Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Buddhism" meandering

Note to a Buddhist bulletin board moderator who expressed concern in the new year about wandering away from the topic of "Buddhism." Not sure it makes sense or is even apposite, but I thought I would save it:
I have a hunch that no matter how wondrous or rarified or specific, everything gets plain, ordinary and generalized. Put another way, if you visit a place often enough, it is bound to encourage a sense of "been there, done that." If "Buddhism" is roughly an effort to settle and stop fretting about the matter of "self," still there is only the "self" to work with. And if this is the case, personalized incidents -- with a side order of "Buddhism" -- is understandable.
In the send-up movie "Zen Noir" (, there is a half-remembered scene in which a woman monk tries to explain what a "lay monk" might be. It is, she explains as best I recall, "a monk who can still get laid." Getting laid, to stick with that example, is a very personal experience that is rife with what is beyond the personal, a self-no-self situation. No one thinks about "Buddhism" when getting laid and yet getting laid pertains to or touches on or is redolent with Buddhism. It's a mash-up....
How can anyone remain "on topic" when it comes to Buddhism? Yes, there are disciplinary pointers and yet what, in the end, is NOT Buddhism? And yet this question is simultaneously offensive and vague. Meandering away from the discipline and into a realm in which the dog pisses on the kitchen linoleum is too damned un-Buddhist in one sense. Let's stick to Buddhism, right? Your offending cuticle or mine is too self-absorbed ... and yet who can help but be self-absorbed when studying the self or an offending cuticle?
If there is a desire to "remain on topic," well that feels too tight. If there is a tendency to meander away from the topic, well, that feels too loose. I think the best you can do -- and you do it pretty well -- is to make sure no one gets unduly offensive to another. Otherwise the best you can do is to let the water flow downhill. If the task becomes too onerous, then stop. All of us have been through phases of interest and commitment. There is no over-arching imperative to defend and promulgate The Dharma: The Dharma will take care of itself. Or, as I like to say, "Just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help." :)
Does any of this make any sense? I can't tell, but I hope I will be forgiven for posting it. Meandering is my middle name. :)


  1. I thought a good bit of the practice was to sit and observe the meandering of one's mind dispassionately, to learn the difference between actual observation and the resulting interpretation/misinterpretation of that that is observed. Meandering happens, zazen can be a chore, talking about it might be helpful, but is perhaps best shared with ones teacher than the peanut gallery. But all peanuts are not created equal, so hard to know what you'll get when you can your net.

  2. when you "cast" your net... oops!

  3. For a few months I worked in an area with many restaurants nearby. So many that some of the regulars formed a restaurant group that made the rounds.

    I was invited to join in but I didn’t want to spend a lot so I just found restaurants in my budget.

    One such restaurant was a Pizzeria Restaurant. Where I could get decent pizza. I soon learned that the owner / chef trained at a culinary institute. His pasta dishes were excellent and reasonably priced.

    Once I ordered a shrimp and pasta dish with red sauce. I was in a Fra Diavalo mood, so I asked for red pepper and used a ton of it because it was made from milder cayenne chilies.

    Much to my surprise, the chef came over in an agitated state and said I ruined his creation.

    I laughed but he was seriously upset. We talked without changing each other’s mind.

    I think some people in teaching positions are like that chef. They may be well trained and knowledgeable but they have some fixed ideas they need to overcome.

    In this case even having good intentions is not enough.

    “Apart from water no ice can exist.” “”Outside sentient beings where do we find the Buddha?”

    Apart from human activity, where do we actualize Buddhanature?