Author Topic: Why Buddhism ain't easy  (Read 3927 times)


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Why Buddhism ain't easy
« on: April 14, 2013, 04:03:50 PM »
Buddhism is not easy but for reasons you might not suspect.  Much of its difficulty (in fact maybe all of it) lies with our norms and our perception of reality which are biased, to a certain extent, against Buddhism.  Couple this with how much we are habituated to these various norms, including our perception of reality, breaking through the density of habit requires an extraordinary amount of courage and faith, among other qualities.
In the face of this, it is much easier to remake Buddhism in our own image so that it is not out of place with our cultural norms in addition to how we want to view reality.  Believe it our not, our day to day reality is a world, collectively speaking, we have all struggled to make with our blood, sweat and tears.  We want to preserve it—not change it.  In this same thought, it is also a world far from being perfect.  Yet, despite the allure of the city lights, every city is spiritually a barren wasteland.  Every sidewalk, poetically speaking, has recorded the footsteps of countless dreamers who are trying to make a better life but will eventually succumb to samsara. 
To fully understand Buddhism is first of all to understand that Buddhism doesn’t want us to believe that our norms and perceptions of the world are true, at least not from the Buddha’s standpoint.  Compared with the Buddha’s own profound awakening, we are fast asleep although we believe we are fully awake.  In a word, we are in a self-induced trance.  Our eyes show it as do our actions.  We are only able to perceive phenomena while all of our actions are in response to things in the form of desire.  All in all, we lack a sense of the spiritual.  In this regard, we are like fish in water who know nothing about the water.
When we encounter Buddhism for the first time it is often in a form which is far removed from its fundamental truth.  This means that if we like Japanese culture, we will like Buddhism.  If we like Chinese or Tibetan culture, we will like Buddhism, and so on.  However, anyone who clings to Buddhism’s various cultural adaptations can certainly be counted as one who is lost; who can’t distinguish form from content.
Glancing at the West and what it has done with Buddhism, it is fair to say that it has little or no regard for the spiritual content of Buddhism.  What is mainly passed off as Buddhism is a kind of pragmatic Buddhism, pragmatic in the sense of making Buddhism into a tool to handle and solve the problems of everyday life.  Buddhism other than this is ignored.
I cannot imagine, for example, the Buddhist magazine Tricycle: The Buddhist Review doing an in-depth interview with Dr. Tony Page who has put a lot of his time into making Westerners aware of the contents of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra thanks, I hasten to add, to the hard work of his predecessor, the late Dr. Kosho Yamamoto, who translated the Mahaparinirvana Sutra into English.  Such an interview is not within the scope of Tricycle’s mission.  It is more comfortable doing interviews with people like Zen master Joko Beck whose books about Zen have no spiritual connection whatsoever with Asian Zen, either Chinese, Korean or Japanese.  Beck, to be sure is no latter-day Huang-po, or Chinul.  But for the Western reader of Buddhism, who knows no better; Beck and others like Stephen Batchelor are held in high regard.  This might be because what these people have to say has been thoroughly blessed by Western cultural norms and the West’s perception of phenomenal reality which is frankly, materialistic.