, "Jews are supposed to live as though each day were their last." She paused, smiled, and said, "I'm depressed a lot." We all laughed, but she added quite seriously, "As a child I felt very much - and still do now - that death is an end." Later I asked Joy to elaborate. She told me, "My sense of where Chodron and I divided probably has to do more with our psyches and upbringing. She found it impossible to accept the fact that when you die you're dead, that's it. And I never had that question. I don't know why I didn't have that question and she did. And she found that question resolved in Buddhism, which is when you're dead, you're not dead."

{p. 140} The Jewish Buddhists felt they had chosen a more complete and richer path in Buddhism. To Pemo, "Buddhism includes all living beings. Any person can come to my teacher. He has compassion for all of them. In Judaism, I'll help you because you are the same as me. As long as we have a discriminating mind, we are going to harm each other." Alex Berzin, who is something of a historian of Jewish Dharamsala, felt that a remarkably large number of Jews had been prominently involved. For instance, he mentioned that the first foreigner ever to receive the title of geshe is a Swiss Jew named George Dreyfus. Later that evening over dinner, I asked Joy Levitt how she viewed the loss to Judaism of such sensitive, intelligent, and spiritually motivated people. She said, "I don't feel they represent a symbol of some kind of Jewish failure. Their impulse has more to do with the nature of those individuals and their souls in a free and open society. There is enough richness and spirituality in Judaism to go around tenfold. Although we can always teach it better, for some people it will simply not resonate. "The Jewish problem is not that a few people find Buddhism attractive. The Jewish problem is that most people don't find anything at-

{p. 141} tractive. ...Ó There is a very strong streak, especially among more liberal and secular Jews, against anything that smacks of excessive concern for God or piety, against any overt religious display. When asked their religion in a recent survey, one out of five Jews answered "none." ... As for Professor Katz, his Shabbat encounters with the Western Buddhists he called dharma people had been very unsettling. Before the trip began, he had told me, "I came to Judaism through Buddhism." He explained that in the seventies he had studied Buddhism with Chogyam Trungpa at the Naropa Institute and had taken bodhisattva vows, as well as receiving a number of tantric initiations. Yet in the end, Trungpa had encouraged Nathan to explore Judaism more deeply. Following his teacher's advice, he had eventually made his way back to Jewish life and for many years now has been a very committed Conservative Jew in his own personal practice.

{p. 142} So it was with some anxiety that Nathan Katz had encountered the Western dharma people, many of whom, such as Alex Berzin, he'd known for years. He thought Alex was doing marvelously well. Perhaps he saw in him the path his life had almost taken. Nathan had also been tested by the ubiquitous Chodron in an intense dialogue that afternoon on the patio of the Kashmir Cottage. To Nathan the discussion combined the rapid-fire question-andanswer style of yeshiva - and Tibetan debate. When she asked him questions, he had the feeling she was looking directly at his mind for answers. Having heard about Zalman Schachter's presentation, she wanted to know in what way Judaism was a path. It was the first time someone else had directed such Buddhist questions to him about Judaism - though he told me later, "I do that all the time in my own mind." Borrowing from Rabbi Greenberg's lecture to the All Himalayan Conference, Nathan answered that in Judaism, studying Torah was a path. "At each meal we study, at Shabbas we study." He explained that the second part of the Jewish path was what Jonathan Omer-Man calls the vertical connection - prayer. Nathan explained "about life cycles, about seasons, about memory, loss, mourning, circumcision, the meaning of brit," or covenant. He told her as well about what Rabbi Omer-Man calls the horizontal direction - "acts of loving-kindness, ethics, repairing the world, tzedakah, the basic principle of menschlichkeit, and moral responsibility." He said, "That's our path, those three. Study, tefilla, acts of kindness or compassion." But Chodron pressed him. "How does each of these aspects cultivate or transform the mind?" Nathan answered that question, but then, with geshe-like rapidity, she stumped him with another. "Tell me," she asked, "your traditions, your teaching, your view on the origin, the arising, and the cessation of suffering. How is it that we suffer, and how do you ultimately overcome suffering?" He told Chodron, "I can't answer that, because I don't think my tradition explains suffering away. Or can explain suffering. I think my tradition holds that suffering is ultimately utterly inexplicable. And of course I'm of a post-Holocaust generation. So that the traditional answers to such questions are unacceptable to many Jews today. Also, we don't believe that suffering is ultimately overcome. Our tradition mediates how we suffer and thereby makes suffering sufferable through rituals, life cycles,

{p. 143} passages, and so on. But it doesn't promise, doesn't really entertain the idea of ultimately overcoming suffering, except in a future universalist sense, the messianic hope." In reply, she told him what as a student of Buddhism he already knew - that is, "how with great clarity and elegance the Buddha taught about the arising and cessation of suffering." He said, ' I know that. You've got me, I have to concede. My tradition does not answer that question as clearly as Buddha did, but nevertheless, I'm not sure it's a weakness of my system that it fails to explain suffering because I believe that's closer to the truth of suffering, that - medieval arguments about free will to the contrary - it remains inexplicable." Nathan felt a lingering disquiet after this thorough scouring, which came out later that evening as he talked the day over with Zalman. The rabbi also had ambivalent feelings. He expressed some frustration - he called it a bellyache - born of admiration for Jewish Buddhists like Alex Berzin. "Why, if he knows where the action is, would he not come back to our vineyard?" To such Buddhists Zalman would want to say, "You're taking bodhisattva vows; who needs bodhisattvas more than Jews at this point? You guys have got something, so why the hell don't you come in and help us? Why have you abandoned us?"

It was interesting that even Zalman felt this ache so strongly. I understood a deeper psychological reason why Jews tend to dismiss Jewish Buddhists. Because getting close to them, and seeing how fine they really are, makes their loss even more painful. This encounter between Jews and JUBUs cut to the bone, very much as Yitz Greenberg had described all dialogue in an age of pluralism. "You meet these people with tremendous force and openness and they're not preselected, they're not prefiltered, or loaded in your favor." I decided that when I returned to the United States I would try to meet more Jewish Buddhists and find out what they were thinking. The ones I'd met had broken down my old stereotypes of brainwashed zombies - these people were as lively and with-it as I could have wished. But while I'd been impressed by Alex and Ruth, by Chodron and Pemo, there was a slight note of superiority in their discourse that was the source of my own bellyache. I wasnÕt so ready to declare Buddhism the hands-down winner in the all-round spirituality contest. I'd give Buddhism an A for meditation and Judaism an A for family values. But Buddhism gets a C- for boring

{p. 144} poetry (too much hyperbole) and Judaism gets an A+ for great stand-up comics. And I thought kreplach and mo-mo were a dead heat, but lox and bagels a tiebreaker in the food category. At a more serious level, I wondered if some of the kvetches JUBUs had about Judaism were based on a false comparison. There is a danger in comparing an idealized version of a new religion to the very gritty and lived version of one's birth religion. Was it a fair comparison - or were we looking at an idealized Buddhism, a Buddhism for export as Zalman called it? Though I didn't have his erudition, I agreed with Isaac Bentwich that Judaism is an ancient tradition as worthy of respect as any other. In fact, the Dalai Lama himself had taught me that. But then Joy Levitt's point came to me with force: so many Jews had been turned off, not only to Judaism, but to any sort of spiritual experience. I was such a Jew. My own background was very similar to Chodron's and I could understand her impatience and dissatisfaction, especially if she brought any intellectual curiosity into her religious school class. It was clear, too, that if someone like Alex, who has mastered Tibetan and Sanskrit, passed through a Jewish childhood without being taught Hebrew, something was terribly wrong with Jewish education.

I was confused, caught between admiring the JUBUs and resenting them, feeling a little that they were putting Judaism under an indictment, though in a very friendly way that just made the inherent critique of Judaism that their lives represented more penetrating.

{p. 147: this chapter is called JUBUs in America} When I returned from Dharamsala, I interviewed a number of JUBUs, over the phone, through E-mail, and in person. I wanted to know what they'd found in Buddhism and why they'd left Judaism. I found myself conducting exit interviews for a generation of Jewish Buddhists. When talking of Judaism, the JUBUs sometimes sounded illinformed and harsh. But listening past the static, I heard a valuable critique of Jewish life today. Maybe Jews should consider adopting a formal exit procedure. We might learn more from the people who are leaving than from some who stay behind through sheer inertia. The Dharamsala JUBUs had mainly stressed similarities, not differences. Alex Berzin had mentioned shared scholarly traditions, Ruth Sonam and Thubten Chodron that their awareness of Jewish history had led them to appreciate Buddhist ideas about suffering. That was very diplomatic, but it didn't speak to the more visceral level where my Jewishness tends to operate. I knew there had to be more anger and pain involved with their leaving than that. Chodron as much as said so when she talked about looking to see if something in her encounter with Jews still made her shake. The JUBUs made me shake too.

{p. 148} They made me ask a question I'd never asked myself. What was I getting out of Judaism? What was I getting out of being Jewish? And they threw out a challenge, implicit in Chodron's probing of Nathan Katz: Is Judaism a viable spiritual path today? That was Michae Sautman's question, too, after Zalman's presentation on kabbalah While intrigued to learn about the rich mystical literature, he rightly wanted to know whether this stuff is available today. Every JUBU I spoke to had found Jewish mysticism inaccessible. Most were as surprised as Rabbi Levitt that such teachings even existed. They certainly didn't know of any teachers. When, in the course of our conversations in May 1992, I mentioned the kabbalistic doctrines of ain sof to Allen Ginsberg, the poet responded with very practical questions. "What specific group with a lineage teaches that and has practices that lead to the understanding of that, the absorption of that? Who would be the contemporary teacher representing that tradition? What's available for students?" They were questions I could not readily answer. Zalman Schachter had been born into Hasidism. And other Jews, such as Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man, have found their own ways to authentic teachers of Jewish mysticism. But, as he later explained, he had taken a very private and idiosyncratic route, one that makes credible the JUBU complaint that such teachings have not generally been of easy access - especially compared to the very public dissemination of Buddhism in the past twenty years. This inaccessibility was important, because the JUBUs' quest in turning away from Judaism was to seek direct contact with a teacher of wisdom. To meet a holy person. I could understand that - I had the same curiosity in meeting the Dalai Lama. {ed. comment - as an ex-Catholic, at this point I can empathasise with the Jewish author: Christianity has vacated the interior life as much as Judaism.}

That personal contact changed their lives. Alex Berzin had come to Dharamsala as a scholar - but stayed because of the living masters he met there. In Tibetan Buddhism in particular, the guru becomes an overwhelming influence. I had seen close up the very special relationship of teacher to student, between Ruth Sonam and Geshe Sonam. I had felt it in the way Thubten Pemo spoke of her teacher, Lama Yeshe. "Lama was radiating love at everybody."

