Wednesday, March 4, 2009

no wussing out

I wrote a post this morning that somehow didn't make it to the thread for which it was intended (my goof ... I hope), but it put me in mind of:

For those who are serious about their Buddhist practice, it has to be asked: Is social justice really enough to assure the peaceable understanding that is sought? It's an old chestnut, I agree, but I think serious Buddhists have to find the courage to ask it ... no wussing out.

Most of us come to Buddhism with some pretty good intentions. And I have heard the Dalai Lama encourage crowds to use their good intentions and good intelligence on behalf of others. I have heard Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews say the same thing: Stop being a self-centered twit. Socially speaking, it is a good message and it beats the hell out of the greed, anger and ignorance that can inform the social landscape.

But is it enough? Is goodness enough? Is altruism enough? Is liberal or conservative whining enough? Is love enough?

I'm not trying to offer an answer. I am trying to pose a question that I think serious Buddhists need to ask and answer for themselves.

In the Bible, St. Paul (I think) was quoted as saying, "Love God and do what you will." It's such a short, simple encouragement and yet the implications are profound. Any dimwit can claim to love God (or enlightenment or compassion or emptiness or ... pick your poison), but who will find the courage and patience and doubt to get to the bottom of things. If you love "God," well, who the hell is this "God" you love? Are book-answers really enough? If books and teachers and temples and beliefs could really solve anything, how come everything isn't hunky-dory? How come you or I or anyone else quavers in the face of death, is overwhelmed by sickness, and cusses a blue streak when the car gets a flat? Can books or people in strange costumes fix the flat?

Of course social justice and kindness are nice. And everyone may feel better when they exercise their goodness. But goodness, like evil, springs from a place and understanding that is immune to good and evil. Sure, it's scary to address the fact that our own beliefs and feelings and thoughts may not tell the whole story, but for serious Buddhists (or anyone else, for that matter), that's what courage was built for ... the scary stuff. If you can create "God," who is the creator?

Is it really enough to circle back in some endless tail-chasing effort and imagine that "God" cannot be known ... or can? Cut the crap and get to work. Take courage and patience and doubt as your allies and -- until you are completely satisfied -- stop waving placards and flags. Stop trying to do good and vow to unearth the good. And for Christ's sake, don't take my word for it!

End of rant.

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