A friend of mine took some time to remind me of how there really is a place for all kinds of Buddhist teachings, styles, and philosophies; that, even though I may like the more rigid or traditional, there really is a place for it all. I do understand that what really maters is if the person is getting something out of it, and that the vehicle is leading them further along the way than they were before. I get that. I really do.
I was then posed the question, “Why do you find self-help Buddhism so annoying? Why such a strong reaction to it?” To this, I could not answer right away. Instead I promised to take some time to think about it.
After thinking about it I did come to the conclusion that I was being a bit too hard on these people, and that there are places for everything. I DO, however, still think that the psychology found in these self-help books is not actually “Buddhism” per-say, but that it is the same techniques I find in any other book. And yes, I do study psychology in college. Whether the book be Christian, New Age, Jewish, Athiest or Buddhist, they all follow the same format and then just throw in little stories of quotes from their particular model (Jesus, Buddha, and I have even seen them using Star Wars or Winnie the Pooh) to make it fit their target audience.
So I do feel this way, but I am glad that these people are getting some help. If it gets them past where they are and deeper into the practice, then I am glad for it. I guess my problem is when people simply get to this point and “park there”; thinking that this is the end-all. Some even think that anything beyond this initail point is silly, religious, old-school, and pointless.
The other day I was reading a Buddhist magazine and it had a fun little story about a bunch of Buddhist monks who went to an amusement park to have fun and ride on the roller-coasters. They too, felt as though this fun and roller-coaster riding also has “a place in the practice”, and they are right. It does.
However, you can’t take this thing that has a place in the practice and make it your practice. You cannot build an entire new sect of the practice around riding roller-coasters. Now maybe that would RULE! I mean… roller-coaster meditation!? How awesome is that? But seriously, it would not last. It would be lacking something, it could only grow you so far, and sooner or later you will not be able to go on the rides anymore? What happens when they break down? What about when the park is closed? What happens when the ride gets boring and no longer gives you that thrill? Do you have to keep on moving on to park after park, looking for a more exciting ride?
The same thing can also be said about people who make their practice ABOUT THEIR PAIN. And that is what I think alot of these insight groups are doing these days. The practice centers around hurt and pain. How to confront it, deal with it, end it, find it, talk about it, think through it, etc. Now, what happens when the pain stops? The practice stops. So what do the do? Well, they stop or they go back to the pain, or they go and find some new pain to practice around. It can only get you so far, and since the entire practice feeds off these negative energies it really has no ability to truly release you from them. There is a time when you are going to have to just let it all go. There is a point where instead of getting away from the monster, you are actually feeding it.
One book about dealing with your anger/depression? Fine. A seminar to help you think some things out? Great. But making it your entire life and your entire practice? 10 books, 20? The subject of your every talk and the point of every retreat you go to? That I disagree with. That is feeding the thing; even your attempts to fight the issue can give it more strength than it ever deserved if not done skillfully.
Anyway, anyone know where I can get involved with Theme Park Roller-Coaster Zen?
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