{p. 149} But just as important is the accessibility of the teachings. The early stages of the Buddhist path are experiential. You don't have to be converted to Buddhism to meditate. You don't have to sign up to a long list of beliefs or assertions about historical events or figures. The most basic meditations are as available as your next breath. And if they prove useful to an individual, beyond them are very systematic paths of spiritual development. The Tibetan pedagogy, lam rim, is, in fact, a graded path toward enlightenment.

Direct experience of meditation was key to Joseph Goldstein, one of the four JUBU founders of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. "A year or two into my practice I came back to the States and met with the rabbi who had bar mitzvahed me. He was very upset that I was leaving the Jewish fold, which is how he saw it. For me the real difference was that insofar as I understood it, the path of Judaism involved following the vision, the law, of someone else's experience. I used the Old Testament prophets as an example. I told him I was interested in having that experience. I wasn't interested in taking it on faith and trying to live up to it." In the sixties and seventies some extremely skillful Tibetan teachers came to the West, among them Lama Thubten Yeshe, who taught Chodron and Pemo, and Kalu Rinpoche, a brilliant meditation master. But the best-known Tibetan teacher at that time was Chogyam Trungpa. As befits a master poet, Allen Ginsberg explained Trungpa's great Success with Jewish students as due to his language. "For the first time he expounded Buddhist dharma with a Yiddish accent. A lot of his students had been Jewish and he understood New Yorkese, Hymietown dialect." For instance, "the Buddhist notion of suffering - as in 'existence is suffering' - he could translate as tzuris. "I had not until that time [ 1970] run across any wise men that completely penetrated my skull with their language and their insight and their humor" By contrast, Ginsberg found the Jewish esoteric to be relatively difficult to access. When I mentioned the outreach of the Lubavitcher rebbe, who lives across the river from him in Brooklyn, Ginsberg exploded, "He seems like a complete crank and a political reactionary on top of that. Who's going to go to him for wisdom?" I thought that

{p. 150} was funny, because I could imagine a Hasid speaking just as harshly about Ginsberg's teacher for being a drunk and a sex maniac. Maybe he thought better of it himself, because he added, less irritably, "What I'm getting at - there were no teachers who were clear. Or I didn't run into a teacher who was clear. There may have been some hidden teachers but I didn't know them. It was daunting to try and do it in English anyway when it should be in Hebrew, whereas it was less daunting to do the Tibetan in English because the teacher had by then found the English equivalents and did not have to rely on the Tibetan." I asked Zalman Schachter why he thought so many had left Judaism for other traditions. He mentioned something obvious that had not been expressed by the JUBUs themselves - the appeal of the exotic. "First - it doesn't feel real if it comes from their own thing. If you come to shul on Yom Kippur - this is the gross level, yah? - and you know you're going to be hit for the United Jewish Appeal and the building fund, you can't take your own tradition seriously."

As to accessibility, Zalman pointed out that the mystical and esoteric were suppressed by the more liberal branches of Judaism, beginning with the German reform movement of the nineteenth century. "The early translators were very strong rationalists. Anything that smacked of mysticism they put down, as Graetz puts down kabbalah. Very ashamed that we Jews have such superstition. So the hunger is very great." This was, of course, exactly the climate Gershom Scholem had encountered in Berlin when he began his study of kabbalah. With their own esoteric teachings inaccessible, most JUBUs grew up with a Judaism heavy on ethnic pride, obsessive about preserving itself, about maintaining Jewish identity at all costs. And Jewish pride, Jewish chauvinism, Jewish particularism - the idea that we are special, a chosen people - seems to contradict the very universalistic prophetic messages Judaism also teaches. Perhaps they wouldn't put it this way, but if examined closely, it appears that some JUBUs left Judaism because of their Jewish ideals. {ed. comment: and Christians left Christianity for the same reason.} Joseph Goldstein told me, "One reason I don't feel so connected, and this may be a totally exoteric dimension of Judaism, but I was never comfortable with its nonuniversal aspect. It seemed separatist to me. The whole notion of the chosen people. This is true of all Western religions. {ed. comment: quite true - a good point.} They are not so much talking about the universal nature of the

{p. 151} mind, but rather a belief system. If you believe, you are part of a certain group. If you don't, you're outside of that." Chodroll told me, "I felt a very strong Jewish identity because I was one of four Jewish kids in the school. I was brought up, you're different. 'I'm not stupid like those people who believe in Jesus' - this kind of attitude. Though my parents weren't very religious, there was this ethnic feeling. When I was ten, I had a Christian girlfriend. We used to talk about God. I said I felt closer to God because I was Jewish." She laughed at the memory. "In high school I was already moving away from Judaism." She was disappointed in the whole idea of "this happened to the Jews five thousand years ago; therefore, this is what is important to you. I thought, hold on, that happened to people from a completely different society. What do I have to do with them?" Chodron felt Jews emphasized their own suffering too much. "I felt very uncomfortable when I got into high school with Jewish paranoia. This whole feeling of unrelatedness to the rest of humanity because you're Jewish. "I grew up in the time of the Watts riots, with black people saying they wanted equal rights. So were women and Chicanos. That made a lot more sense to me than this Jewish protectorate. I moved into the sphere of social action, taking what I learned about suffering from my Jewish background but going well beyond the narrow Jewish limit to which it was applied."

Allen Ginsberg remains very disturbed by Jewish particularism. He told me in our 1992 interview that he agreed with the former United Nations resolution stating that Zionism is racism. "And the fact that everybody is so screamingly angry Zionism can't be called that is even worse" The Israelis and Palestinians had both missed great opportunities for peace. He was equally hard on the Tibetans. He thought "the Dalai Lama's political group is partly responsible for the conflict with China, because the rather corrupt Office of Tibet asked for such a large chunk of territory that it offended the Chinese." He found the Tibetans making the same mistake as the territorial overextension of the Zionists." Though there were hints of anti-Zionism among some of the Jewish Buddhists I spoke to, Ginsberg's expressions were the harshest. When I asked him to define his Jewishness, he described himself as a delicatessen intellectual." Yet despite that purely secular self-definition,

{p. 152} Like Allen Ginsberg, most Jewish Buddhists I spoke to came from secular backgrounds. In this they resemble the vast majority of two generations of American Jews. I'm convinced that the Judaism we were exposed to was primarily exoteric, preoccupied with social and political issues, and often embarrassed by expressions of spirituality. {ed. comment - this is also like post-Vatican-Council Catholicism, and New Left Protestantism.} There are many historical reasons for this. One has to do with the type of Jews who came to America during the massive wave of immigration at the turn of the century. Many had already dropped religion in the old country, some in favor of the Bund, Zionism, or Communism. Like Ginsberg's grandfather, most others quickly dropped the outer trappings of religious Judaism just to make it in American life. A New York rabbi once remarked that he would like to do some scuba diving around the Statue of Liberty. He was certain he would find hundreds of yarmulkes, prayer books, and tallisim that newly arrived immigrants tossed overboard. American Reform Judaism - the kind both Chodron and I were exposed to - continued the process by streamlining religion. Though the Reform movement was born in Germany in the 1830s as a response to the emancipation of Jews from the ghetto, its success in America with the children and grandchildren of immigrant Jews had a lot to do with its elimination of old world religiosity. The more Reform synagogues resembled churches, the better. The point is, the Reform Jewish strategy pretty much succeeded in assimilating Jews into American life. When JUBUs spoke against Jewish particularism, one could feel that Reform Judaism had succeeded all too well. An ethical ideal of universal justice, freed from the particulars of ritual, left many Jews free to leave the fold. We could be secular, or Buddhist, and still feel connected to these universal values. At the deepest level, though, the JUBUs could never make a connection to God. "After all," as Allen Ginsberg told me, describing the

{p. 153} Naropa class of 1974, which included Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, and others, "most of us were nontheists, while Judaism finally does insist on a sacred personality to the universe." ... Many Jews, if pressed, could not say for sure that they believe in God. Although surveys show that a large majority of American Christians believe in God, a much lower percentage of Jews do. American Jews in general are more uncomfortable than their Christian neighbors with concepts of God, or heaven or hell. Here the JUBUs are different. Spiritual issues grabbed them - they had a lot of consequences. God became a big issue to these folks at some point in their lives, a source of concern or conflict. And many JUBUs resolved this by concluding that God was a harmful concept, with disturbing effects on the personality of the believer. This aroused my interest because I certainly could not claim to have had any direct experience of God. In fact, belief in God had not been much stressed either in my family or in my synagogue. God was a name we mumbled in our prayers, along with a lot of other Hebrew we didn't fully understand. My Jewish attachment so dominated my thinking, I was even proud that Jews had invented God, or at least that most people seemed to worship the Jewish God, which I took to be the same thing. It never occurred to me that I should stop being a Jew just because I didn't have an experience of God. Thubten Chodron's questioning began earlier in her life than Goldstein's, and she did arrive at some definitive conclusions. Yet she still has unanswered questions - which may account for her intense encounter with Joy and Nathan in Dharamsala. She opened our conversations in the United States by telling me about her various efforts in recent years to meet with rabbis so that she

{p.154} could ask them about God. Their response to her was rather cold. {ed. comment: yes, and the Christians who have most to say about God seem just as uncomfortable with such unsolicited questions, for which they lack textbook answers.} As she had indicated to Joy Levitt during their encounter in Dharamsala these questions go back to her Sunday School days, when she used to compare notes on the way home with a friend. About "the Old Testament God," she said, "I didn't like his personality. He was vengeful, he had qualities I wouldn't want to develop, that my parents taught me were wrong. Harming others because they harm the people that you like. Smiting others because they criticize you or worship somebody else. When you're a kid on the playground, because somebody plays w ith somebody else, that doesn't give you the reason to jump in and assault. This kind of jealous, vengeful God - I can't worship that. I can't see that as holy, I don't want to become like that." {ed. comment: as I study this text more, IÕm beginning to think that it, and the encounter it is based on, offers a healing to Jews - to Jewish separatism - which they have not found from Christians.}

I tried to suggest that "people evolve different conceptions of God" and wondered if "the God and Judaism you rejected is one most Jews would reject also, if it isn't a very unsophisticated child's view of Judaism. As we mature, we realize that concepts of God as father, king, or ruler are baby steps toward some greater understanding."

Chodron answered, "Then they should teach that to people. If there are wider notions of God, that's what they should teach to the children - not that God is up there watching you and you be good or you'll get punished." Likewise, Allen Ginsberg felt that "there doesn't seem to be a built-in security system against sneaking in an external deity" in the Jewish tradition.

