Monday, April 19, 2010

Can You Believe it? The Buddha Just Got a Job as a Greeter at Wal-Mart!

The greatest obstacle to enlightenment is disillusion.  Sounds like a quote from a sutra or something, doesn’t it?  Well, it isn’t.  I made it up... just now.  Be careful though, disillusionment can knock you on your ass.    
I was a naive teenager when I first started off on the “path.”  The most important thing to me then was my electric guitar and my hair.  As much as I hate to admit it and use the phrase “broken home,” that’s exactly where I was coming from.  Angry, misguided teenagers ironically are the prime candidates for exploration into spiritual movements like Buddhism.  
I was looking for a way to find meaning in my life.  I had honest intentions.  I was bored.  I heard somewhere that meditation could do all kinds of shit to make you feel happy.  That’s what I wanted.  It was either that, or start getting high like all my friends... but that was way too scary.
All this was before the internet got really big.  Back then, there were these things called libraries.  I spent a lot of time in them.  I walked down the aisles looking for a small section labeled “Eastern Religion” and I checked out every book on Buddhism that I could get my hands on.  
Mostly these books were mass marketed “Key to Happiness - Find Peace” kinda stuff, authored by the All-Stars of Buddhism in the west:  the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”... you know, shit like that.  I read them.  They seemed cool.  I got excited.  
Everything was all pretty low key until my life took a serious turn and I had a kid at the ripe old age of seventeen.  I’m what you read about in the papers... teenage father, high school dropout... the whole deal.  Honestly, it’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to seem.  It was hard, but I hung in there... my daughter’s almost twelve now.  
Buddhism was my anchor.  It was my drug.  It made me feel much less alone than I really was.  
But, I wanted to ratchet it up a notch.  Really get hardcore.  I wanted to get into the REAL DEAL Buddhism, the crazy sensory-depravation-meditate-your-ass-off Buddhism.  It was hard to find though.  I looked everywhere.  It was like diving headfirst into a pool with no water. 
I did everything that the books told me to do.  I tried to meditate, forcing my legs into that be-all, end-all posture of meditation, known provocatively as lotus position.  I did prostrations, mandala offerings, pujas, mantras, and chanting.  I took whatever money I made as a fry cook and spent it on cool Buddhist stuff, though thankfully, stopped short of buying a Tibetan prayer wheel.  (What the hell is really the point of those, anyway?)  I found a teacher, shaved my head, and stopped eating meat.  I slept outside overnight on the pavement to get tickets to meet the Dalai Lama.  I was getting close.  

Eventually, I enrolled myself in grad school to study Tibetan at the University of Virginia.  I was right on track to become the most hardcore mutha-fuckin’ Buddhist on the block.  But it all came crashing down - fast.  The disillusionment was epic.  Suddenly, I saw myself standing there surrounded by all these people that I couldn’t stand.  I didn’t want to be like them.  None of the shit I was doing had anything whatsoever to do with Buddhism... or what Buddhism is supposed to be.  

So, I just walked away.  I dropped out of UVa, threw out all of the Buddhist shit I had accumulated on my “altar,” got rid of over 200 books on Buddhism, and came back down to earth.  Now I’m here finally disciplining myself to sit down and write on this blog.  

I’ve got some stuff to say that I think and hope will be of use to some of you out there.  But I have to warn you, a lot of what I have to say is gonna sound like I’m ANTI-Buddhism.  In a way... I am.  But only because I believe that the thing we in America label as Buddhism is really nothing more than a shrink-wrapped, pre-packaged, mind-fuck that’s been engineered to maximize consumer interest.  

$125 - Double Sided Buddha Room Divider - For when you want have sex in your college dorm room, but don’t want to bother your room mate!  

The goal of this blog is to debunk Buddhism as a religion and an American cultural phenomenon.  In the process, I hope to strip what was once a simple set of teachings from the accoutrements that have come to complicate them.  
Buddhism is nothing more than a fancy mirror.  The whole point of a mirror is in its power to reflect, right?  
Next post:  Buddhism was never meant to be cool.   


  1. Great blog! I know what you're talking about. I was at a yoga/meditation retreat for a week. It was on the Bahamas. Next to Club Med. It was hardcore.

    I'm your first follower. You are my Guru, my Buddha, and I'll be stalking you here.

  2. I almost got pissed when I stumbled upon this page, but after reading your posts I can definitely say I'm gonna subscribe to it. There seriously needs to be a dissolution of the West's new-age commercial reconstruction of Buddhism.

  3. Thanks guys! This is exactly the impact I wanted... attract people by sounding mildly controversial, and then BAM, hit 'em with the double truth, RUTH!

  4. I forgot to tell you. I added your blog (and mine) to Stumbleupon so random people could find it and spread it around or whatever. It says you've got 70 views so far!

  5. I wouldn't express my disillusionment the same way you do, but this is surely entertaining and educational. Please keep on! :)

  6. Good rant. I'm a 60+, 40 year would-be Zen student who finally got Enlightened in a retreat by realizing I was a life-long drunk with a huge collection of mental health issues and dysfunctional behaviours which somehow three decades of zazen had allowed me to overlook. I don't blame Buddhism for my escapist idiocy, but what passes as Dharma in America does tend to get up my nose. Costumery, real estate, and role-playing: where would American "Zen" be without it? Keep up the good work.

  7. Hi, I having been trained a Christian, I know the Christian side of things. Recently I got into a very rough time, and I found that certain Buddhist principles really help me to sort things out, more than Christian principles are able to do for me.

    But I thoroughly enjoy your columns, since I have been amazed at the masses that mistake their path to enlightenment for (re)surrecting new cults and worshipping 'gods' like thich nhath hanh, dalai lama etc. etc. And in fact, when you hear thich nhath hanh or the dalai lama teach, this is the very thing that they warn their audience for!

    The path to enligthenment is, to me, nothing more than coming to peace with yourself, your mistakes, and care for others in the way you care for yourself. Something you can do on your own, using the toolbox that Buddhism, but many other religions/philosophies hand you. But as is with any -ism: everything is alright, until there's people involved. Somehow the masses don't seem to be able to get the message, whatever message that maybe.

    Your columns seem to healthy dosage of common sense.

    Thanks, big thumbs up, Martin, Netherlands, Europe.

  8. Thanks for the great writing!