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

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Something About Buddhism. No, Really.

July Swim for Distance Total to Date: 11 k (whoo hoo!)
Playing in the background: Brilliant guitarist Pat Methaney

In between swimming and writing and oh yeah, looking for a job, I also read stuff once in a while. Recently I've been plodding through Zen, Its History and Teachings, by Osho. Sound like heavy reading? Well, it is, kind of, but the book itself is of moderate size. It also has nice color photos of various soothing things like river rocks, gardens, spiral patterns in the ground, fish, etc. (nothing enhances a book on religion like nifty photos, in my humble opinion). It's also divided into reasonable chapters, which is nice when your main reading time is the last five or six minutes before you fall asleep.

A few words about Osho: That I'm reading his book doesn't mean I'm espousing his philosophy, or even that I agree with most of the stuff he writes. Osho used to be Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian philosophy professor who slipped into religious prophethood at some point, caused trouble virtually everywhere he went and is kind of notorious for founding a commune in Oregon and driving Rolls-Royces. Well, the commune itself got to be kind of notorious when some of its members staged the first bioterror attack on U.S. soil by poisioning about 800 people to influence a local election. Stuff like that tends to get you kicked out of the country, whether you had anything to do with it or not. Osho wandered around various parts of the world for the next five years before returning to India, where he died in 1990. The definitive bio of the guy is called Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic, and I think that pretty much sums it up.

Moving on: If you want to get a good grasp on where Zen came from, you can do a lot worse than read this thing. Buddhism, like Christianity, doesn't fit into a convenient "this is what we believe" box. Most religions that spread out over large regions and different kinds of people don't so much "take" as they "go native." Just as you can go into an Irish Catholic parish and have a very different experience than you can in a Norwegian Lutheran church, Thai Buddhism is not Burmese Buddhism is sure as heck not Tibetan Buddhism and so on. In Osho's view, Zen is a fusion of Buddhism and Taoism, so complete that it's impossible to tell what came from what. Like most things about Zen, it just is.

I came across this passage yesterday, and somehow it's very soothing to me:

The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinion for or against.
The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes is the disease of the mind.

--Sosen, as quoted by Osho.

Interpret that however you want, but what I get out of it is, "There are much easier ways to get through life than to drag yourself kicking and screaming." In short, things just are. Which, oddly enough, echoes something I've heard over and over again at OA meetings: "Surrendering doesn't mean I take no action. It means I take the action and surrender the results" or, alternatively, "I'm in charge of the planning committee, not the results committee."

Hmm. I wonder if the Twelve Steps aren't America's contribution to Buddhism. That would be a great idea if Mel Ash hadn't thought of it first. (Hi, Mel!)

Buy No Accounting For Reality between July 1 and July 31 and $1 per copy goes to Childrens Medical Center! Follow the old fundraising efforts here.

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