Lay Buddhism #2

“What a fuckin’ dumbass,” I think aloud after reading a fellow Buddhist’s post on Facebook.

I want to type that as a reply; I want it with every fiber of my being. Instead, I just click away from the conversation. Wouldn’t it be awesome if real life was like that? If we could just block annoying in-laws and annoying co-workers?

Anyway, I’m often frustrated with the virtual Sangha. It just blows my mind how right people think they are… all the time. This is exacerbated online where we can assimilate the role of royalty handing out decrees to our faithful subjects.

There’s a reason why a lot of Buddhist lineages still require in-person meetings and rituals at least a few times a year.

I’m not into that sorta thing myself. I’m the most American of American Buddhists I’ve met—straight down to the stubborn individuality and the urge to uppercut everyone who says, “You have to do it this way.”

I’m so American that I have my mail man enclose my letters in leftover Big Mac wrappers so that I’ll be enticed to go outside.

That was hyperbole, of course. It’s a new addition to my writing—figured I’d try it on for size.

American Zen is characterized by the contradiction of rugged individuality having booze-filled anonymous sex with community-centered compassion. It’s hard meets soft, dry meets wet. Right among that atomic collision, there’s practice.

The way was paved by the Beat poets and cheeky philosophers like Alan Watts. I’d like to see us all get back to that form. Lately, the terrain has been dominated by well-meaning but emotionally castrated old guys and terminally egoic atheist intellectuals.

In the other corner, we’ve got the traditionalists who push for Buddhism to retain its authentic Easter flavor—silly fuckers. I’m just trying to make sense of my own path among all this cacophony.

I stay as far from it as I can. Far from the temples. Zendos, and meditation centers. Far from the growing pains and Dharma politics involved in establishing a fundamentally communitarian and selfless religion in a fundamentally libertarian and consumerist society.

So, I stay my hand and navigate away from the social media pissing contests whenever I can. But the compulsion is still there. That overwhelming need to say something to ruffle some feathers; to be the cranky old Zen master on the hill who hits people with lamps.

I’m consistently torn between a laugh, a sneer, and a sob. If I expressed the full force of my personality at once, it’d be like a megaton fart going off, a mushroom cloud of flatulence. I’d sweep up everyone I know in a wave of paradoxes.

This is where I practice. In this confusion, in this equally sharp and soft reality. Bringing it out into the world, into work, is a challenge. Always weighing, always balancing. Finding simple joys in mopping floors and joking with co-workers while at the same time resenting ever having to be there.

Resenting the whole capitalist shit show in general.

Yet, I also love it, I love it all. It’s perfect. As I practice Buddhism and look on the Buddhist world as a proverbial outsider… this too is perfect. As I read words from no-nothing parrots and established teachers, as I both agree and disagree with them both, as I choke down retorts and try to work through my own pride… it’s perfect.




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