Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Meditation Smackdown!!

Playing in the background: The air conditioner. It's summer in Texas.
Meters swum today: None (though I did hit a whopping 2800 last Saturday).

Well, it's that time of the quarter, kids. Another issue of Tricycle magazine has arrived and once again I'm feeling completely outclassed. Tricycle, in case you missed my last post on all things Buddhist and mass media, is the magazine that makes yours truly, a card carrying member of Mensa, scramble for her dictionary (Webster's Nth Collegiate in one hand and the Sanskrit to English phrase book in the other) to figure out what the hell it's about. Well, Buddhism, obviously, but this magazine (actually I think it'd be insulted to be referred to as a "magazine"; it is, after all, "the Buddhist review" which should qualify it as "journal" status or at least "quarterly") ain't exactly written on the level of Family Circle. More like the level of Scientific American, which is to say, it's pretty darn dense. An "intellectual challenge," one could say.

I guess if you read Christianity Today and you're the sort of Christian who goes to church at Christmas and Easter, you'd probably feel the same way. All these lofty articles on Insight Dialogue and the Gateless Gate and the fertile soil of sangha. I meditate every day and sometimes get to my meditation group on Sundays and I have read some of Thich Nhat Hanh's greatest hits, but start me reading that article about demon feeding or chod practice and, honestly, I'm a first-grader trying to make my way through The Divine Comedy. (Which I did, but in fourth grade. I have limits, ya know.)

I mean, these writers are hardcore Buddhists. They have names like Venerable Gandalf Aragorn Rimpoche and they go on months-long retreats at Spirit Rock Center and Temple of the Ten Thousand Buddhas. (In fact, they walk there. Two hundred miles. Living off the kindness of strangers.) They live in caves, they sit down to meditate for like fourteen hours at a time, and they sleep in the lotus position. They chop their fingers off to prove how unattached they are to their bodies and say cosmic stuff like, "The setting sun/follows the pilgrim's hat/ down the green mountain." (The correct answer, of course, is "Because the lion is dreaming.")

Meanwhile, over here in Jen-land, I'm trying to figure out how to achieve enlightenment without shaving my legs.

Okay, I'm whining. A little. But: Do I have to do that stuff to be a Real Buddhist (TM)? Can't I be serious about my practice and still keep all my fingers? Enlightenment is certainly something to reach for (I've been there, once, though just for a few seconds, and believe me, it is awesome) but I still live in the world. I still hold down a job and raise cats and so forth and so on. I'm a lot more level-headed than I was a few years ago, though. And I'm nicer to people than I used to be.

One could point out (and one would be right) that one could just stop reading Tricycle magazine, already, if it makes one feel unworthy. I'm not ready to go that far, though. For one thing, I already paid for another year. For another, it doesn't exactly make me feel unworthy. Just outclassed, like I should be in there competing with everybody, lopping off fingers, losing limbs to lotus-position gangrene and responding to all questions with "The pop-tart and the Q-Tip are in harmony."

That's what we need. A new reality show. Last Monk Not Standing. Anyway, I'm going to read Family Circle now.

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