Buddhism and Amerika: Hopelessly at odds with each other?

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It seems that way at times, and the situation, indeed, may be hopeless. After all, you don’t see many American football linebackers meditating in a full lotus position, or even quarterbacks, or even half-lotus, or even punt return specialists, or even merely cross-legged on the floor, unless maybe it’s ’25 or 6 to 4′ and the mood is just right. Everything’s better after midnight, including meditation…

And Buddhism is all about contrition and silence, while Amerikanism is all about brashness and loudness—just ask any European. We Americans aren’t a$$holes, not necessarily; we’re just full of it: full of the intoxication of life, full of the excitement of children, full of the blush and brash of youth, full of the hunt and the chase. And that’s too bad, because that’s not what is needed right now…

Amerika is a teenager wandering in the woods, blind drunk and lost, when what is needed is wisdom, perspicacity and far-reaching vision. And I’m not just talking about laymen, but Buddhist clergy, too, or at least meditation instructors, which is about all you can get in Amerika, many of whom likely don’t know the difference between yoga and Buddhism—big difference…

You don’t have to stand on your head to engage in Buddhist meditation, yoga boy, nor pay those high hook-up charges, either. Buddhism is free. That’s why I do my Buddhist training in Asia, for the authenticity, not the (low) cost. Even no less an expert that Jack Kornfield admits that “American Buddhism is probably watered down.” Ha! That’s an understatement!

I just read a blurb from another American meditation guru who waxed groovily over the ‘radiant love’ to be had while meditating. Huh? Radiant what? That’s one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard in my life—but to each his own, sounds like some kinda’ Christianity to me, evangelical or something, UNLESS: unless you’re meditating ON love, something the Tibetan school likes to do, ‘guided meditation’ or something like that…

But I certainly don’t expect any better from the average layperson. This was a recent ad on Facebook, for what I can’t remember: “Why would you spend even five minutes with someone who doesn’t thoroughly excite you?” and with appropriate pictures of the female in the male’s arms, suspended overhead, caught in flagrante delicto in a half-spin, bedroom door thoroughly ajar in the background…

Is this what we’ve come to as a culture: constantly titillated and living for the moment, orgasm, life as carnival, ‘two bits a shot’? That’s a great song, but lousy philosophy. And I can think of many reasons to be with someone who doesn’t thoroughly excite me every moment of every day. Maybe she’s the mother of my children: should I leave her for someone more ‘excitable’? Maybe she’s my best friend: does that not trump excitement?

So does that mean that everything is wrong with the ‘American way of life’ and its one-man one-car style of democracy? Hmmm, yes, pretty much so, I’d say. But again: to each his own, so not my concern. My concern is with the proper articulation, dissemination and propagation of Buddhism, which is the field upon which our species has its best chances for survival, in my humble opinion. And I hate to see all kinds of New Age-y fad religions trying to pass themselves off as Buddhism when they’re not…

I reminds me of when Thai food first became popular and every Tomasina, Raquel and Harriet was doing her version of it, which the average Thai would probably never recognize. But hey, there’s no accounting for tastes. There is accounting for honesty and accuracy, though, and Buddhism is not all about getting your groove on—just the opposite. Buddhism is all about control: self-control. That ‘noble silence’ that defines the meditative position doesn’t come free. It comes with hours of practice…

So what happened to the sober hard-working Amerika of pilgrims escaping the persecutions of the Old World, and willing to brave long voyages under difficult conditions, just for the prospect of a better life somehow some way? Ha, you’d need a pretty good memory for that, to even remember when ‘an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay’ pretty much summed up the American dream. ..

Bottom line: no religion advocates ‘fun fun fun’, nor should they. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be miserable. For the serious adept, it’s all about maintaining a sober serious relationship with nature and God, however that notion of ‘supreme Being’ is defined. I know how I define it, and others are welcome to the own interpretations. But the difference between Buddhism and Amerika, whatever your religion, is this: when impaled upon the horns of a desire, you have two options:

You can either fulfill the desire, and maybe die trying, or you can (simply) remove the desire. I’d like to think that it’s simple, but it’s not. Amerika tries to fulfill the desire, every one every time, while Buddhism wants you to learn how to remove it. Once we can do that, while drinking no toasts to our own egos, we will be on the path to righteousness—and survival as a species…

 

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