Glenn Wallis, associate professor at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies, and author of several books on meditation produced recently a “Buddhist Manifesto.” An interesting and admittedly “spicy” presentation of the contradictions that arise in the many diverse school of Buddhism; Dr. Wallis attempts to succinctly define the Buddha’s core teaching in a manner that is not divisive or inflammatory but clearly delineates aspects of practice that he sees as antithetical to Buddhist practice.
The more time I spend regarding Buddism, the clearer it becomes: the basic teachings of the Buddha are in dire need of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation: to return to health, to restore to a former healthy condition, to return to normal…Gotama’s teaching, like the human face of the teacher himslef, is vanishing. It is disappearing behind the Oz-like curtain – as shimmering and alluring as a Tibetan prayer flag fluttering in the sun – of religious Buddhism.
A provacative read. As Mr. Wallis states in his post:
My interest was in discovering whether self-professed North American Buddhists were aware of the rollicking, Wild West anything-goes nature of their American Buddhism. The replies I received were, with few exceptions, exceedingly harsh and thoughtless. I like spice, conceptual as well as gustatory. But the spice should enhance the dish being served up, not obliterate it.
Being a buddha in the Wild West, I can answer that “Yes, I do.” But that is a manner of our upbringing and has been a hallmark, for better or for worse, of religiosity in the New World. The original immigrants to this country from Europe were escaping from religious persecution and looking for new opportunity. The rollicking evangelical movement here is a direct result of the American Revolution. When throwing off the governmental shackles of the Empire we were also throwing off the shackles of the Church of England thus providing the opportunity for any itinerant lay-minister to preach the word without ties to the Old World. Sound familiar? The New Age movement of the 60’s and the delving into Zen and Taoism have all been due to this rugged view towards personal practice.
We also have a rollicking movement of throwing off the shackles of religion in general or experimenting with syncretism. This exploration (and allowing others to also explore) is a cornerstone to religion in the Wild West. We like our Dharma not just with some spice but with a heaping load of chili-frieso on the side. We are Americans and we can deal with the heartburn.