#Mindfulness and #LovingKindness: American #Buddhism–for Ex-Christians and Holy (rock-and-) Rollers…

img_1935

Don’t you just love the way any discussion of Buddhism in the English language tends to revolve around these two concepts—mindfulness and loving-kindness? “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…,” I guess, or why else would Buddhism need to cop new words and phrases to brand itself for people who were most likely raised on rock-and-roll and Christianity?

But for some reason this Buddhism-now concept of ‘loving-kindness’ never appealed to me. For one thing, it’s just not a very accurate translation of the Sanskrit word metta or its cognate maitri, whose various meanings generally range from friendship to compassion. Or maybe there IS no accurate translation. I’ve communicated with several people by e-mail about my desire to formally study Buddhism at the university level, and ‘with metta‘ is a standard sign-off. So why not ‘with loving-kindness’? Good question…

And for another thing, and perhaps most importantly: the concept of ‘loving-kindness’ is borrowed lock, stock and barrel from Christianity! Buddhists stole ‘loving-kindness’! That’s why I don’t buy it! According to Wikipedia: “Lovingkindness is used as an English translation for the Hebrew word חסד (chesed). This term is used often in the book of Psalms, and refers to acts of kindness, motivated by love.” Well, s-o-b…

Yes, we Westerners love love love above all else, though any and all pretensions to enlightenment, or ‘mindfulness’, can certainly come in handy, when trying to talk your way out of a traffic ticket, or other awkward situations. So I guess it’s only fair that since Buddhists appropriated ‘lovingkindness’ for our own purposes, Christians should appropriate mindfulness for theirs—and so they now are: Christian mindfulness!

And it’s just for you, I wonder who; who would be the intended market for this special Xmas promotion? Does this mark a convergence of the two systems of belief, increased competition between the two, or just marketing nonsense? All of the above? None of the above? Honestly, I don’t know, but I guess nothing can hurt, since the world is in such dire straits right now, anyway. But I doubt if there’s any true convergence in the works, since the two belief systems are so radically different at heart…

Yes, at heart is where they differ, more than the minutiae of dogma or karma. Put simply, Christianity, for all the love love love, is fundamentally aggressive, and whether you think that is good or bad is up to you. And for those of you who protest that summation, I’d suggest to you that it’s so subtle, sometimes, as to be almost unnoticeable. But it is there, in almost every word and every glance, ego incarnate and looking for action…

It may be no more than a love of argument and insult, but it is there, in a large percentage of the Western population. A generation ago, I’d’ve singled out males for special consideration, but now that distinction would be less than before. And to say that Buddhist nations are less aggressive requires a historical perspective, also, since many of their numbers have long since copied the Western style of mindless aggression, as opposed to mindful non-aggression…

But traditionally what Buddhist cultures had was good, and capable of overcoming many minor points of contention, nationalism and racism being the most obvious exceptions. Thus that traditional distinction between aggression and non-aggression today might be easier to find in a horizontal line separating social classes than a vertical line separating Christian nations from Buddhist, or even military societies from civilian, a modern upper class long recognizing that aggression has its rewards…

And so the modern monarchs are just that, yesterday’s military forever rewarded for their role in defending the nation at some supposed point in the mythical past, and that ‘royal blood’ worshiped ever since, and passed around among nations like something special, the urge to merge and the will to kill…

Non-aggression today is probably best found among indigenous people and the traditional peasantry, the salt of the earth, the planters of seeds and those with few needs. These were the original settled populations, who were preyed upon by the hordes and the herders and nomads before the rise of cities, those who preferred settled life instead of constant meandering. And there they are, still today, waiting to inherit the earth…

Perhaps Buddhism is even best defined in opposition to Christianity: it’s not that. It’s not aggressive. It’s not emotional. It’s not passionate. You don’t have to die for it—that’s silly. You can simply walk away, and come back to play another day. And if ‘mindfulness’ has always been a difficult term to define, itself no more than a tentative translation of the Sanskrit sati, I think I finally have a good definition: the opposite of mindlessness. It’s not that…

Advertisements