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‘Attend to Your Own Salvation.’

Hipster Buddhism and the desire to meddle.

by
Charlie Martin

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December 23, 2013 - 11:00 am
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The tradition says that when Buddha was about 80, he told his followers he would die soon. He was visiting the town of Kusinara, just south of modern-day Nepal, and frankly the middle of freaking nowhere at the time, and for that matter today. He ate a food offering and became violently ill, and died. Depending on the tradition you follow, there were either poison mushrooms or spoiled pork in that last meal, but the Buddha himself insisted it wasn’t the food and told Ananda, his chief of staff and personal servant, to reassure the person who’d given him the food that it wasn’t his fault.

While he was dying, he asked his students to ask him any final questions. His last words were: “Remember, everything that is an aggregate is perishable. Attend to your own salvation.”

The whole story, along with a long summary of the Buddha’s teachings, is in the Maha-parinibbana Sutta — we Mahayana Buddhists have a very different, and way more exciting, version in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra in which the Buddha is attended by 80 billion monks, speaks in a great voice that covers the whole world, and generally would make a lovely manga comic, but never mind that for the moment.

The thing is, this is one of the core Buddhist teachings: you get yourself into this trap, and you have to get yourself out. We live with duhkha, that pain of everything slipping away from us, because we’re ignorant of the reality that there’s nothing permanent to hang on to; we escape from duhkha and enter nirvana, peace of mind and the end of the pain of duhkha, when we really understand that there’s nothing permanent to hang on to. And like personal salvation in evangelical Christianity or recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous, you have to do it yourself. No one can recover for you.

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Top Rated Comments   
Duhkha is, and Duhkha will be. Duhkha cannot be avoided or stopped. It is part of living. What The Buddha taught is how to recognize and deal with it. That is the Eightfold Path. There is no magic, and no one can do it for you, it is up to you alone to follow the Path. There is no "Salvation." Your mind is the source of Duhkha and training your mind will deal with your Duhkha. You will be judged by no one other than yourself. You alone will know when you stray from the path and you cannot hide from yourself.

The Buddha boiled it down, as he was wont to do, to "By our own efforts alone."
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've known a lot of buddhists, even some from Trungpa's group. Lately a number of my old friends have suddenly acquired this rather hysterical leftist tone, supporting Occupy Wall Street and raging against all those awful rich guys. I was floored the first time I encountered it--exactly the opposite of the teachings of Buddhism. Instead of tolerance they were condemning an entire class of people, they refused to see the "One Percent" as individuals, but instead blamed them for all the world's suffering. "Evolutionary Enlightenment" was the cry of one group. This is accompanied by a great deal of paranoia about the power of corporations and nameless shadowy forces. Maybe the One Percent could be love-bombed into submission, but they had no problem with government being the instrument of human happiness.

My take on it is that a lot of the people I knew, despite their almost fanatical conversions to Buddhism (they made excuses for Trungpa's alcoholism and other violations of good sense) they never really understood Buddhism. They seemed to think that Buddhism was just a higher form of liberalism. It made them even more arrogant that regular liberals. Liberalism is the real religion for them and Buddhism is just a thin imported patina on that. It's liberalism with rituals.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (25)
All Comments   (25)
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Charlie, great post. Just hit the nail.

You are too polite to these idiots. Be kind and your payback is...being kind.

Build something and payback is...it got built, and probably employed some people along the way.

These guys are overflowing with (since I have almost no schooling in psych nomenclature) what I call the 'little ego,' the one that wants everybody to tell you how great you are. The 'great ego' is the one that just wants to live and accomplish the task, realize a goal, etc, because living is great and dying will come.

Like it when you're on your game. Happy New Year!
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
If we could 'attend to our own salvation' Christ need never have come.
So much for the author's understanding of Evangelical Christianity. Evangelism is the very act of sharing this 'Good News.'
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Poopsie, if I bought everything in Evangelical Christianity, I'd not be writing a column about my Buddhist practice, would I?
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
A little harsh, I think.

God, having given us life and choice, can only marvel at our willingness to turn away from salvation of any sort. Buddhism and Christianity are different. However, neither ignores the fundamental role that the individual plays in his salvation, be that freedom from suffering or life everlasting.

Christ came. Is it fair to say that the gospels often fall upon deaf ears? Christ saves those who want salvation. The teachings of Buddha relieve the burdens of those who are willing to liberate themselves from their familiar 'comforts.'
God allowed, wanted us to have free will. We have to exercise it.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well said. Good essay.

The Buddhist convert King Ashoka created an Enlightened Society about two thousand years ago. He's dead and so is his Society.

The Dharma is still here.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ironically, the urge to meddle is part of what has driven our evolution, as is the urge to maintain status quo. All humans do not share these equally, though.

