Brandon Sheehan was born near Venice Beach, California. He says he grew up with sandy toes and salty lips. He studied fire ecology in college and worked for the forest service fighting wildfires. Brandon grew up Jewish, but eventually studied Tibetan Buddhism and was a resident at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, Montana where he cast statues of the Buddha and helped create a shrine at the base of the Mission Mountains that is visited by people of many faith traditions.
“There was something that I never knew was missing until I tasted it.”
Even people who don’t care to be Buddhist want to learn how to meditate, work with their mind, and learn how to be happy. Inherent in that pursuit is the bodhisattva vow: to think about and do the work of creating happiness for other people. In doing so, I gain happiness. I am the happiest I can be when I’ve made somebody else happy, when I’ve offered a smile to somebody who’s received it well. Buddhists use the term for warrior frequently. The warrior can be a spiritual or bodhisattva warrior, who continues to work with the struggles, pain, suffering, and internal conflict and keeps on that path of warfare, if you will, eventually to arrive at peace.
You pull out all the religion and what remains is grace and compassion. You pull out all the spirituality and what’s left is love, kindness, and beauty. That might be the spiritual path of all religion, but it doesn’t have to be any of them. You pull the religion out of it, you strip it down to its barest level, and what do you have? You’ve got love, man, you don’t have hate. You have peace, you don’t have suffering.
Brandon Sheehan short audio clip
Scenes from the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
Brandon Sheehan full audio
- How do you rid yourself of the anger you have within you? Is your method constructive or destructive?
- How does the Buddhist use of the term warrior compare to your use of the word? What do you think of the idea that the “path of warfare” leads to peace? How is the warfare that Brandon talks about different from warfare as we traditionally think of it?
- Can you experience peace in the midst of suffering? What is your natural tendency in dealing with suffering? How do you work through it?
- Are people inherently good or inherently sinful? Is there a paradox in which both could be true?
- What do you see as the value of having a faith tradition? What are the good qualities of organized religion? What are some of its negative qualities?