The phrase "external deity" struck a chord with something Zalman had said to the Dalai Lama, about the kabbalistic notion of God. He had suggested "that the notion of creator who comes from outside who makes something happen is not the way kabbalah spoke about it. Kabbalah speaks about emanation. It comes out of God. There is nothing but God, so it all flows from God."

So I asked Allen Ginsberg if he was familiar with the mystical notions of God in the Jewish tradition, those that permitted the Dalai Lama to tell Zalman that he saw a point of similarity with the Buddhist concept of shunyata, or emptiness. Then I quoted to him from the thirteenth-century Spanish kabbalist, Joseph Gikatilla, that ain sof is "called Ayin [Nothing] because of its concealment from all creatures." I quoted other Jewish mystical con-

{p. 155} cepts of Nothingness from the Hasidic master, Dov Baer, and from the contemporary mystic, the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. But though impressed by these quotations, Ginsberg became irritated with the suggestion that such ideas represent real Judaism. Ironically, he shared Yitz Greenberg's view that kabbalah is no more than a minority report. "After all," he said, "what is the promised land, the special race, without a Bible that is the word of God of some sort, without all the literalism of the Old Testament?" He felt that there may be some eccentric kabbalistic definitions saying it's really nothing, but the mainstream seemed to be saying it is something, isn't it? By contrast, in Asian societies, he added, "they have the intelligence to realize there's no God."

This last remark seemed insulting, and I wondered at the wrath with which he denounced Judaism, God, the Lubavitcher rebbe, Zionism, and even the Office of Tibet. Why the vehemence, still? I was amused when he went on to explain to me in great detail the Buddhist methods of controlling anger. He himself insisted, "I haven't left being a Jew. I'm there. But I don't feel I left anything because I didn't have anything to begin with, religiously." I decided that in an important way he was correct. He hadn't left at all. Maybe I caught him at a bad time, but in our conversations, he sounded very much to me like what he condemned - a reactive, cranky, and very Jewish, prophet of Buddhism. I don't mean to pose Allen Gisnberg as a model of all JUBUs or as a representative Buddhist. I tend to believe that at root, his real religion is poetry. I suspect that the rigors of the Tibetan Buddhist discipline - the prostrations and the advanced meditations - are not as interesting to him as the theory - and the language it engenders. (I happened to pass by him in the audience during a teaching by the Dalai Lama in New York. While others were dutifully chanting Tibetan syllables, Ginsberg was intoning "eenie meenie miney mo.") Thubten Chodron represents almost the opposite pole in terms of commitment. From my own observation, she does spend hours a day on prostrations and prayers and, of course, she has gone all the way - shaving her head and putting on monastic robes. But in our conversation, Chodron inadvertently threw a light on this persistence of the Jewish personality even after a Buddhist makeover

{p. 156} when she mentioned how "God's preprogramming, intervening in the world," leads to a context of blame and punishment in our understanding of events. When she said that, I knew she had put her finger on an important aspect of Jewish, and Western, culture. The self-righteousness virus is a dangerous infection that easily follows from a belief in divine inspiration - or any transcendent spiritual experience. Perhaps we are also close here to an answer to the question of Jewish particle physics - the gluons of Jewish identity that keep not only secular Jews such as me, but even JUBUs, still attached to their Jewishness. I began to suspect that Jewish identity, as it has evolved in the West today, could be a real barrier to encountering the depths of Judaism. In other words, being Jewish could keep you from being a Jew. In our secular times, the sense of chosenness has degenerated from theology to psychology to reflex - like the paranoia I felt in the Frankfurt airport. Just as some delis now serve kosher-style sandwiches that are no longer kosher, so one might have a prophetic-style ego - without the prophecy. I see myself carrying around a sense of being special that has no content. I can also see it in some of the JUBUs - they have become Buddhists in part to get free of it. And as long as Jews make them shake, they haven't quite succeeded. Judaism is the wrathful divinity they must meditate upon until they are utterly calm. In short, Chodron's disappointment with God and the rabbis is a very Jewish disappointment. And Allen Ginsberg's anger at God and Judaism is a very Jewish-style anger.

Zalman Schachter gave me a beautiful midrash on this subject. He told me, "Shlomo Carlebach said something that deserves attention. He quotes a Hasidic master, Rabbi Mordecai Joseph, the Izhbitzer Rebbe who asks: 'Why is it that a kohen isn't supposed to go near a dead body?"' According to the law enunciated in Leviticus 21:1-3,10-12, the kohen or Jewish priest, is forbidden to make contact with a corpse. Thus, a Jew today who knows he is a kohen cannot go to the cemetery except for the funeral of a close family member.

{. 157} The Izhbitzer Rebbe, in his midrash, takes off from the text in Leviticus and uses it to find a spiritual message. "So the short of it is," Zalman explained, "when you see a corpse, you can't help but be angry with God. 'Why did He have to make it that way? That that's the door you have to go through? It's terrible.' Now the kohen is supposed to be the gentle teacher of people, so if he is angry with God, he'll have a real bad time talking about God because what will show will be the anger. "End of the Hasidic master, okay? Now Shlomo: Ever since the Holocaust we are all like priests who have become contaminated by death. It's hard for people who are looking for a loving, living God to find him among the angry voices. They go to people who at this point don't have any anger about God." Yes, I thought, they didn't go to hear about God. And some of them, like Allen Ginsberg, are still angry and others, like Chodron, are seriously disappointed. It was clear that all the JUBUs dismissed out of hand the idea that God could be compelling or real. And I certainly couldn't condemn them - because there were only a few occasions in my own life where I had any intimation that God might be real. That was the challenge Zalman had given me the morning he led davening in Dharamsala, when he touched me on the shoulder: Your God is a true God. That is, your God is real. Long ago, Moses Maimonides commented on this verse from Jeremiah. To the great medieval Jewish philosopher it meant, "He alone is real, and nothing else has reality like His reality." Between the faith of my ancestors and the challenge of the JUBUs I am caught in this dilemma: God is reality - or nothing. Or are reality and nothing somehow the same? Maybe where shunyata meets ain sof, I would find the high place where Jews and JUBUs and Buddhists could dance together again.

{p. 158} Saturday afternoon the Jewish delegation glimpsed the political tenslons In the exile community. In the garden of Kashmir Cottage, we met with Lhasang Tsering, at that time president of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), an organization that has played an opposition role in exile pohtics. In 1977 the group staged militant demonstrations at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi and made direct contacts with Indian political parties, which embarrassed the Kashag, or cabinet of the Dalai Lama. Since then, many TYC leaders have ended up working in the exlle government's bureaucracy, including Tsering. At times, then, the Dalal Lama has managed to coopt the potential rebellion, believing that a militant attitude is helpful for maintaining morale among our youth, but a military movement itself is not feasible. It would be suicidal. When I met him, Lhasang Tsering appeared suave, sophisticated, very sharp in his sports jacket. A man in his mid-forties, he voiced his criticism of the government in mild terms. However, I could infer that greater political passion burned underneath. Later in 1990, after our meeting, he resigned from the TYC to pursue a more militant path of

{p. 159} opposition. As an advocate of Tibetan independence, he has strongly criticized the Dalai Lama's peaceful approach to negotiation. That afternoon he told us, "When people are restless and unhappy in this land - as they should be - the challenge to our leadership is how to lead them into something constructive." Our friend, the monk and translator Laktor, replied that religious leaders faced a similar challenge. He admitted that westernized Tibetans in exile might get a feeling that "all this Buddhism is impractical" and added that "Buddhist education is confined to the monasteries, and we need to make it available to the people and let them judge if it is worthwhile or not. There is no need to change the truth but how to communicate it, so that other people can appreciate it." I wondered whether the problem didn't run deeper than packaging. We did not discuss the situation in Tibet, but the problem of secularization is not confined to the exile. The Dalai Lama left Tibet in 1959, and an entire generation has grown up for whom he is a remote figure. And young Tibetans are not wholly isolated from popular culture, which has entered China through Taiwan and Hong Kong. But the situation in the Tibetan and Jewish diaspora made for more immediate points of comparison. Like their American Jewish counterparts, Tibetan youth in India primarily attend public schools. Tsepak Rigzin, a translator for the library, told us, "Whether a nation survives depends on how well we preserve our tradition and culture. In Indian schools we are taught Tibetan one period a day for forty-five minutes. We blame the Indian educational system, but we ought to blame ourselves. We are allowed to teach in Tibetan but don't." In response, several Jewish delegates praised Hebrew and Sunday School programs and offered them as a model. ... I attended ten years of Sunday School and three or four of afternoon Hebrew school. Although I think I could have been taught better, and learned much more, the religious schooling did succeed in confirming my Jewish identity. Especially important was my confirmation class, which at a crucial time, ages fifteen and sixteen, planted me squarely

{p. 162} Karma Gelek spoke of a generation gap between those born in Tibet and those born in exile. "It's beautiful in this modern world, they think, so it's easy to forget your history because many people think you are born in this world, one life and that's it. We've been doing this for only thirty years. You are right," he said, addressing Zalman. "The family has a great responsibility. They used to be happy just to send them to any school. Now they ought to think differently. To save our Tibetan freedom by saving our culture. We may have a free Tibet back, but if it's totally different, then I personally would not want it back."

As for monks acting as spiritual uncles, Karma Gelek sounded defensive. Unlike, say, Catholic monks and nuns, there is very little tradition among Tibetan monks for doing social work. Still, Karma Gelek said, "There are many secular works. Whatever they are doing, it's a personal sacrifice. They could stay in the monastery and have a good life." I came away with a better sense of the real divisions and tensions in the Tibetan exile community - the pressures the Dalai Lama faces on a day-to-day basis. It was one thing to maintain nonviolent ideals in the abstract, another when dealing with nitty-gritty politics and facing strong discontent. Yitz had raised the question of democratizing and renewing religion with the Dalai Lama, and now I was seeing how difficult that task might be. Many young Tibetans born in exile blamed their plight on the failures of the religious leadership. The secular Tibetans in exile resemble my parents' generation in America, who grew up during the Depression. Both are children of immigrants, eager to assimilate into the prevailing culture. Their values include working hard and making it in the material world. Both generations embraced a modern, scientific worldview, turning away from anything that resembled superstition. They found their identity in the exoteric - politics and ethnicity, not inner religious experience. For instance, I had occasion after my return from India to meet with a geshe living in Canada, who was sent to establish a Tibetan Buddhist temple there. He told me that most of his students were Westerners, that the local Tibetans were too involved with establishing themselves as immigrants to devote themselves to religion. They mainly came to the temple on special holidays, such as the Buddha's birthday. This reminded me of my parent's generation again: the shuls were full to bursting on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but empty the rest of the year.