So it goes.

29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
If the world, or humans, could be fixed to eliminate suffering then there would be no need for Buddhism or any spiritual path.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's the hipster Buddhist's (and the liberal's) goal. To fix, improve, and ultimately perfect the world - not indirectly through teaching, example, influence, but directly, using government power to compel the changes they desire.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Imagine today, if you will, the TV series "Kung Fu" making a comeback, or, an attempted comeback. It would fail.

Why? Because in spite of, or perhaps because of Kwai Chang's Chinese bloodline, he mastered the art of the Shaolin philosophy which relies heavily on the self for satisfaction, enlightenment and ability to prosper in the world.

But today, the scenes wouldn't be replete with martial arts displays for his own protection, no. The scenes would be more where the government passed laws to prevent the bad guys from harming him or preventing him from having a meal somewhere. IOW, nanny-state-isms would abound.

In the 70's there was still enough of a US philosophy of self-reliance but over the years, people have noticed how their section 8 neighbors have more than they do, all paid for with tax dollars and those same people want "theirs" because the stigma of getting handouts has been erased by the media and the government.

I'm in my 50's and I didn't even like the notion of getting unemployment when those days came around a decade ago. But here we are in the next century which has also brought about third and fourth generation Americans who have never earned a paycheck. And they believe they are entitled to it.

They also have adopted an attitude that work is for suckers and....they may be right since the government largesse pot seems to provide them with homes, food, phones and even basic transportation, leaving their days freed up for more "creative" endeavors like trying to become a rap artist or dealing dope out of their garage.

But now there are Buddhists who think they are owed something by uncle Sugar?

I guess the notion that only the government can cure your woes is an infectious disease that gets into the brain and stops it from working.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not that they think THEY are owed. They're Buddhists - they're pretty sure they're doing fine. It's all us other poor sinners they're worried about.

They sincerely desire to help us. They want to practice on us the Buddhist virtues of Dana - generosity, Metta - goodwill, and Sila - morality. And they think the world would be a much better place if EVERYONE practiced them, too.

And like all good liberals, they want to use the power of government to make that happen.

It's the same old pattern. It's the genie in the lamp, the Faustian bargain. Give them POWER so they can force the world to be as it OUGHT TO BE!

After all, they're Buddhists - harmless, enlightened Buddhists. What could possibly go wrong?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It looks like Collective Salvation has even infected the Buddhists. This is a dangerous pattern I see repeating everywhere. There are a lot of people in a lot of places that are speaking rebellion and new world order, and it all suspiciously sounds very much the same - collectivist and redistributionist.

Now, you come here and tell me that even the Buddhists have their own group? Where does it end ...
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Duhkha is, and Duhkha will be. Duhkha cannot be avoided or stopped. It is part of living. What The Buddha taught is how to recognize and deal with it. That is the Eightfold Path. There is no magic, and no one can do it for you, it is up to you alone to follow the Path. There is no "Salvation." Your mind is the source of Duhkha and training your mind will deal with your Duhkha. You will be judged by no one other than yourself. You alone will know when you stray from the path and you cannot hide from yourself.

The Buddha boiled it down, as he was wont to do, to "By our own efforts alone."
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Right. Hipster Buddhists don't want to deal with Samsara. They want to turn Samsara into a nice place to raise your kids. Yeah, good luck with that...
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've known a lot of buddhists, even some from Trungpa's group. Lately a number of my old friends have suddenly acquired this rather hysterical leftist tone, supporting Occupy Wall Street and raging against all those awful rich guys. I was floored the first time I encountered it--exactly the opposite of the teachings of Buddhism. Instead of tolerance they were condemning an entire class of people, they refused to see the "One Percent" as individuals, but instead blamed them for all the world's suffering. "Evolutionary Enlightenment" was the cry of one group. This is accompanied by a great deal of paranoia about the power of corporations and nameless shadowy forces. Maybe the One Percent could be love-bombed into submission, but they had no problem with government being the instrument of human happiness.

My take on it is that a lot of the people I knew, despite their almost fanatical conversions to Buddhism (they made excuses for Trungpa's alcoholism and other violations of good sense) they never really understood Buddhism. They seemed to think that Buddhism was just a higher form of liberalism. It made them even more arrogant that regular liberals. Liberalism is the real religion for them and Buddhism is just a thin imported patina on that. It's liberalism with rituals.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Their "conversion" had more to do with separating from the established norms in order to clique up and condemn others. A well-known national socialist parlor trick.

It's the same thing as people covering their bodies with hideous "art" or piercings to be "different" and then screaming at people who find it ridiculous.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
you get yourself into this trap

yep.

and you have to get yourself out.

Nope.

try again. Harder.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Very off-putting.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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