Monday, October 31, 2005

Q&A: "Your Buddhism Is No Match For Mine"

JJ asks: Your introduction talks about not wanting to get into a pissing contest about whose Buddhism is right. What are the criticisms that this branch of Buddhism receives? Who says it ain't the best and why?

Well, I think I got into some of this in our previous Q&A session, but that's specific to within those people practicing NS. Non-SGI members generally take the side of the Head Priest Nikken, namely that we're arrogant for thinking we can attain enlightenment without his approval. Not really worth commenting on, as I'm pretty sure you can tell which side of the fence I'm on...

From without the NS branch of Buddhism, the charges are numerous and varied, which are voiced by folks both familiar and un-familiar with the practice:

It's a greed-based religion. This one is usually levelled by Zen Buddhists, as well as those who've been talked to by someone who has been chanting for money or a car or whatever.

Zen Buddhist say this because their philosophy ("Only by eliminating earthly desires will you attain enlightenment") is in stark contrast to the NS philosophy ("By pursuing earthly desires, you will attain enlightenment"). I'll save further Zen v. NS comparisons for a later entry.

Those who aren't practicing any form of Buddhism are similarly turned off by the attachment to material things, which is ponderous.

Look, I'll be honest, I've been chanting for a new(er) car (and it seems like I'll be getting one), and the reason is simple: My current one is a piece of shit. It gets me from point A to point B, usually with some struggle. Who, in these circumstances, wouldn't want a new car? And as long as we're looking for something, why not ask for the moon (in my case, I'd like a 70s - 80s Mercedes)? Am I gonna get the Mercedes? Probably not right now, but it's a goal, and one never knows when you're gonna get what you want. I'll continue trying to get one, at the very least.

It's not a matter of status, you, generally, don't have to worry as much about newer cars. The same way one doesn't have to worry with more money coming in the door, or a better job than the one you currently have, or an apartment that's better than the one you're living in.

It's a lazy-man's religion. You only practice when you really need to. This one's funny to me.

This charge comes from people who notice that members who practice only talk about it when there's a crisis afoot. Which, in and of itself, is a good point. Members should talk about the good easy times, as well as the shit times.

However, what better test of a belief system than when the shit's coming down? Does it come through? Is the desired effect reached? This is a proof-based practice, after all.

And American Buddhists are human, like everyone else: We only really pipe up when we're excited, or when shit's happening. Else we're viewed as arrogant/delusional for only talking about the good times.

It's not really Buddhism. And in a sense, this is correct, despite the fact that the ontology could be legitimately followed right to Shakyamuni/Siddartha.

The niggle here is simply that the focus of this Buddhism is on attaining wisdom in the here and now, embracing our human nature in the process. The basis of this Buddhism is that we can do this in our present beings, we don't have to live lifetime after lifetime, eternity after endless eternity (as some Hinayana/Mayahana sutras espouse) to merely become a Bodhisatva. We don't need to carry out various and sundry austerities and hardships, nor deny our basic needs to be enlightened.

Neither do we believe, for example, that only one man can be a Buddha at a time or that Shakyamuni is reborn in one person throughout the lifetimes (as Tibetan Buddhism claims, or someone better redefine what the Dalai Lama is about).

The concept of Nirvana/Hell in the here and now is also specific to this Buddhism (others may have adopted it, but textually, this is where it started).

I mean, the list is endless, but what it comes down to is this: This Buddhism is an anomaly in its theories and philosophies, even amongst other Buddhist texts. What it espouses is unique in its world, to the point of being unrecognizable to those who do not adhere to it.

Let me know if this doesn't cover your question, as I am sure you will. I may add to it later.


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