{p. 163} Tibetans and Jews, and Hindus and Muslims for that matter, all face similar problems of preserving religious traditions in the contemporary world. The zeal to preserve could lead to conflict with others, to violence and war. That was brought home to us dramatically as soon as our meeting with the Tibetan intellectuals broke up. Tsangpo, our travel guide, came to us with some bad news. While we'd been in dialogues about pluralism, India had plunged into crisis. A group of Hindu fundamentalists was marching on a mosque in Ayodha, in a bordering state southeast of Dharamsala. The Hindu militants claimed the site as the birthplace of Lord Rama. Rajiv Gandhi had predicted two weeks before our arrival that the issue would bring down the government of Prime Minister V. P. Singh, already under pressure due to the violent demonstrations over his affirmative action scheme. These new demonstrations touched on the fear of religious civil war that has hung over Indian politics since independence in 1947. The demonstration was scheduled for Tuesday, the same day as our planned departure, and the Indian government planned a curfew and restrictions on travel for that day. The history of Muslim-Hindu relations is full of both extremes: great mutual tolerance and fanaticism. The very recent development of a militant Hindu fundamentalist movement is especially dismaying, because Hinduism has traditionally been one of the most tolerant of world religions. For me, the whole situation as we discussed it echoed an incident a few weeks earlier on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There, in a confrontation between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators, nineteen Arabs had been killed. That confrontation began when Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa mosque showered stones and rocks on Jews praying at the Western Wall below them. That stupidity was met by an overreaction on the part of the Israeli police. Both Muslims and Jews consider the same site, the Temple Mount, to be sacred ground, just as now Muslims and Hindus were claiming the same temple site in Ayodha. The question is, what role should religion

{p. 164} play in such conflicts? It seems to me that very often in Israel, religion exacerbates the conflict on both sides. Yet in the deeper, inner core of Judaism, there is a sweeter wisdom that knows better. For instance, Teddy Kollek, the former mayor of Jerusalem, is fond of citing the Orthodox belief that the Third Temple of Jerusalem is not something that can be built by a contractor. Rather, it floats in heaven and will not descend to earth until God is good and ready. {ed. comment: Temple Mount Faithful now claim that he is on their side.} That wisdom could temper the passions that would claim holy ground at the cost of human blood. But a strong case can also be made that organized religion is the problem, not the solution. That in part was Yitz Greenberg's point, that if religion contmues to exacerbate conflict and hatred in the world, then religion itself, in his words, "will go down the tubes, and good riddance." Just to add a little more complexity to the argument, there is the current impasse between the Tibetans and Chinese. In this case there is currently no common religious ground. Once, long ago, when China was a Buddhist country, the Dalai Lama of Tibet was especially respected by the Chinese emperor, so that their relationship was known as "prlest and patron." As a result, Chinese armies did not cross over to Tibet, nor Tibetan armies into China.

But since the Chinese Communist revolution in 1949, all that has gone by the board. The Chinese have completely abrogated seven hundred years of mutual respect by simply annexing Tibet militarily. Attempts at negotiation have proven fruitless. From their Marxist-Leninist perspective, the Dalai Lama is a feudal leader and the Chinese are simply bringing progress to a backward, superstitious land. The spiritual riches of Tibet are entirely invisible to them, and their concrete mamfestation, including six thousand monasteries, have been reduced to rubble, or used as granaries and stables. Recently, it is true, the Chinese have begun allowing Tibetans to rebuild a few of the monasteries - but mainly so they can be shown to tourists. The Chinese sell tickets for the visits, as in an amusement park, and adrninister the new monasteries under their department of antiquitles. They continue to view Tibetan religion as backward superstition. So on the one side there is a powerful empire with a purely materialistic ideology backed by an overwhelming military force, and on the other is the Dalai Lama, primarily relying on his spiritual principles and the support he can gain trom international public opinion.

{p. 165} I think it is a difficult question whether the Dalai Lama's religious vision is truly adequate to the moment of history he finds himself in. If, for instance, one imagines that in 1947 - when Israel was attacked by six Arab armies - that the young state had been led by a mystically minded rabbi, instead of a pragmatic secularist like David Ben-Gurion, the outcome might have been less favorable. An interesting aside is that David Ben-Gurion studied Buddhism seriously. In 1961, during a visit to Burma, the Israeli leader spent two davs in conversation with Burmese monks, and told a biographer that he "got some new insights in talks with U Nu, prime minister of Burma at that time, a scholarly and devout follower of Buddhist moral teachings." Elie Wiesel passed on to me further details, which he had on good authority. Ben-Gurion peppered U Nu with questions. Finally the Burmese leader said, "There is a man in Ceylon who is a great teacher, and he can answer your questions." "What language will we speak?" Ben-Gurion asked. "What else?" U Nu replied, "Yiddish." It seems the guru in question was a Jew who had studied Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It's possible he was Nyanoponika Thera, a German Jewish refugee and author who is considered one of the most erudite monks in the Theravadan tradition - yet another major JUBU. So maybe in exchange with Ben-Gurion, it might be a good idea for the Dalai Lama to study a little Zionism. {ed. comment: but would the price be the destruction of Buddhism?} It's not that I doubted the profundity of Tibetan Buddhism, or its deep consolations for the Dalai Lama's religious followers. Even having lost their land, their temples, and their monasteries, a thorough understanding that the nature of things is impermanence provides them with a powerful acceptance. Yes, Karma Gelek had told us with some pride at a dinner held the night after we'd arrived, "We have been able to reestablish two hundred monasteries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, and because of the success of establishing monasteries, we don't worry about the disappearance of our culture from the surface of the earth." This intrigued Blu Greenberg, because it seemed to imply that the new could substitute for the old. She asked if the Tibetans had a concept of "holy space, sanctified space," like Jerusalem for the Jews or Rome for the Catholics. To Karma Gelek, "holy spaces are symbols rather than the essence. We don't believe," he said, "in untransportable holy space."

{p. 166} Karma Gelek said the Dalai Lama had once told a refugee community that "you don't have to worry if everything is destroyed in Tibet such as thangka paintings or statues of the Buddha - because if a person treasures the real holy thing in himself, he can reproduce the spiritual objects because they come from the spirit within the person." This is very beautiful, but I can see where younger militants, such as Lhasang Tsering, might find this approach counterproductive, if the goal is to get back the actual land of Tibet. It's not the kind of religious philosophy that would encourage people to fight for their homeland.

This philosophy would seem to work against a Tibetan Zionism. Karma Gelek indicated that if people fail to stay with the essence of their religion, and instead cling to an exoteric identity, or if people mix up their religion with politics, they are themselves the greatest enemies to the survival of the inner meaning of their faith. Jews have faced such choices again and again in their history, and I don't think there's any single lesson to draw. In the debate between pure idealism and impure action, sometimes the Maccabees have won, and sometimes the hasids or saints. For centuries in Europe accommodation and humility, and a focus on community spiritual life, helped Jews survive. Today the dominant reaction to the Holocaust has been that Jews must fight, must use violence, if necessary, to ensure survival.

{170} I've always been intrigued by the oracle of Delphi, which plays such an important role in the myth of Oedipus and in the life story of Socrates. Though Delphi is in ruins and the oracle is no more, I like the idea of a terminal where messages can be received from realms beyond this one a cosmic telephone. Throughout the ancient world, oracles were a rather ordinary feature of most cults. Ancient Israel had an oracular tradition, too, associated with the functions of the high priest. The ancient oracles are no more, but the Tibetans have preserved the institution for the past thirteen hundred years. The Nechung is perhaps the world's last official state oracle. In his recent autobiography, the Dalai Lama explains that "it has been traditional for the Dalai Lama and the Government to consult Nechung during the New Year festivals. I myself have dealings with him several times a year. This may sound far-fetched to twentieth-century Western readers. Even some Tibetans, mostly those who consider themselves progressive, have misgivings about my continued use of this an-

{p. 171} cient method of intelligence gathering. But I do so for the simple reason that as I look back over the many occasions when I have asked questions of the oracle, on each one of them time has proved that his answer was correct.Ó The Dalai Lama describes the deities of the oracle as his upper house, while the Kashag, or exile cabinet, is his lower house. He likes to consult both for important government decisions. And, in fact, the oracle played a role in his decision to flee Tibet in 1959.

Keeping in mind Nathan Katz's definition of history as what we choose to remember {ed. comment: but memory is also error-prone, and subject to suggestion, and to the unintentional incorporation of later material}, we would soon remember the magical side of our own religion. In visiting a temple, a monastery, a library of ancient books - and, above all, in talking to the medium of an oracle - one had the sense of a living reality that contemporary Judaism has long repressed, the way a certain smell has the power to stir a memory from long ago. ... I thought more of Safed, the town in northern Israel where the great kabbalists of the Sephardic world took retreat after the expulsion from Spain. Safed is also on a mountain, a town of synagogues and prayer and study, and once the home of the great kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, the master who infused the mainstream of Judaism with a mystical spirit.

{p. 173} For a thousand years, Tibetans have been perfecting such mental discipline, which in the West belongs mostly to the ancient world, such as the memory theaters of the Greek and Roman orators. Tibetan scholar and translator Robert Thurman, who would join us that afternoon, would characterize the Tibetan monasteries as "factories of consciousness." To Zalman Schachter the 3-D mandala recalled the lost art of merkavah meditation, of "descending to the chariot" - the earliest technique of Jewish meditation we know anything about. Unfortunately, we don't know enough. It was believed to have been practiced by some

{p. 174} ... The Tibetans, based on their own tradition, could help make sense of the scraps and fragments of the merkavah tradition that remain. In Jewish life today, the mystical is either ignored or consigned to a distant superstitious past. And there is, at least popularly, a strongly felt dichotomy between what is considered the rational or reasonable aspects of religion and the mystical. This reflects the generally materialistic and scientistic worldview in the West. As a result we tend to read our Jewish history as though the great rabbinic sages were pure rationalists, or dry legalists.

