Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maybe there are 84,000 doors to the Dharma, but this ain't mine

I'd never heard of the "Dharmapalooza" stuff, (see blog posts here too).

I guess that's what the kids do these days. :-)

Seriously, though, Buddhism as I've encountered it is thoroughly permeated by the kind of existential bleakness found throughout Sartre: we take refuge because it's a storm out there, and a storm that might seem to be the Wehrmacht coming through your neighborhood sometimes1. And we're largely stuck. There's no exit.

That is essentially my appropriation of the First Noble Truth of Buddhism. In my appropriation of this, the First Noble Truth is noble only 'cause it's followed by three others...which thankfully help bring back life, color, flowers, warmth, cuddling, puppies, smiling children, and a host really Nice Things that would melt even Martha Stewart's heart...which would leave an awful mess and then we'd only have to clean it up.

But I digress...

I can understand that adults younger than me, who are (thankfully for them!) living different lives than I do, are at a certain stage in their lives where they are drawn in passionate ways differently than my passions do (or one might say our karmas are different).

But I have to ask: have they never felt like life was all gray and bleak and it's always going to be this way, and the difficulty in bearing it requires (nearly) superhuman strength? Of course my war metaphor is just that - I have never actually known war, but I have known unyielding ignorance, unwarranted abuse, and a host of other things that are suffering first hand. Negligibly small compared to what others have experienced to be sure, but not exactly a bed of thorn-free roses.

I know there are Boomer ex-hippies who did the Eastern Religion Thing as dilettantes, as tourists, and bridge and tunnel seekers on their way to the megachurch or congealed cynicism. And some did get serious. Thankfully I was a bit too young for the more nonsensical aspects of the generation, but the being a bit too-young, being way too young for the muddy kumbaya of Woodstock had its effect. In addition, I was clearly influenced by the fact that New York culture in the 60s and 70s couldn't but remind you of the Holocaust (and I later found out that despite my not-being Jewish, at least some of my relatives in Europe didn't fare so well with the Nazis either).

Likewise, I guess I'm too old for the Burning Man ecstasy fueled rave nonsense, and ways in which it translates back into the younger Buddhist culture. And of course it's likely a dance to avoid the fact that it's hell outside.

With the deaths that happened this year (not just my mother, but also some in the Zen community) it has become woefully clear to me that my generation (or subset between Boomers & Ravers, I guess?) is now the one that depends on propagating a Dharma that actually helps people.

It can be a Wehrmacht out there, and I'm sorry but guided meditations that gets you to imagine NonDual Big Big Mind...can only help so much.

There's a good chance you're going to have to help your kid at crunch time, when the artillery's metaphorically pounding out there.

The kind of mind that can help then is far more important than song and dance.


1 For a good idea of what I'm talking about, read Russia at War, by Alexander Werth. For some people this wasn't just a metaphor, but the awful reality, and for some people this reality was created by unconscious collusion with others, both as a historical outcome of WWII, and as echoes created later in their lives or foreshocks created earlier in their lives and passed down to children.


Al said...

You do realize that I'm almost 40, right? :-)

We're probably of the same generation.

By the way, having been to Burning Man a few times, most Burners are in their 30's and 40's, not kids.

If you focus on the suffering, that's what you will get. Part of the lesson of Buddhism, maybe the only real lesson, is to pay attention RIGHT NOW to what's in front of us. If you do that, there is joy, not suffering, much of the time. In any case, both the joy and the suffering pass. Nothing lasts, after all, and that includes pain.

Mumon said...

LOL. No disrespect, but I'm in my 50's and yeah, there's a bit of a generational difference. Trust me. I mean no disrespect, and especially since I'd just sort of selected your blog and random on reading about the Dharma palooza stuff.

The focus on suffering is because it's really experienced. To transcend suffering one must start from being within it. It's not illusion; it's valid. It's how you exist when there is nothing but pure pain. If you can't have wonder at your existence (forget joy and laughter, just wonder) when pain is racking your body you're not going to think the future years are ducky.

But if you don't acknowledge the pains and suffering you experience when it is "in front of you" you won't transcend it.

Thanks greatly for your comment.