Buddhist Zombie Hordes
Obligatory XKCD Reference
Whenever I post on E-Sangha here, I wind up regretting it. Not necessarily because what I say is incorrect or should be withdrawn but because it is a like setting off an explosion when the zombie horde is lurking about. Suddenly, every net kook that considers himself a friend of E-Sangha (or horribly wronged by E-Sangha) shows up and starts rattling the cage and looking for the flesh of the living while screaming “Braaaaaiiiiiinnnnnssss!”
You know, I don’t really spend much time thinking of E-Sangha normally. I got my fill of people riding a grudge about organizations or groups back when I was hanging out with the Neopagans and magicians. I’ve found out since then that the crazy behavior isn’t limited to those groups, seeming to be part of the human condition that is made worse by net culture. Generally, I just go about my business and see E-Sangha was an unfortunate example of ego and samsara masquerading as righteous Buddhism. It’s exactly the same crap as one sees in any net community with a Buddhist flavor topping with an extra dose of scripture (I mean “sutra”) quoting sophistry as the cherry.
I don’t talk about my practice much here (gosh, I wonder why?!!) but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. I’ve been involved in esoteric Buddhist practices for years now. I’ve received a variety of Highest Yoga empowerments into specific cycles of texts/mandalas/deities within the Tibetan Vajrayana community. I’ve chased after similar things in my seeking of enlightenment but have come to realize that it is just that, chasing. It’s goal seeking behavior, spiritual materialism, at its finest. The same goes for chasing after teachers. My biggest frustration with my involvement with Tibetan Vajrayana was my lack of ability to find a teacher. Part of that was my own impatience with the few options available and part of it was simply a lack of access. When I took refuge at the Sakya Monastery, as I’ve related before, I effectively found myself left to my own devices after the nice ceremony with no idea of how to train, get more involved, etc. I went to retreats in a few parts of the country and found a mixture of cult-like devotion to a particular Buddhist teacher, con-men, and reliable teachers that lived largely in India or Tibet and did rounds of various places once a year before disappearing for nine months. I felt frustrated with the inability to work with someone, to be trained, even though in Tibetan history, this has been a common occurrence as well. In the end, it is a kind of dilettantism, and excuse to seek instead of to practice.
A discussion with Rev. Jiun recently reminded me of much of this as we discussed our involvement, historically, with Vajrayana. The “smells and bells” end of Buddhism with the cool rituals, altars, rituals, etc. In the end, I’ve had the growing realization that this is probably just another form of distraction for me. That isn’t to say that the rituals are meaningless, when done properly, or that they don’t have their results but I’ve seen quite a few individuals seeking after more empowerments, more ritual training, etc. and, even after decades of practice, seeming to not have developed any more realization or wisdom than if they had done nothing. This is why the turn towards a more Zen based practice has had more and more appeal over time. The majority of my practice these days is simply sitting meditation, “just sitting,” also known as Shamatha, Calm Abiding, etc. Throw some Insight practice into that to mix it up. Beyond this, I take refuge daily, offer the four great vows, confession, etc. in a Japanese manner and read sutras but my practice is really, at the core, meditation. You know what, I get more value out of 40 or 60 minutes of my ass on a cushion than I do out of a wonderful piece of guru yoga or a cool fire puja. That might say something about me more than the practice but so much of what is done under the auspices of Buddhism is just so much distraction.
One of the things I’ve admired about Chogyam Trungpa’s Shamabhala school is their keen emphasis on sitting practice above, before, and after all other things. At least one friend who comments here has related his experience of seeing people do sitting in that setting for 20 years and being pretty much the same, just as I’ve seen for people who chase after empowerments and rituals, so it isn’t necessarily the method for everyone. At this point in my life, I find the stillness to be much more meaningful and rich than other options and to be much more accessible than chasing after Dzogchen masters or cool dudes in colorful hats who visit once a year from India.
So, nothing terribly deep here except that I stirred up the Buddhist zombie hordes again and I should get back to practice. E-Sangha can screw off into the hell realms of Internet bully-boys once again.