{p. 176} In an adjacent shrine room we saw the fierce protector deities in all their multiskulled wrath, eyeballs bulging with the fierce rage of cutting through illusion with the diamond edge of the truth. I saw as well the sacred yabyum statuette, the union of Wisdom and Method represented daringly as sexual intercourse between a fierce deity and a lithe dakini, or goddess. It was hard to conceive what this might mean to a celibate monk, that the very highest mysteries of his religion would be portrayed in such a way. It struck me at first as outrageous and fantastic, but then I tried the trick of translating myself into a Tibetan and walking through the great churches and cathedrals of the West. There I would encounter, as the most common sacred symbol to meditate upon, the wounded and tortured body of a dying Jew. Was that any less strange? Having stabilized my thought with this mental exercise, my deepest layer remained strongly anti-idolatrous. To me, no image at all seems best. One of the holiest places I have ever been to is the Al Aqsa mosque on the Jerusalem Temple Mount - a very large temple completelv devoid of symbols and representations. {ed. comment: a hint at the commonality betweeen Islam and Judaism.}

{p. 179} To Zalman Schachter this called to mind the prophet Daniel, And I Daniel alone saw the vision . . . and there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption . . . when I heard the voice of his words, then was I fallen into a deep sleep on my face, with my face toward the ground. In his written report on the dialogue, Zalman would even suggest that we look into how to train a Jewish oracle. For now, he explained to the kuten that he had his counterpart in the high priest. "In our tradition at one time the high priest would wear a breastplate. On it were twelve stones and in the stones the letters of the alphabet were engraved. When we had a question, not for private individuals, but for the welfare of the nation, under certain circumstances we asked the oracle and received an answer." ... associated with the breastpiece are the urim and thummim - the mysterious Hebrew words inscribed today on the seal of Yale University and mentioned in Exodus 28:15-30 and Leviticus 8:8. According to scholars, the urim and thummim were lots - possibly marked sticks or stones - that were held in a pouch behind the breastpiece. Yes or no questions were answered by pulling out the objects - urim for no, thummim for yes. All of this oracular technology, as Josephus remarks, was lost a long time ago the last biblical mention of consultation of the oracle is at the time of King David. The oracular role passed on to the prophets of Israel. And when the line of the prophets died out, visions and revelations

{p. 180} came through the rabbis, through merkavah meditation and other meditative practices.

Similarly, the Dalai Lama has received specific political intelligence and practical advice from the Nechung oracle. Two years before the Chinese invasion, the oracle warned that in 1950, the Year of the Iron Tiger, Tibet would face great danger. Later, Dorje Drakden, the oracular spirit, advised the Dalai Lama to go to India in 1956 and make his first contacts with Nehru, which proved to be an important poiitical move. And in 1958 the oracle is said to have prophesied the Dalai Lama's flight: "In this great river where there is no ford, I, Spirit, have the method to place a wooden boat."

But Yitz was thinking more seriously about the contact we'd been making that morning with the more exotic aspects of Tibetan Buddhism ... He thought both religions start "with the equally utopian vision: that we'll overcome all sickness, all suffering, all death, all war - everything will be totally overcome." (In Judaism, this is the messianic vision; in Buddhism, the promise of nirvana.) "But," he went on as we walked down a dusty path, "in Judaism the process along the way toward that final perfection works with imperfection and partial steps. So you combine the utopian vision with the pragmatic, in an unrelenting work toward perfection. That's tikku oinln [repair of the world]. 'That's the constant process of tikkun. You

{p. 182} are as perfectionist as the Buddhists, but you define all the partial steps as having equal dignity" with the larger vision. In Jewish terms, then, the world "is not illusion, it's not lower, it's the very essence of achievement." He did not think that Buddhism honored the earthly steps toward perfection, because they viewed the ordinary world, the world of samsara, as naarishkeit [foolishness].

Nathan Katz responded to Yitz's ideas enthusiastically. "Exactly, exactly. I was telling Chodron, both Judaism and Mahayana Buddhism are religions of transformation. Our transformation is dominantly of the world, but to transform the world means to transform ourselves too. Whereas their transformation is primarily of themselves, and by so doing they transform the world. And they do overlap." "And if you look more carefully," Yitz suggested, "when the world is transformed it paves the way for the kind of spiritual perfection they are talking about anyway. So it's really not separable, and if you really are reaching out for that kind of spiritual transformation, it would be of this world as well." In Yitz's wide view, the difference is finally, then, a matter of emphasis, of foreground and background. For Judaism the transformation is focused much more on "this world," but the aim is universal spiritual perfection. In Mahayana Buddhism, one begins with personal spiritual

{p. 183} transformation with the hope of going on to transform this world. Scholem felt he was trying to "arrive at an understanding of what kept Judaism alive." He clearly felt that mysticism was an essential element of the Jewish spectrum And now, through our visits with the oracle and the library, we could see and feel how preserving and transmitting their own esoteric tradition has been key to Tibetan exile survival, too. I was also tasting, a little ruefully, some of the magic Judaism had lost. It was obvious, from the way we all lined up for the magical barley seeds, the chaynay, that Jews really enjoy the sense of play and wonder in religious life, which the Tibetans have preserved in great richness. There has to be a way for Judaism to find the right emphasis between logic and mysticism, without one suppressing the other. I know that as we made our way back to Delhi, I would be very Jewish and this-worldly, but I would also carry my magical seeds, my chaynay, in my pocket, hoping they would keep us safe.

{p. 184} Our last hours with the Dalai Lama were very rich. Doors were opened and secrets exchanged with an ease, frankness, and humor that came as one product of our week's immersion in a living Buddhist community. We had reached the stage Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man had imagined upon leaving Delhi. He had quoted to several of us a Buddhist text stating that in pure dialogue you and I would become we and us. That had sounded purely visionary then. But when, during a brief press conference at the start of the session, Shoshana Edelberg from National Public Radio asked the Dalai Lama, "Why have you invited these Jews to Dharamsala?" he didn't hesitate, but laughed and said, "Because we are both chosen people."

The chosen people may be a red flag for some of the Jewish Buddhists I spoke to, but not for the Dalai Lama, who explained that the Tibetans also considered themselves chosen by Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion. Then he grew reflective and answered seriously and with some feeling, "When we became refugees we knew our struggle was not easy, would take a long time, if not generations. Then we very often referred to the Jewish people. Through so many cen-

{p. 185} turies, so many hardships, they never lost their culture and their faith. As a result, when other external conditions became ripe, they were ready to build their nation. So there are many things to learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters." ...

I still had misgivings after my discussion Friday night with Geshe Sonam. I had been shocked, a little outraged, by what I'd heard about the Buddhist view of the Holocaust. I could not accept that the suffering of the Jews was somehow a result of their previous actions. Wasn't the knowledge of shared victimization the source of Jewish identification with the Tibetans? Weren't we fellow victims, fellow innocent victims? Yet I gathered from Geshe Sonam's response that in Buddhism, the whole notion of an innocent victim carried little weight in assessing how one responded to tragic circumstances. So. Two peoples had gone through an analogous experience of destruction. The Jewish people had responded by becoming more militant, more aggressive, by armoring themselves psychologically and in Israel, militarily. Survival had become a key issue for Jews everywhere. In my view, a reflex of responding decisively to enemies had become part of the contemporary Jewish character. {ed. comment: was this not what caused the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, the suicide at Masada, and the dispersion? What about moderation?} He listened carefully to my lengthy question and, after a pause to absorb it, pronounced it "quite complicated," which brought down the house. Then he responded. "Buddhism gives us a different attitude toward one's own enemy," he said, "since we believe a negative experience is due mainly to our own previous life, or the early part of this life's action. Due to that, unfortunate results happen. So therefore the so-called enemy, or the external factor, is something secondary. The main force is one's own,

{p. 186} either the collective karma or individual karma. That is really helpful in the sense that it induces us never to feel negatively toward the external factor. Because negative things happen due to our own action, {ed. comment: one rarely sees Jews taking that view} therefore, we have the potential to change that. Why not create a new action and it will hring positive results? So that I think is something relevant in our case." That he calmly referred to the Chinese who had murdered his people and forced him out of his country as "the external factor" was breathtaking. I understood one benefit of the Dalai Lama's thinking; namely, that by such clarity and lack of hatred toward the "so-called enemy," one could overcome any sense of despair and hopelessness. That was vital. Also, one could think more clearly and take more effective action when one is not burning with hatred and pain.

I wondered how the Dalai Lama's answer would apply to the current situation in the Middle East. One of the agonies of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been the sense of entitlement that both groups derive from their history. Each side can claim with justice a history of victimhood and pain, and each side tends to blame the other for its misfortunes. {ed. comment: why not ask the Dalai Lama to mediate in the Middle East Crisis?} So long as each side considers itself an injured party, there seems no way out of the impasse. Past grievances will justify continual mistrust and a sense on each side of righteous indignation. When, three years later, I saw Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shake hands on the White House lawn, I remembered the Dalai Lama's response. It seems that through sheer exhaustion and disgust with the continual violence, important political elements on both sides have come to conclusions very similar to the Dalai Lama's viewpoint. I was moved when the old soldier, Rabin, called for an end to conflict. "We who come from a land where parents bury their children, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians - we say to you in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough!" Still, letting go of self-righteousness is a very hard process, for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians in general. We are all caught up in the notion of justifiable violence - it is built into our political thinking and our law. In the West there is such a thing as righteous indignation and justifiable homicide. I gathered that these would be foreign concepts in Buddhist thought.

{p. 187} Jews in particular have always felt strongly about righting wrongs, whatever the cost. Deuteronomy warns us, "Justice, justice thou shalt pursue." It does not say being angry will damage you. And that sense of justifiable anger often filters down to everyday life, to the way we as Jews interact with one another, in our communities and families. Here Blu's comment about our angry Tibetan tour guide - that such anger is "realistic" - found its context. The very Jewish secret of survival we'd brought to the Dalai Lama - memory - meant that Jews survived by keeping alive the joys, but also the enmities of the past. In fact two of our most joyous holidays, Passover and Purim, dwell on the triumph over our enemies. Other holidays mourn the losses and defeats in our past. In particular, the memory of the Holocaust, and the long history of European persecutions that preceded it, still conditions the way Jews respond to present conflicts. So it was plausible to many Jews when Menachem Begin compared Arafat to Hitler, a comparison that had nothing to recommend it in regard to historical clarity, or certainly in regard to improving the situation .

There is a Buddhist teaching that being angry at an enemy is like stabbing yourself through the stomach to hurt someone standing behind you with the tip of your sword. (And I had to consider that maybe Buddha had discovered here the origin of ulcers.) I thought back to the Frankfurt airport, to my feelings of anger at hearing German voices or just being on that soil. This was not clarity or wisdom - this was walking through a nightmare of my own projections, the ghosts of an experience I'd never had. When I mentioned those feelings to Zalman Schachter he had told me, "If you want to stay in prison all your life, become a jailer. Being vindictive, being angry at somebody, saying I'll never forgive that person - so the people who say I'll never forgive the Germans are still in a concentration camp." Jews as a group, to a large extent, have been in a concentration camp for fifty years. Zalman had agreed, "Many many Jews haven't been able to make their way out of it. I want to say a lot of times, they aren't there. It's just that it's a cover, such an easy cover for everything you don't want to do. 'What? After the Holocaust - you want me to keep the shabbos? - Where was God da da da . . . ' You can shoot down any serious challenge to your personal life with that terrible, terrible thing."

