Friday, February 26, 2010

the "goodness" factor

I asked on Zen Forum International, but thought I would ask here as well:

What do you think would happen if we stopped (in one way or another) calling Buddhism "good?"
Would the whole structure collapse?
Would it be more honest?
Or ...
What do you think?

For fear of stifling reaction, I did not offer my thoughts there, but here I will say that I think that the tentative "goodness" of spiritual endeavor is probably a necessary expedient means. But, in order for that spiritual endeavor to flower, "goodness" has to be recognized as just that -- tentative.

It is said that Gautama Buddha once extended his clenched fist to a weeping child. He pretended there was gold within that fist. Sure enough, the child stopped weeping. But of course there was nothing within his hand.

Before the weeping ends, before a little experience kicks in, the fabrication of "goodness" gold is necessary -- a way of getting attention, an understandable and perhaps forgivable fib.

But making a profession of "goodness" would eviscerate any honest and fruitful spiritual endeavor, I think.

The same rope that might be used to pull a car out of a muddy ditch can also be used to hang a person to death.

So my view is, don't try to push the river. Don't pretend to be in a place you are not. If "goodness" is the current need and persuasion, then go ahead and be "good."

But don't let it hang you.


  1. "What do you think would happen if we stopped (in one way or another) calling Buddhism "good?"
    Would the whole structure collapse?
    Would it be more honest?
    Or ...
    What do you think?"

    I find this one difficult. I don't know why, but I've never called Buddhism good. I guess because when I began practice, my life was in such a tangle from acts of greed that caused myself and others to suffer, I didn't expect anything good.I wasn't exactly looking for anything good either because I was so jaded and cynical from my past religious experiences, I thought that any promises that one made to me was just another sales pitch. I wasn't told that anything good would happen when researching Buddhism, but that the practice was "important". That was enough to get me started. Just that curiousity of WHY it was important. I guess it was that very "not expecting anything good" resulted in a lot of good that came from practice.

    I've always associated 'necessary' and 'important' with Zen practice and I guess the "goodness" just came unknowingly.

    By the way Gengaku, I see your in Northhampton Mass, I was born and raised in Lowell Mass, moved west in 2000.

    Take care,


  2. Shindo -- If you're ever back this way, the tea and coffee pot are warm and you are welcome.

  3. Thank you genkaku, all my family still lives in Lowell so I do go back and visit. I will keep you posted!



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  5. Buddha wasn't Buddhist, and he never told anyone to be "Buddhist". He told us how to become Buddhas -- how to drop off what divides us.

    Buddhism "good"? Picking up the rules, sayings, and traditions of "Buddhism", giving them some thought, dressing up funny, and teaching them to others is not what he meant. Look at the wars fought in the name of religions!

    SO -- was he trying to imprison us in volumes of moral code, tradition, and belief systems or was he trying to free us?

    Why isn't this obvious? How come no one gets this?

    "Buddhism" isn't "good". It's just another way of dividing -- another shiny thing that blinds us if we pick it up. It's another ladder to climb -- more finger-pointing ammunition.

    What did Buddha DO when he left all of these and went under the tree? Build more? No.

    Anyone ever try to watch an American football game with a Buddhist? I wish I had a punchline, but I don't! Let me tell you, it's a chore...

    It would be a great thing if the whole structure collapsed, leaving the most earnest of men (and women) to sit and to help others sit, as they are, with nothing to pick up -- as Buddha sat.

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