Archive for April, 2019


Sunday, April 28th, 2019

What if we could use the power of Shakespeare’s poetry to illustrate certain aspects of the dharma? By the dharma I mean the universal truth about the nature of everything as taught by the Buddha. The prospect is both intriguing and daunting: intriguing to think that some of the greatest poetry in the English language might be used to illustrate the transcendent truths taught by the Buddha, and daunting because the dharma is so vast and profound. With my limited understanding of  points common to most Buddhist traditions, I have tried to identify Buddhist teachings that might be easily related to Shakespeare’s works and passages from Shakespeare’s works that might be easily related to Buddhism. This amounts to a fraction of Shakespeare and a fraction of Buddhism, so perhaps my title, The Dharma According to Shakespeare,is too ambitious. A Few Aspects of The Dharma According to Certain Passages from Shakespeare would be a more realistic if rather cumbersome title.

But setting reality aside for the moment, let us imagine that we could bring the Buddha and Shakespeare together at a table in our favorite cafe. In preparation for the meeting the Buddha would have read most of the plays and several of the sonnets, and Shakespeare would have read The Dhammapada, three or four of the sutras, and a life of the Buddha. Wouldn’t it be nice to think of them, after the initial introduction and awkward silence, engaged in a lively conversation, with searching questions, well-considered answers, moments of puzzlement, and thoughtful pauses, punctuated by the occasional nod of agreement? I won’t try to imagine the details of such a conversation but like to think it would touch on some of the points covered in the following chapters.