{p. 188} Anger over the Holocaust has paralyzed many Jews spiritually and emotionally, and as I learned more about the motivations for Jews leaving the tradition, I became increasingly aware of the high price that anger exacted. On the other hand, especially after seeing the real conflict in the Tibetan exile community over how to handle the Chinese, I wasn't so sure that the Dalai Lama's position was, to use Blu's word again, realistic. So there was much to think about. Is Jewish anger, however damaging in some respects, essential to Jewish survival? Or will a Judaism that continues, in some ways, to dwell on and even nourish a sense of anger over past injustices prove to be an increasingly burdensome heritage to pass on to our children as we enter the twenty-first century? Before the session was through we would get some illuminating answers from the delegates, and from the Dalai Lama himself. But first we came to satisfy the Dalai Lama's "very personal curiosity - to learn more about the inner experiences" of Jewish people. ... Moshe spoke about the four levels of interpretation - the Dalai Lama remarked that there were four as well in Buddhist tantric teachings. The first three were the literal, implicative, and midrashic; the fourth, and deepest, level is called secret. In Hebrew they are pshat, remez, drash, and sod - the first letters spell pardes, or paradise. For Jews, the journey to paradise is a journey of interpretation. It is said in the Zohar that every new interpretation of Torah creates a new heaven.

{p. 192} The Dalai Lama asked about the provenance of Jewish mysticism. Rabbi Omer-Man explained that formerly it was in all countries, but the greatest number of followers had been killed in the Holocaust. A few teachers escaped to Israel and the United States. He himself had received two teachings, one Hasidic from Eastern Europe and the other "a North African teaching that came through Paris to Jerusalem." But he emphasized the fragility of transmission. "The esoteric is losing force in the Jewish world today." He mentioned the two young Jews from his hometown he'd met on the porch of the Dalai Lama's temple. "There are more Jews seeking the esoteric in Dharamsala than there are in my synagogue in Los Angeles."

{p. 195} There is also a path of tears. "One does not weep from one's own pain. One weeps for the pain of the Jewish people, for the pain of exile. There is a wall in Jerusalem called the Wailing Wall. They don't weep for their own problems. They weep because the world is broken." The Dalai Lama commented that the path of tears resembled the meditation for the initiation of the altruistic mind, or bodhichitta. For instance, the Buddhist practitioner visualizes in great detail the suffering of all sentient beings. Then the practitioner visualizes all of this suffering as taking the form of black smoke, which enters into the heart and is there dissolved. {ed. comment: is the Dalai Lama healing the Jewish people?}

{p. 196} Jonathan Omer-Man ... told the Dalai Lama, ÒWe have a very big problem in the West. The work of transformation has been stolen from us by the psychiatrists.Ó {p. 200} three cavities of the brain; the fourth and the fifth, the arms, the sixth the torso, the seventh and eighth, the legs, the ninth the sexual organ and the tenth refers either to the all-embracing totality of the image or . . . to the female as companion to the male, since both together are needed to constitute a perfect man" (Scholem, Kabbalah, pp. 106-7).

{p. 201} In Jewish thought, wisdom is equated with Torah. In Buddha tantra, wisdom is defined as a consciousness that realizes emptiness, or the lack of inherent existence of every phenomena. Uniting method and wisdom means generating a mind that, as scholar Daniel Cozort explains, "realizes emptiness at the same time it compassionately appears as a deity." To one unfamiliar with tantra, it sounds like doing a handstand with no hands. The Buddhists, however, use even more daring imagery - sexual union. That was the significance of the yabyum statuette I'd glimpsed in the Drepung Temple during our visit to the oracle. In tantric meditation, wisdom is the female figure and method the male.

{p. 202} Tibetan Buddhist tantra was largely derived from Hindu tantric texts and practices. ("Tantra" is the name for both the philosophy and its texts; at root the word means web.) Though some deny it, Hindu tantra was a frankly sexual yoga, according to the Buddhist scholar David Snellgrove, with its texts written in "outspoken and deliberately scandalous language and in the unorthodox terminology which one might

{p. 203} well expect of wandering tantric yogins, who claim to have no allegiance anywhere except to their own revered teacher." It was a different matter when they came over into Buddhism. According to Snellgrove, it was possible for the tantric texts to be "accepted into the mainstream of the Indian Buddhist tradition by interpreting them [tantras] in accordance with the theory of enigmatic meanings. This is what the commentators set out to do." He gives as an example the Guhyasamaja Tantra. Its literal interpretation was still a cause of anxiety some two centuries after its introduction to Tibet, as shown by the ordinance of eleventh-century King Yeshesod of western Tibet:

As retribution for indulging your lust in your so-called ritual embrace Alas! You will surely be born as a uterine worm You worship the Three Jewels with flesh, blood and urine. In ignorance of enigmatic terminology you perform the rite literally

Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Dalai Lama's gelukpa sect, wrote that only those on lower stages of the tantric path would require an actual consort, known as a "knowledge woman" to practice deity yoga, whereas those further along could achieve the same ends, a union of bliss and emptiness, purely through the power of meditation. Certainly, as the Buddhist leader explained his practices to the Jewish group, tantric yoga is sublimely psychological. A visualization of the sexual union of deities generates subtle states of consciousness. In the gelukpa sect, the practice, as the geshes had explained to some of us Saturday night, was reserved for those who were extremely well schooled in Buddhist philosophy and dialectics, and only after many years of training. (This may be why Zalman Schachter's suggestion to the geshes to speed up the training might not be well received.) On the other hand, the meditation was not simply a fantasy, because at the highest level, one simultaneously believed in the deities invoked and recognized them as empty. Snellgrove writes, "It would be useless to invoke any form of divinity, higher or lower, without believing in such a being. The practitioner is certainly taught that the divine forms are also emanations of his own mind, but they are not arbitrary imaginings and they are far more real than his own transitory personality, which is a mere flow of nonsubstantial elements. In learning to produce

{p. 204} mentally such higher forms of emanation and eventually identifying himself with them, the practitioner gradually transforms his evanescent personality into that higher state of being." As the Dalai Lama told us, the goal is clarity. The noise coming out of the sense organs has to be quieted, including the powerful sexual impulses. In the puritanical religions, this is done through suppression denial, hatred of the body. As D. H. Lawrence defined it memorably, religion is bad sex. The daring of Buddhist tantra is to work with the energy, rather than suppressing, denying, or opposing it. Constraints of time did not allow the discussions to go much further or into greater detail, but enough similarities between tantra and kabbalah had been noted to make it seem worthwhile to continue the comparisons, perhaps in smaller and more intimate working groups. The whole issue of what to do with sexual energy, or how to accommodate it in religious contexts, goes to the core of life today. The highly moralistic and rigid approaches of some religious denominations to sexuality has led to schizophrenia and denial. In his discussions with the geshes, Zalman Schachter had touched on the Hasidic approach of the Baal Shem Tov and his doctrine of "strange thoughts" - namely, that even thoughts of lust come to the mind begging to be raised up. This is probably something Jimmy Swaggart has never thought of. And reflecting on the Dalai Lama's explanation that the whole purpose of tantric meditation was to "actualize concentration," I thought again of how distracting our culture's obsession with sexuality is, and how dealing effectively with such energy is crucial in having a spiritual life. (This was also true in the time of the Baal Shem Tov, when in order to continue their studies, the best students had to put off marriage.) So I delighted to discover that in both kabbalah and tantra there are attempts to recognize the whole human being and all of our impulses, lovely and unlovely, body and soul. Within Tibetan Buddhism there are various attitudes toward tantric practice. The gelukpa sect is the most highly philosophical and scholarly of the Tibetan Buddhist lineages and gives tantric teachings a strong intellectual framework. In this sense, the gelukpas resembled the rabbis who also carefully embedded mysticism within a rational framework.

{p. 205} ... in an utterly different context - the marriage bed - Jewish mysticism also teaches certain techniques for raising sexual energy to celestial realms. The very first written description of Jewish meditation is found in a marriage manual, The Holy Letter, attributed to the kabbalist Joseph Gikatilla. As described in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's Jewish Meditation, the partners meditate throughout the sexual act, becoming "aware of the spark of the Divine in the pleasure itself and elevat [ing] it to its source." According to a contemporary Hasidic description by Yitzhak Buxbaum in Jewish Spiritual Practices, "The Zohar teaches that when man and woman in sex are both directed to the Divine presence (Shekhinah), the Divine Presence rests on their bed.... [It is taught that] a man should make his house a Temple and his bedroom a Holy of Holies." In Jewish mystical thought, then, there is a sacralization of the erotic and an eroticization of the sacred. But this mixture of the erotic and the holy, though very salient in kabbalah, is highly suppressed in mainstream Judaism. It emerges, rather, in hidden forms, such as the Shabbat hymn "Lekha Dodi" - "Welcome to the Bride." Samuel Alkabez wrote it in sixteenth-century Safed, under the influence of the great kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria. ...

ÒThis discovery of a feminine element in God," Gershom Scholem notes, "is of course one of the most significant steps they took. Often regarded with the utmost misgiving by strictly Rabbinical, non-Kabbalistic

{p. 206} Jews, this mythical conception of the feminine principle of the Shekhinah as a providential guide of Creation achieved enormous popularity among the masses of the Jewish people, so showing that here the Kabbalists had uncovered one of the primordial religious impulses still latent in Judalsm.''... According to Gershom Scholem, "The Kabbalists held that every religious act should be accompanied by the formula: this is done 'for the sake of the reunion of God and His Shekhinah.' And indeed, under Kabbalistic influence, this formula was employed in all subsequent liturgical texts and books of later Judaism, down to the nineteenth century, when rationalistic Jews, horrified at a conception they no longer understood, deleted it from the prayer books destined for the use of Westernized minds." In general, Scholem explains, the kabbalists aimed at "the transformation of essentially profane acts into ritual," especially eating and sexual activity. "These acts are closely bound up with the sacral sphere." ... Scholem cites the story of the patriarch Enoch "who according to an old tradition was taken from the earth by God and transformed into the angel Metatron"

{p. 207} But the leading scholar of kabbalah today, Moshe Idel, speculates that precisely here kabbalah, by way of Sufism,

{p. 208} was ''infiltrated'' by Hindu concepts. He sees a marked resemblance between Hindu mandalas and the kabbalistic inner tree, or body maps Since Buddhist tantra is also derived from Hindu texts and teachings; there may even be a point of common origin for both esoteric systems. Supposing that is true, still the same concepts would have encountered very different environments and therefore manifested in very different ways. Tantrayana is practiced in both householder and celibate contexts within Tibetan Buddhism. Marpa, a great eleventh-century teacher and guru of the kagyu lineage, was married, and his student, the poet and saint Milarepa, had many consorts. Up through 1959, many of the great Tibetan tantric practitioners or yogins were householders, and some were women. However, in the dominant gelukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, tantra was set into a celibate, monastic system. ... Judaism is definitively a householder religion. Historically, its experiments with monasticism were brief, the Essenes being the best-known group. (It's not clear that all Essene groups were celibate.) Even the holy man, the tzaddik or prophet, must be part of "this world" as Jonathan had stressed.

