Monday, January 25, 2010

Buddhism is the cultural frame

This one of those topics that just doesn't go away. Western Buddhists continue to say stuff about their spiritual identity in relation to their host culture. The host culture happens to be the one I find myself in. After staring at the sky for several minutes last night, something popped into my head while watching the crows take on a super-real aspect against the twilight sky. Buddhism is the cultural container of enlightenment in the East. It's not the only one either. I think a lot of the religious movements of the East are exactly that: containers of Enlightenment.

Enlightenment has happened lots of times in different times and places. Of course, I'm speaking outside of the opinion that all are enlightened. We'll leave that to another time (it's probably already in the past). For instance, Christ very well could have been enlightened. Why not right? Same with Muhammad and any of the Indian masters of Hinduism or all of the rest of them that spring from India (no disrespect intended). The shamans and medician men of all the tribes-people of the world all share from the same root.

So where did the Western container of enlightenment go? Did we kill it off with the Cathars? Was it forced into obsolecence with the Orders of Christian monks and nuns? Or was it hidden with the Freemasons and other occult groups? We don't even have a form of dress that denotes enlightenment. If we did, it certainly has missed my notice. Culturally, I think there's good reason why we're looking to import these symbols from foreign cultures. If it did exist somewhere and was fairly accessible, I suspect seekers wouldn't be out there chasing enlightenment from other cultures. Maybe Christianity just isn't sexy enough?? Maybe we're all crazy enough to chase something exotic (just because it appears to be so).

Perhaps the big dilemma is that Buddhism has people that have found clarity and that's what we are really looking for ourselves. The attractive part is the package that it comes in. We find all kinds of old stories that we begin to identify with like the seeker who chases after the master at any cost. Just listen to some podcasts and you'll find people that identified and executed the behaviour. Is this worthwhile? Well, that's not for me to answer. I've never done it. There's lots of people who became monastics to practice more fully. This identity is also evidence of the cultural container. I admire those that go for full ordination but somewhere in my relative make-up, I know that any cultural container is a bit of a mistake.

The reason I came to Buddhism is that at one point, I was very close to the views of Buddhism. I spent a lot of time in meditation and came up with some of the same content. I look back to this time in my life as the period where "I had it all together": well, at least mentally. Financially I was too broke to pay attention and wasn't eating too well. Some of that was fuel for whatever level of realization I saw then.

I continue to feel a bit dissatisfied with the cults that surround a living or dead master. The crowd distorts and confuses the simplicity of the message. I guess that's been my understanding for a long time now.

So is Buddhism inherently wrong? Well, you decide for yourself. I think its fine. It'll change as it passes through everyones practice. There's nothing to do for or against it but understand it as it currently is. Make it for yourself, the self-made raft will deliver the self out of the frame.


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