I was watching the heavily hyped "The Buddha" on PBS last night, but the suffering was a bit too much for me at the time. That is to say, there was a lot of dukkha present in my home life, which is thankfully gone now.
What I saw of it was OK, though a bit too Tibetan Buddhist Exile in its presentation. Can we please refrain from using the Dalai Lama as some sort of "official" spokesman for Buddhism, and Robert Thurman from playing the part of the Buddhist scholar? Not that there was anything at all I disagreed with in what Thurman and the DL said about the Buddha and Buddhism, but it's exactly the same problem as having Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or Al Sharpton on Larry King.
The Dalai Lama, like the aforementioned other gentlemen is too tainted by the political agitation they have publicly taken to be considered purely as a spokesman for the religion itself, which is substantially more apolitical than you might infer from the DL's political statements. Furthermore, the man's a Living Dharma Burger. His public image fits that definition:
A “Dharma-Burger” is, actually, any example of Buddhist ideas or imagery in the marketing or production of (usually non-Buddhist) services and consumables.
And that's my review.
But today is my wedding anniversary, the 6 month anniversary of my mother's death, and the Japan Buddha birthday.
I cannot say enough good about my wife; I'd read some other guy somewhere (oh, yeah, this guy at, of all places, the Huffington Post) about how marriage highlights one's own faults, and the only way to make peace with one's partner is to look at one's own faults.
It's quite true. This religious life is quite special. In my experience many religious orders have tried to stress benefits of non-marriage but I think that guy to which I hyperlinked is on to something:
Marriage is a mirror, a reflection of all our faults. We cannot fool our partners for long. The powerful thing that occurs in marriage is intimacy- not the physical but the spiritual kind. It has been said that the real meaning of the word is realized when it is spelled out phonetically- "in to me see". The wise individual will seize the opportunity that marriage presents to see him/her self with clarity and to remove any negative traits that block the way to peace. Spiritual progress (peace) comes only through struggle; the internal struggle between our good qualities and our bad ones, i.e. patience vs anger, understanding vs fault finding, etc. There is no experience I know more suited to provoke and intensify this struggle than marriage.To arrive at true peace we have to come to grips with our arrogance, anger, and impatience. We cannot go around them- we have to transform them.This involves an intense war, a true holy war, if you will. The ego is a formidable opponent and does not want to lose. Many people go to church, temple or mosque one day a week to become better or more spiritual but the irony is that the real church is what they drove away from a few minutes before, namely their own home, where the sermons are no longer words but are actually hammered out in their marriages.
I'm also glad to see "spiritual" encoded to mean "peace" (hence woo-free) but I'd be more happy with "convivial" defined not with the standard definition, but, after Ivan Illich (also see the Wikipedia page) more to the point of its original meaning: living together.
It takes skill to live together well, to be convivial in its truest sense.
Marriage, the most intimate of ways to live together, is therefore the best practice for the skill of living together.
And so today, in the spirit of a newly born Buddha somewhere - maybe in your neighborhood, I'll be remembering my mother and her way of doing this practice, and my wife. Before a huge trip.