After the session, I asked Jonathan why, when asked about sexual energies, he had replied, "I cannot open that door." He said, "There are some thmgs that have to be held back, taught one-on-one. I don't know how else to do it. The moment it becomes public, it becomes so open to misunderstanding and the wrong kind of visualization - seeing it as an exciting image and not part of a discipline for very advanced people." Moreover, Jonathan felt that the use of sexual energy had been abused in both the Jewish world and the tantric. Among some Hasidim,

{p. 209} for instance, "it became an object of obsession, of doing it the right way - a negative abuse." He referred to kabbalistic texts and folklore, which concentrate on how to avoid getting semen on the sheets, whether due to masturbation or marital sex. There was a medieval belief that Lilith, the first wife of Adam, would make use of the spilled semen to create demonic creatures, the shovavim, or "ill-bred" creatures of man's desire. In Jonathan's view, this sort of superstition "is an extremely negative development of it when it became popularized." ... Jonathan added, "One of the major themes of our entire encounter there, from my perspective, was the relation between the two, between the esoteric and the public. It's something the Tibetan Buddhists face because of people like Chogyam Trungpa and others who made things public that shouldn't have been public."

{p. 219} In her Meetings with Remarkable Women, an account of Buddhist teachers in America, Lenore Friedman concluded that, "At best, then, Buddhism historically encompasses a grand ambivalence toward women. The dharma itself is beyond ambivalence, resting nowhere, shattering concepts. The teaching of the dharma is another matter, since it arises from minds and from language conditioned by history and personal experience. This is true of all religions - how could it be otherwise? The more they become 'solid,' the more they betray their original transcendent inspiration or mystical core.... For many women practicing today, one of the greatest obstacles remains the absence of clear female role models and foremothers in Buddhist literature and scrlpture. It is still a truism that all major teachers, lineage holders, and masters down the ages have been men." In Western Buddhism the solution to this discrimination seems to be coming about in part by women practitioners insisting on changes in language and teaching styles.

{p. 220} ... an opening to the esoteric could be very important in correcting the impression that Judaism is strictly patriarchal, or that its imagery of God is strictly masculine. For the door closed by mainstream Judaism on the esoteric is also a door closed to the body, and to the feminine. For instance, it's interesting to read the Zoharic commentary on the verse in Genesis, "male and female He created them." In Daniel Matt's translation, "From here we learn: Any image that does not embrace male and female is not a high and true image.... Come and see: The Blessed Holy One does not place His abode in any place where male and female are not found together. Blessings are found only in a place where male and female are found, as it is written: He blessed them and called their name Adam on the day they were created. It is not written: He blessed him and called his name Adam. A human being is only called Adam when male and female are as one." On paper, at least, there are very fine things in kabbalah emphasizing the importance of women, the recognition of the feminine aspect of God, the spiritual importance of sexuality in the context of marriage, the recognition of women's needs. But the problem for most Jewish women today is that all of this is very theoretical. On the fringes, in the Jewish renewal movement, there is a strong recognition of the power of the Shekhinah, and even an acknowledgment of what Zalman Schachter calls "prepatriarchal Judaism" - that is, the goddess worship of the Canaanites. But as a whole, Jews are very far from coming to terms with a feminine God, or its thoroughgoing implications.... to my surprise, I saw a thangka depicting a dakini, or goddess, dancing next to a large Jewish star. In tantric Buddhism, the six-pointed star is a symbol of the cervix. This is

{p. 221} a coincidence worth meditating on. In Judaism, the star is proudly displayed on the flag of Israel. It represents the magen david, the shield of King David. A shield is the outermost layer of protection, what one thrusts out to the world as a mark of identity and a sign of God's protection. A cervix is in a sense an esoteric part of the body, hidden within, a mystery, the neck of the womb, the channel through which all life emerges. It is purely and uniquely feminine. In part, this coincidence shows once again that Jewish and Tibetan culture have common historical influences. The six-pointed star originated in ancient Mesopotamia as a symbol of fertility. It did not become a specifically Jewish symbol until the late Middle Ages. The same symbol came into India with the Aryans, where it represented Shakti, the Mother. It entered Tibet along with the teachings of the Hindu tantric tradition. The shield of David was not always a symbol of Judaism, nor was it always Jewish, nor is it solely Jewish now. Perhaps Judaism can put down its defensive shield and reflect more on its inner mysteries. There, at the heart of revelation, one finds female images of God.

The Dalai Lama ... had some questions of his own - Jews have done more than merely survive, they have thrived, competed, and excelled. Why, he wanted to know, are Jews leaders in "economy, education, scientific research, and other fields?" Several answers were offered to this familiar question, though the religious one - that God had blessed the Jewish people - was omitted. Moshe Waldoks stressed that Jews lived on the edge and were risk takers. Zalman Schachter answered with genetics. "The people who are studying and practicing are also marrying and having children." He

{p. 222} added pointedly - and I saw Yitz turn red - that "where the best people of the society don't get married, then the factors that contribute to excellence don't get transmitted genetically." Blu Greenberg thought Jews have excelled in the Diaspora because they are intelligent, a quality she also found among the Tibetans. "All the people we have met this week have such an extremely high level of intelligence and forethought that I kept having this feeling during every conversation, these are just like Jews." Robert Thurman also commented. "If I can make a suggestion as a Gentile," he said, "there is something very famous in America - the Jewish Mother." Alex Berzin, swept up in a burst of Jewish pride, added that "in Judaism there is great deal of emphasis on the creativity of life and the joy of life. This gives a great inspiration to people to be creative - in education and upbringing, everyone is encouraged to come up with new ideas." Yitz Greenberg added a footnote, which continued the conversation we'd had after seeing the kuten, about the spectra of the two religions. He said one reason for the appeal of modernity at the expense of traditional religions was "that it affirmed life and improved the conditions of life. To the extent that traditional Judaism resisted this, it lost ground." Therefore, the challenge for modern Judaism is to stress something already in the Torah - the religious significance of daily life - while making sure this emphasis doesn't become a materialism for its own sake. Jews have achieved because they consider secular achievement a religious excellence. Rabbi Greenberg turned the question back to the Dalai Lama. "How would you propose to deal with this? Because in some ways Buddhism, even more than Judaism, has tried to move people beyond their daily lives to a higher plane. But then how do we manage to give religious purpose and achievement to daily life?" The Dalai Lama found Yitz's question complicated. I suspect this is because we were in an area where the spectra of the two religions did not match up very well. The Torah, with its admixture of homely narrative and specific law, is deeply rooted in daily life, and the Talmud even more so. Because the Jewish covenant was made through a family and a nation, Jewish religion is Jewish culture is Jewish family is Jewish history. In contrast, the Dalai Lama continually stressed a separation

{p. 223} between culture and religion, between religion and nationalism, and between religion and daily life. He mentioned some individuals who concentrate solely on individual practice. "For example, a few practitioners on these mountains," he gestured out the window, "are almost like hermits, completely withdrawn." They spend most of their time on meditation. In that case, he felt that this was one time Chairman Mao Zedong had a point when he compared religion to opium, because if Buddhist faith is utilized in the wrong way, sometimes it could become a hindrance to the development of people. Therefore, he advises the general Tibetan public to be "half half"; that is, "They should spend only 50 percent of their time on religious practice, and 50 percent on their own life. Because this is concerned with national survival. If every Tibetan went to the mountain [like the hermits], we would starve." ... He commented that the Tibetans were holding on to their practices because of the Chinese persecution. "The Chinese activities are so negative. So it makes a tremendous reaction." The Jewish experience was analogous. Yitz Greenberg pointed out that persecution makes a stronger Jew, to which Moshe Waldoks added, "It's a terrible way to be strong."

{p. 224} Rabbi Greenberg rejoined that modern cultures are more difficult to resist, because they are so kind and accepting. "Because of persecution you get stubborn, but when you are kissed and hugged, you relax." This recalled to Nathan Katz the situation of the Jews in China. "That community went out of existence because the Chinese never practiced discrimination against the Jewish people. The Jewish people would take examinations and enter into the service of the emperor. As a result they vanished." To which the Dalai Lama, laughing, commented, "That is ancient China. Not this."

{p. 228} Religion knows no national boundary. For example, among Tibetans, the majority are Buddhist, but nobody says, 'Since you are Tibetan, you should be Buddhist.' "Likewise, among the millions and millions of Westerners, a few find Buddhist teachings more suitable" than Judaism or Christianity. "So when someone comes to us to learn Tibetan Buddhism, then we consider it our responsibility to explain - that's our basic attitude Since Tibetan culture and Buddhism are two separate things, I feel also that some Jewish people remain mainly attached to Jewish culture heritage, while their personal religion could be Buddhism or some other religion. {p. 229} Marc Lieberman spoke up next. He summarized the results of the dialogue as raising the level of Jewish awareness about Tibetans. He promised action on plans for an academic exchange, so that Tibetans could learn about Judaism formally, and on bringing Tibetan observers to Jewish summer camps.

