Drinking the Buddhist Kool-Aid

Recently, two different turns of phrase (both rather morbid and strange) have popped up at work that got me thinking. Both in relation to individuals buying into a role/situation or accepting the whole dogmatic/doctrinal experience of a thing. The first is “drinking the Kool-Aid” and the second was “getting the implant”. Suddenly I realized that the West has not truly drank the Buddhist Kool-Aid yet. As a culture we have sipped it and certain individuals have gulped it down but it is still a contention as to whether we want to take that jump.

I have been sipping it for almost 10 years now. Many Americans are cautious about swallowing a whole new dogmatic framework when many of us have rejected the one that we were born into. Throwing away a framework that we saw as inadequate and simply replacing it with new, different one doesn’t solve the problem – a new one needs to be built. It does not simply appear – a skyscraper is created over months of hard work and consideration. We notice the sudden change with the demolition of the older building/framework but the gradual creation of the building itself settles into the background.

Suddenly, a skyscraper appears, full and complete, in the cityscape and we don’t really recall the steps that were required for it to be there. That is how Buddhism is being created in the West. Right now we are still staring at this foundation and not sure what to make of it. We recall the hideous buildings that was there previously and desperately hope that the new one is better, more adaptable…but we aren’t gulping down that Kool-Aid just yet but we have added some vodka.

Bricks are being placed on top of that foundation…some from traditional, ethnic and secular sources. While some of those bricks will last and others will not, we should withhold judgment until the whole thing gets erected and we get to stand back and see what was created.

The first hundred years are the hardest – Japanese monk visiting Rochester Zen Center on the movement of Buddhism into the West.



5 thoughts on “Drinking the Buddhist Kool-Aid

  1. @David

    I do understand the reference to JJ that is why I mentioned that it was morbid. Not an apt metaphor for Buddhism itself but it does work for buying into a dogma or framwork.

    You have to "drink the Kool-aid" for many things in life. Luckily most don't kill you in the process.

  2. David,
    Just a couple of things. Many of Jones's followers refused to drink the kool aid and were either forced too or shot. I believe only one or two people survived.

    Secondly, drinking the kool-aid has become slang in the US for followers blindly accepting what their so called leaders tell them.

    Anyway, I think what Jack is trying to say is individuals have not given into anyone of the dogmatic process currently being tossed around, either by the Traditionalists, the fundimentalists, the western modernists or anything in between.People and are still speaking out and searching for themselves to define what this thing called Buddhism in the West, or Western Buddhism will become.

    Its not a metaphor for Buddhism, its a metaphor for the process of a tradition being built.


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