The Dharma is an open country.

“Buddhism doesn’t tell you what is false and what is true but it encourages you to find out for yourself.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa #emaho #buddhism (quote via Bill Schwartz)

This is how every religion should approach itself and perhaps why so many free-thinkers and skeptics are attracted to Buddhism [or at least Buddhist practice]. Canon, as expansive as it is, to me seems more of a conceptual guide than a set of regulations and tasks. It presents a map [a geography, a landscape, a foundation] for practitioners to explore – to build upon – to maintain, to polute, shit upon or discard entirely. There are mountains and plains – rivers and oceans. Formations that are immutable and can’t be changed [much]. Land is ripe for crops to be planted and the river of Dharma can be averted, redirected or dammed…but not for long. No matter the field, the flood can’t be held back. 

Many call deride this open process of exploration as “cherry-picking” and spit out the term towards many a weary and wary traveler. Used to the derision, I prefer to consider it homesteading the Dharma [one can plant cherries if they wish…I won’t stop them…they are delicious].

Some of us choose one, simple, stationary plot and sit there till we die. That is it. It is our spot – there we till the earth, mend our clothes and raise our children. We pass the land to others. We erect towns and churches and even fences. We create a civilization that follows the lay of the land.

Some roam. Those vagabonds never spend more time than is needed. They work other people’s land, profit (or not) and then move on to the next job. They jump trains from destination to destination with much of the Dharma passing by as an unnecessary but scenic blur. The Dharma is tattooed to their skin, worked into their boots, calloused in their hands and radiates from the wrinkles lining their eyes.

There are the trailblazers. The nonconformists. The adventurers. Those that create new trails by striking out into the wilderness and exploring the grey areas between. By making their own mark and develop their practice they provide variety to the landscape. Outsiders and zen mountain men that only come to town occasionally for provisions, stories and drinks. We don’t understand them but we usually walk away with something more.

Insurgents and revolutionaries plot and plan, create and destroy. They rise up and fall back like a tide. They also challenge and mold. Some wander off into the wilderness and become trailblazers; others populate cities and towns; most blog. Along with insurgents expect militia, doom-sayers, fundies and extremists. Can’t have one without the other…

Then there are carpetbaggers and snake-oil salesmen. They hustle and deceive those homesteaders but mostly rely on tourists for a quick buck. You can’t keep them out. The only option is to educate and inform others to avoid them.

And there are tourists. The Dharma is open to all. People pop in and out constantly. Some make waves, some create ripples in the shallow end and others sit on the shore quietly and watch. Others toss a frisbee. Zencationers and Dharma-brats aplenty. They come back every summer looking for something exotic to take back to place on mantles and in offices…but remember…

The Dharma is open country.

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