The Buddhist Paradox

Zoe - Palo Alto, California
Entered on April 15, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

It is sad that Buddhism is missing its chance to be the first popular American religion that doesn’t proselytize and push its values on people who do not belong to it and are not interested in hearing about it. If I had a chance to stand in front of a Buddhist congregation and give a sermon, this is what I’d say:

“How many of you have ever told someone to “Wake up”? Raise your hands.” And I’d look around and let them respond, if they wanted. Then I’d say, “Good. If you raised your hand, you yourself are finally waking up. If you try to force another person to gain awareness, rather than working towards it on your own, you will not succeed. But if you become aware that you are doing this, then you have taken a great step.”

I’m sure I will never be in this positon. (For one thing, it would be ever so slightly hypocritical of me to be preaching in the first place, at all.) Still, it is quite frustrating to witness people who are newly exposed to a philosophy encouraging quiet mindfullness and an open neutrality to whatever happens in one’s presence, begin to (ironically, obviously) mindlessly repeat what they have just been told–when circumstances arise that let them pretend to be spiritually superior to others who have not learned the same specialized vocabulary that they have picked up a smattering of. In short, they are turning thoughts that started out as wisdom, into jargon.

This is nothing new, if you are used to the behavior of so-called Christians in this country (not to mention hundred of years of even worse behavior in Europe–but torture and political oppression are beyond the scope of my point at the moment).

Nonetheless, these “nouveau Buddhists” push my buttons. Buddhism in its stark and old-world format gives me the impression of being significantly less rabid or elitist than many other spiritual paths. Wouldn’t it be lovely if Americans could benefit from this decreased emphasis on ego, and take a turn towards a new and humbly sincere road to enlightenment?