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In the past month, I have endured so much Islam. In the evenings, Shazo, a guest from Saudi Arabia, will ask me about some of the things we Buddhists do. For example, the diet: Why the restriction on onions and garlic? Why no potatoes? As for sitting meditation: Why do it? What’s the point?

I try to explain the Buddhist point of view, as best I can — pointing to yogic parallels for the diet, explaining sitting as a kind of patience practice. At no point do I rely on the “authority” of the Buddha or the Vinaya. I don’t expect Muslims to just accept the teaching based on my say-so, or on anybody else’s.

Our conversations always end up the same, though, whether I take a comparative or a pragmatic approach to Buddhist practice — Shazo suggests that really, her religion has got it figured out, because it has got everything figured out (these were her very words), and I should really go study Sufism or at least the Koran.

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