Buddhism for (Sci-Fi) Teens

  • Making sure modes of engagement with ideas don’t unconsciously assume neuro-typical minds, class norms, or educational attainment levels.
    Sidebar: lots of today’s “western” Buddhists are middle class and university/college educated. That’s not the future for everyone in this book’s target audience, by any means. Incidentally, what price a useful, if doubtless controversial, engagement with Marxist critiques of Buddhist history and societies? Ah, but that’s another book too…
  • Making sure the guided meditations take active account of people using wheelchairs, and others with disabilities.
  • Making sure the presentation of Buddhist teachings eschews reliance on metaphors only immediately accessible to some: eg. avoiding too much use of “seeing” as an easy shortcut when talking about ‘insight’ (whatever that means). My friend Paramananda, an inspiring meditation teacher who has been gradually going blind since childhood, is excellent on this area. (I think he talks about it a bit in this Q & A session.)
  • Making sure some of the leading characters in stories — those who hold or pass on Buddhist wisdom perspectives, and those inquiring — are female or non-binary.
  • Deciding how to talk about the Buddha’s pronouns! This was a really engaging point of exchange with my editors, and I was very happy they were able to support the approach taken. I was struck that few Buddhist books address directly the obvious upheaval in gender identity going on right now in some cultures — especially amongst teenagers. I mean here experiences and explorations of being non-binary, gender-fluid, queer, etc.
  • Again, I’m well aware this is an area of genuine concern and disagreement for some Buddhists — perhaps for many people — but I wasn’t really interested in the more abstract aspects of any controversy. I just wanted to make sure my book was intelligently aware of the context in which it would be received by many (mainly American) teenagers today. And that any approach had some connection to the way the Buddha’s ‘Enlightenment’ is represented in the source material. My assumptions were:
  1. In descriptions of ‘Awakening’, the Buddha speaks explicitly of a great discontinuity between the kind of consciousness experienced before and after the arising of a definitively clearer understanding of reality (of our relationship to reality — within it, as part of it). There is some continuity too, attested to in the details of the Buddha’s biography and the picture that emerges in the suttas of a continuing personality, aspects of temperament, etc. But discontinuity is an important part of the historical/literary accounts we have.
  2. The importantly ‘transcendental’ nature of the Buddha’s Awakening is apparent from the first moment of expression after it happens: “Anyone can do this!” That should not be a surprise, since the heart of transcendence in Buddhism is often evoked as going beyond an experience of fixed identity, and leaving behind any sense of fixed separation between ‘self’ and ‘other’. But it seemed important to me writing the book that there is something essentially plural both about the experience of Awakening and the Buddha’s articulation of it.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store