Sunday, February 25, 2007
I usually have negative connotations associated with American Buddhism. They are very different from my Christian connotations or my generalized religion connotations. It is not one of pure estranged awe bordering on disgust, but that of yuppy snobs. I have spent practically the entirety of my life surrounded by a culture of these people, and I feel that I know them closely enough to really despise their existence.
These are the kind of people who believe yoga is a secondary form of Buddhism. Which, hell, as the sensei said in temple, your practice should be whatever floats your boat, but I'm talking about the kind of yogi who spends 400$ on a new meditation cushion or yoga mat and another 1,500 dollars on their yoga clothes. The kind who has designated hiking shorts. They can't just wear normal shorts when it comes to the specific purpose of walking.
The kind of person who buys all their groceries at Whole Foods and looks at you with disgrace when you don't buy Fair Trade coffee, which costs around 12$ for a bag compared to my apparently socially bankrupt coffee at $5.99. I've taken to calling FMV brand reservation food to pay my respect to the severe snobbery of these people. Somehow they think of themselves as the pinnacle of social consciousness as they get into their SUV hybrid and head up to the mountains to buy a piece of nature and apparently according to them inner peace during a ski weekend/meditation retreat in Aspen.
When these people tell you they are Buddhist, it makes you just want to squish a bug in front of them and watch as they don't notice.
The thing about the Jodo Shinshu service that made me doubt its validity as a religion (it often seemed too based on an actual philosophy that acknowledged its' flaws and invited questioning and thought to be a religion) was the negation of this culture.
The sensei seemed real, honest, intelligent and content. It did not bother him that the folding chairs were only 1/5th full. I got the sense that he might actually have some inner peace. And that could be because he didn't tell me he had attained inner peace. He didn't have instructions on how to attain it. Yes, there were rituals and old Asian artifacts, a chant, and meditation. However, he explained that his practice, the Jodo Shinshu practice, was the living practice. It does not need any of those components to be a good practice. The ego (a strangely western term I think for an eastern practice, which brings thoughts of Freud into a place I don't think he belongs, oh well) has no overarching reliance upon these practices and an expensive retreat will likely not help you with anything but fueling the economy.
I could have kissed him when he said that.
Emphasis on could have.......