Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Is today’s American Buddhism tribal and myopic?
written by Thomas Armstrong
Buddhism isn’t about only those of us that claim the designation of Buddhist, but about the circumstance of everyone. It’s not as if we were all Hawai’ians and our discussions were about the archipelago where we live, and things narrowly pertaining to we’uns, the surfing, hotel management and telling tourists about what it's like living close to a volcano.
I submit that Buddhism is about suffering. And, I submit that suffering is universal, endured by all humans except a scant few with a vaulting pole in their head or in a far-advanced stage of dementia. And that suffering is a circumstance that waylays cows and dogs and squirrels from time-to-time and a thousand other species of our fellow traveller animals on this big blue whirling planet. Doesn’t our concern reach out to all of them?
Just as massive air pollution that emanates from here in the US affects the world, suffering all over the world HAS TO affect us, involve us and concern us. And yet, American Buddhists’ interests in the world [at least, when we see ourselves in the narrow category of “American Buddhist” is focused on Tibet, Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other nations that have significant Buddhist populations. Why is this?
Is the circumstance of a Buddhist suffering of a different order of misery that we should favor it at getting our keen attention, as opposed to the misery of non-Buddhists? Basically, are we all here just to look after the tribe? Is our spiritual maturity that ill-advanced? In other words: Are we all just yahoos (in the Swiftian, not online, sense) on this freakin wayward bus we call earth?
“Our” magazines and some of the buddhoblogs that discuss issues of worldwide significance talk about Buddhism, as well they should and must, but not in the context of suffering soldiers In Afghanistan near Pakistan. Why is that? JUST because there are no Buddhists to frame the story?
Sebastian Junger wrote this tremendous book, WAR, that ventures far afield to a place where intensity and fear and courage are most extreme. Isn’t Buddhism there, no matter that self-proclaimed Buddhists aren’t? Shouldn’t the farthest places be within our reach -- from the heights of heaven to the pits of hell?
Must we go to India or Nepal to find Buddhism? Don’t you think the fount of Buddhism is already close by, and if we don’t know that it is close by and everywhere [and not especially so in those "special" places], haven’t we lost it?