Thursday, April 8, 2010

Buddhism -- who cares?

In a TV show called "The Buddha" last night, two things caught my ear more than most:

1. The notion of rebirth -- described delightfully by one of the commentators as (approximately), "being in junior high school over and over and over again." I just liked the image.

2. The fact that, after his awakening, Gautama was not entirely sure of his footing as a teacher. There were those who came to him, according to the show, and asked him what school or teaching he followed and when he gave the best answer he could muster, his inquisitors walked away unconvinced or disgusted or uninterested. Naturally, in subsequent times, Gautama gathered quite a following, so he wasn't entirely a flop.

But the notion that others might not care or might actually be offended in some way strikes me as important for anyone who practices sincerely. To practice sincerely requires quite a lot of effort, quite a lot of determination, quite a lot of discipline, and, usually, quite a bit of time. It's pretty much blood, sweat and tears for anyone who practices.

And within that framework -- unnoticed, perhaps -- is the sense that because I take this seriously, it is therefore serious in some wider way ... a way deserving of your attention or action or respect. How come you don't see what I see? How come you really don't care that much ... or even give a shit at all?

This is not an idle question, although I know plenty of Buddhists who can dig in their 'humble' heels and pretend they don't mind what others think or feel. We are social creatures and one of the ways in which we express our social connections is to find agreement. So, perhaps naturally or perhaps as a matter of long-standing habit, I would be grateful and gratified or feel supported if you agreed with me.

Somehow, within a quite devoted and quite serious practice, we all have to find a way to get over the notion that Buddhism is just a sort of advanced school of snuggle bunnies. It's not bad or naughty or sinful or anything, this longing to find agreement and solace in the world, but in my mind Buddhism doesn't work that way.

To my mind I practice Buddhism and you practice knitting. Sometimes we talk about Buddhism (if it's not too offensive) and sometimes we talk about knitting. But the base line of either of our lives is neither Buddhism nor knitting. The "connection" that some may assert is much more real than the "connections" they assert. It is just true ... which does not mean it is as comfy as a soft couch.

I guess it is just something I think it is worth watching -- this tendency to think that because I put my ass on the line for something, enter with a fierce seriousness, keep going and keep going and keep going ... that therefore it is "worth" something.

Sure, it's "worth" something.

It's "worth" precisely nothing.

And therein lies its delight.

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