{p. 236} The actual visionary event has been retold many times by Ginsberg. It took place in a tenement building in Harlem in 1948. He heard the voice of the English mystical poet, William Blake, and saw a tremendous order, coherence, purposiveness - intentionality - in the universe. The vision unsettled him, especially since, at the time, Ginsberg's mother, Naomi, had been recently hospitalized for paranoid delusions. He went around to leading intellectual and literary figures recounting his vision. He was advised to see a psychiatrist. The vision itself did not return. In part to recapture it, Ginsberg experimented repeatedly

{p. 237} with LSD. All he had to show for himself after a string of bad acid trips was a bad case of writer's block. So, in 1962 he traveled to the East, looking for a language, "babbling to all the holy men I could find about consciousness expansion." But the first holy man he babbled to was Martin Buber. On the way to India, he stopped off in Jerusalem and asked the great Jewish thinker how to handle bad acid trips. "He had a beautiful white beard and was friendly; his nature was slightly austere but benevolent." As a result of taking drugs, Ginsberg had been frightened by a nightmare vision of writhing insect forms in a nonhuman universe. As Ginsberg recounted it to me in 1992, "Buber said, 'Mark my words young man, our business is with the human, not the nonhuman. You'll remember my words years from hence."' Since Buber was a leading authority on the wisdom of the Hasidim, it's possible to conceive that this answer might have been satisfying, and the encounter might have led Ginsberg toward exploring Hasidism and Jewish mystical texts. Based on his poetry and his whole approach to life, Ginsberg's natural spiritual home would appear to be Jewish. But although Ginsberg did mark Buber's words, he told me - "That was a very good answer, but it wasn't quite good enough. It didn't explain the experience. I wanted to see how to absorb it and integrate it. "Whereas the Buddhist view from Dudjom Rinpoche, in that same year, 1963, was if you see something horrible, don't cling to it. If you see something beautiful, don't cling to it. In a sense Buber was saying cling to a certain aspect of life." Ginsberg now feels he "fell into a theistic trap because I couldn't find any words for it, so I began to refer to it as a divine vision or God and so forth, but that solidified the experience into a concept, and once it became a concept I became very totalitarian about it and aggressive and nuts." As a result, Ginsberg continues to be critical, even vituperative, about Jewish religious language - what he calls "Jehovic" conceptions, feeling that "sooner or later, where you have the Jewish thing, one tries to sneak in a central intelligence agency . . . a central divinity" and this leads to spiritual and political problems. Here is where the crux of the JUBUs' quarrel with Judaism comes in: the language about God. Because within Judaism there's certainly plenty of authoritarian, masculine, and even paranoid language: God

{p. 255} These scraps and remnants of Jewishness made me wonder if JUBUs from strong Jewish backgrounds might be evolving a blend of Judaism and Buddhism. Clearly, the whole venture to Dharamsala expressed Dr. Marc Lieberman's personal struggle to have the two traditions meet with love and respect. ... Through a private foundation, Nama Rupa, the Liebermans raise money for Tibetan monasteries in India and help Tibetan orphans. They also promote Jewish-Buddhist dialogue.

{p. 272} David Blank told me, "My wife left me and declared herself a lesbian the same day I declared myself a Zen Buddhist." "So my Zen teacher said, 'It would probably be more of a Zen thing for you to leave the temple and hitchhike around America because you are hiding here like you were in the yeshiva because they taught you the

{p. 273} goyim are going to kill you with pitchforks as soon as you expose yourself to them. So I suggest that perhaps you go hitchhiking around America, preferably don't take any money with you, throw yourself on the mercy of the goyim and see what happens. If you die, you die.'

"And I did quite well. The goyim were very nice to me ... "

We know that in the third century B.C., the Indian emperor Ashoka, a committed Buddhist, made a determined missionary effort. He sent emissaries to Syria and Egypt to teach dharma. Is it possible that these Buddhist teachers brought with them the whole idea of monasticism? The monastic idea never gained a strong foothold in Judaism, but it did flourish beginning in the second century B.C.E. in both Israel and Egypt among the Essenes and the Therapeutae. Where did the pattern come from? It's conceivable that Jewish and Christian monasteries owe their origin to Buddhism. Other scholars have speculated that Buddhist concepts infiltrated Jewish Gnostic circles in the first century. Alexandria is a possible locale for such interactions. This highly cosmopolitan port had separate quarters for Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, and a settlement of resident Hindus. There was a constant stream of merchants from western India - and Buddhists were merchants par excellence. Moreover, the city was full of philosophers who wrote books and lectured in lecture halls. It is not hard to imagine Buddhist and Jewish merchants, sitting around a table {p. 276} ... tenuous and fragile, like Jewish sur vival, which always rests, as Blu had told the Dalai Lama, with our children.

{p. 277} Two years later, one effect of Jewish dialogue with the Dalai Lama has become clear. He now consistently describes the Tibetan tragedy as "cultural genocide" and a "Buddhist Holocaust."

In Dharamsala, Rabbi Greenberg had urged him to combine Buddhism with a more "this-worldly" consciousness. And at a tribute to Tibet that followed his visit to the Holocaust Museum, Elie Wiesel - his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner - was even more blunt than Yitz had been. Wiesel said he respected Tibet as a place that "believes in prayer. But now Tibetans better learn the facts of life that the twentieth century has taught us: Prayers alone are not sufficient."

{p. 282} The Buddhist leader was posing the core choice most American Jews now face: give up our Diaspora traditions as irrelevant, or make aliyah. Most American Jews know they will do neither. Instead, we have created, de facto, the space for a third possibility, if only by our refusal to choose the other two. The result has been a highly exoteric religion, conditioned by political causes such as support for Israel, and social and familial pressures. The pressing issues in American Jewish life today - intermarriage, Israel, anti-Semitism - are either social or political. The Jews who are turned off to all spirituality, and the JUBUs and other Jews who have left the burnt house of Judaism for other traditions, are responding, then, to a real crisis. The materialism of much of Jewish life today, the lack of spirituality in our synagogue life, and the failure to communicate Judaism as a spiritual path have led, and will lead, many Jews to look elsewhere. The house of Judaism in North America has not been satisfactorily built - it does not have a spiritual dimension for many Jews. Too many Jews are like me: our Jewishness has been an inchoate mixture of nostalgia, family feeling, group identification, a smattering of Hebrew, concern for Israel, and so forth. Yet we feel we are Jews, very strongly, and sense that somehow none of the current denominations really speak to our needs. As the state of Israel develops its own very different culture, it's clear that America will increasingly be on its own, as the Jewish historian Arthur Hertzberg argues convincingly. The vicarious relationship to Israel as a cause will not sustain Jewish affiliation in the long term - any more than devotion to other Jewish causes, such as civil rights, social equality, and combating anti-Semitism. There just isn't enough juice cheerleading for Israel to sustain Jews as a people in America, much less as a religion. Nor under current conditions, and despite the deep fund of world anti-Semitism, can we Jews derive our Jewishness solely by reacting to those who hate us. Is there any hope for North American Judaism to emerge as a distinctly Jewish religion? Or will American Jews continue on the current path of staying loyal to a tradition that is not answering their needs? That is the question the Dalai Lama left us with - warning that if a tradition does not benefit people, in the long run they will not adhere to it.

{p. 283} If only Jews could see themselves as sweetly as the Dalai Lama saw us.

{p. 284} In fact, Green argues, "Mysticism doesn't have to be esoteric, doesn't have to be a secret, and yet Judaism kept it a secret." He speculates about the reason for this. Perhaps it is because if everything is God (as Chabad mysticism teaches), then "what's the difference between Jews and goyim - why [eat] lambs and not pigs? If everything is God, then all the drama of distinction is hard to defend. And this threatens sanity, it threatens the order of life." Perhaps, too, one could argue that insofar as European Jews perceived themselves as under threat of destruction from the other - from goyim - the need to keep such distinctions was an element of survival.

{p. 285} I cannot predict the future or know how - or even if - Jewish renewal will take place. But I have some notions of what it might look like if it does. Jewish renewal will recognize the power of what is holy in our lives today. Just as Rabbi Greenberg could see the call to pluralism as part of God's will, so Jewish renewal can recognize the power in the movement toward full equality for women, in granting full dignity to gays and lesbians, and in the search for a livable environment. At the same time, Jewish renewal will be much more respectful of tradition than Reform Judaism historically has been ... Orthodox rites formerly practiced only by men will also be practiced by women, who will infuse old traditions with new energy and joy. Jewish renewal will be pluralistic, open to dialogue with other Jews and with other religions. Just as Jews tried to be a blessing for Tibetans, so Jews in America have proven already to be a model of a successful religious minority. In that sense we can relate to burgeoning minorities of American Muslims and Asian Buddhists. Very soon, in the U.S.,

{p. 286} practicing Muslims will outnumber Jews, and they are increasingly reaching out to us. The day may well come when Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists will share a similar agenda - in America. Here again, the pluralism in American Jewish life gives Jews a safe context to appreciate our own history more richly and variously. This contrasts with the more defended Orthodox separatism. A Judaism that is pluralistic and respectful of the wisdom of other groups will be highly consonant with American life. A renewed Judaism will be more porous - more willing to acknowledge that Judaism has borrowed from other cultures in the past, and more willing to borrow techniques and practices from other religions today, reassimilating them into a Jewish context. Sufi dhikr and Buddhist meditation on the breath are influences from the Eastern prayer mode that can be easily absorbed by Jews. A renewed Judaism will certainly be more aware of its own mystical tradition ... . Just as Shabbat and keeping kosher were the first practices to be discarded by many American Jews in their quest for assimilation, so they may be the place to begin again. Interestingly, as increasing numbers of Americans become vegetarians, keeping kosher via keeping vegetarian will no longer separate Jews from others. It will therefore be easier to commit to vegetarian kosher as a matter of health, environmentalism, and spiritual practice. As for Shabbat, it is essential that Jews learn to taste the sweetness of this core secret of Jewish life.

{p. 287} Shabbat, when done right, does create a very carefully planned retreat from the world in the context of family life. What Jews might learn from Buddhists is how to deepen Shabbat, heighten its meditative content. A rabbi once declared to me her experience of a Buddhist monastery, "It's Shabbat all the time!" What Buddhists might learn from Jews are the forms or shell of the Shabbat, the rituals such as the mikveh, the candle lighting, and the blessings, which enable Jews to make a transition from a worldly to a spiritual realm and back again. ... In effect, I'm calling for a kind of neo-Hasidism, because without an infusion of Jewish spiritual fervor in prayer and blessings and observances, the reason to stay Jewish, the juice, will be lost. ... The dialogue with Tibetans has heightened my awareness of the precious value and fragility of all of our world's ancient spiritual traditions.


In 1996, I attended a reunion in Sydney, for the "class of 1966" who had entered the Catholic seminary at Springwood that year. Most, like me, had left when the seminaries collapsed in the wake of Vatican II. We all wrote up our life stories, which were circulated before the reunion. One ex-seminarian wrote, "Aug 73 left Australia for Europe. Oct 22 1973 arrived in Israel. Yom Kippur war ended. Oct 72-Aug 75 lived on Kibbutz near Ash Kelon, (scene of Samson and Delilah's antics). Aug 75 - Mar 77 served in Israeli Army (defining moment of my life). Mar 77 - Aug 81 lived in Jerusalem (heaven on Earth)."

Two years later, there was another reunion; the beer flowed, and this man was saying, "my rabbi [said this], my rabbi ... ".

I asked him, "Are you one of those covert Jews?" (I had read about them, but never met one).

"Yes, I'm a secret Jew", he said.

He went on to describe how Palestinians change when they encounter the modernity of the state of Israel: they completely change their personalities, he said.

And he said, "The Tibetans are going to have to fight for their land. The Dalai Lama should separate himself from the struggle, which should be carried on in the name of the Tibetan National Council."

I wrote to the Dalai Lama, about this Jewish-Tibetan engamement and the risk of Tibetans becoming "meat in the sandwich" in a struggle between China and the US. I believe that is aware of this, and will not go the "liberation army" way.

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