trouble with buddhism

July 30th, 2010

When you’re as easily teased by Buddhist discourse as I am, you can see the same arguments over and over. Among the refrains I keep hearing are the ones I call The Biggest Lies in Buddhism. Believing them is serious self-deception and keeps you in a world of trouble.

I’m not a Buddha. You most certainly are; you may not yet realize it. “Buddha” does not equate to a celestial being or deity but to an awakened one. When human beings live in their natural awakened state, undisturbed by delusive thoughts and emotions, they live as buddhas. Buddhahood is your birthright. You claim it every time you wake up to the present moment. And even when we can’t quite convince ourselves, we practice the way Maezumi Roshi admonished: “as if” enlightened. “I’m only human,” we like to assess and degrade ourselves. And yet we have an entirely lopsided idea of what a human being really is. That leads me to:

My ideas are as good as yours. That’s true, however, no one’s ideas are any good at all. The practice of Buddhism is not intended to democratize personal views, as in Oh, you think that way? That’s OK. I think this way? That’s OK too. Buddhism is not a feel-good club that aims to equalize the worth of everyone’s self-reinforcing preferences; it simply transcends them. We practice Buddhism so we will no longer be blinded by what we think, confused by what others think, or stuck in the understanding we feel compelled to express on a Buddhist discussion board someplace. We practice Buddhism to wake up to how things are. How things are is not how you think they are. As Dogen said, “Your understanding of reality is not reality.”

No one is perfect. Everyone and everything is perfect as they are, we just don’t view them – or ourselves – to be so. Imperfection lies solely in our judging mind, the mind that picks what we like and calls it best or right, and labels what we don’t like as worse or wrong. This mind between your ears is the source of all conflict, and even then, it is functioning perfectly. Seeing it clearly, we must unleash ourselves from its mastery over our lives. Only then can we hope to repair the mess we have made of the world we inhabit.

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  1. Thank you for these reminders. So basic and true.

    Comment by Jane — July 30, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  2. This was posted on my birthday. Thank you for a wonderful gift.

    Comment by suzi — July 31, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

  3. “We must unleash ourselves from its mastery over our lives.”

    Oh, I’m struggling with this!

    Comment by Mama Zen — July 31, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  4. Thank you!

    Comment by Erja — August 1, 2010 @ 6:08 am

  5. I have to say that the more I practice releasing judgments and expectations ~ of myself, other people, situations, and even my own wildest dreams ~ the more peaceful I feel inside, the more everything flows organically. There will likely always be a part of me that insists on over-thinking things, but even then I am aware that all that thinking doesn’t really accomplish much. (Does that make it better or do I just sound nuts?)

    Comment by Swirly — August 2, 2010 @ 4:50 am

  6. Maybe I’m overthinking it (ha!), but I always get tangled in that last one. “Everyone and everything is perfect as they are…” And yet, in the last line, you acknowledge the very thing that hangs me up “the mess we’ve made of the world.”

    Having worked and traveled in third world countries, I often find the “all is good” or “everything is as it should be” to be Western luxury. Can you help me connect to what it is really meant by “everything is perfect as it is”.

    Thank you so much for all I am learning here.

    Comment by Deirdre — August 4, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  7. “Perfect” is not a comparison as in “better than.” It means you. And your life. Is complete. Lacking nothing. The world that surrounds you is evidence of the harm and suffering resulting from the contrary view, which comes from delusion: unrestrained greed. When we stop looking for more, and stop judging what we are to be inadequate, we can truly do good by taking care of what needs to be done. There is no longer a “me” and a “them.” You must have this experience.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — August 4, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  8. Why do you remove the posts that are critical? Buddhism is deeply problematic in its assumption that the intuitive, “satori-like” experience of unity and one-ness, as wonderful as it is, can then be a useful guide to a meaningful life. It is important to maintain critical faculties and not to assume that perfection is a natural state. Otherwise, Buddhism then potentially offers cover for a lot of bad things that can and should be changed as a result of active engagement and rigorous thought, as opposed to “mindfulness” and sitting within a now that, sadly, is often less than perfect.

    Comment by Arthur — December 11, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

  9. I don’t follow your line of critical thinking. Perhaps you could be more direct.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 11, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

  10. Without a study some people never ever understand Buddhism, never look at a religion in your own color glasses, because you see only your colors ONLY!!

    Comment by Shane — August 3, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

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