Friday, 22 May 2009

Religion: Miller's Crossing, Brought to you by the Letter R

Religion is one word in the English language that I do believe I hold actual animosity towards. Honestly, if the word religion were a living thing, I may have to relinquish my non-violent nature and drive it to a remote spot in the woods, shoot it in the capital letter 'R', dig a shallow grave and dump its confused, pretentious and delusional letters in. I understand we all must live in this relative world and attempt to grasp the meanings we all try to relay to each other, but damn it, religion is like that guy that drives down the highway for 10 miles with their right turn signal on, then, all the sudden proceeds to cross 3 lanes of traffic to the left.

When I do talk to people about spirituality and such, I have made it somewhat of a habit to say that I am Buddhist or Zen Buddhist. I think the reasons why I do this is its easier than trying to explain my practice and perhaps the exotic nature of the tradition might spark some curiosity in the person who is asking. Recently however, I have been finding, it’s not interest I usually draw, but more an attitude of "Oh, that’s a neat religion" or "So do you believe Buddha is God?" I am tagged, labeled and pigeon-holed before I even have a chance to clarify or qualify by what it is I mean.

I think it’s like the old Koan Bruce Lee made famous in 'Enter the Dragon' "It's like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory"; or better told as 'when pointing to the moon, don't forget the moon.' If there was one Koan, one simple understanding I wish I could somehow Vulcan mind meld to some people, it is the significance of this. For goodness sake, Buddhism is the finger, not the moon. Perhaps this is an over simplification. And well, sure, Buddhism it is both and neither...but now I am totally digressing.

Maybe I should just tell people I worship the Easter Bunny instead, at least I might get a laugh or two. And, hey ‘Belief’, stop smirking or you’re the next one to take a long ride if you keep it up!


  1. I think many of us are quite quick to draw to a conclusion about someone or some concept; most of the time,to promote some sense of commonality, but in doing so often do "pigeon-hole". I think it's a very human thing to do.

  2. Right-o. "Buddhist" as a label doesn't work for so very many. You might as well be speaking Urdu.

    Truly, I am amazed that so many rather-sophisticated people know so very little about it. But it's worse than that: They think they know so very much, but what they know is out-of-kilter, at best.

    I get stuck. Is it better to say nothing? But if I do that I fail to combat the vast, delusional field of ignorance and misinformation.

  3. When I tell people I'm Buddhist in this very Christian state they give me the, "Ohhhh......" which trails off at the end with a look as if they just found out that I have horns growing out of my head.

    Equally expressed and at the same time is the impression through their response and look that says, "Oh you lost, pitiful soul, you. I'll pray for you that you wake up and realize your Buddha is actually pure evil in disguise."

    Oh and I too get the "So you worship Buddha?" comments all the time as well. It's hard for many westerners to imagine a religion where there is no "God." And, well, in some respects they are right as Buddhism is kind of like the "religion of no religion."

    But I'm not really Atheist either--I'm very much an Atheist in many ways but I'm also not. So the term or "label" (which are so clumsy but somewhat necessary) that I relate to most in terms of general, religious standpoint is non-theist. Many definitions place Buddhism squarely in non-theism.