Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beyond Doctrines and Dogma

Yesterday I had a conversation with a colleague about world religions. We were talking about depictions of God and how different religions view iconography. Then I mentioned to him the phrase, "Kill the Buddha!" and I thought that his face was going to fall off.

What the hell! his expression said. Kill the Buddha?

To the best of my knowledge, Zen is the only tradition that openly recognizes both its limitations and the fact that Zen itself needs to be transcended. Any and every concept of the Absolute must be immolated. Maybe it's this difference that makes me hesitate to label Zen a religion. (When it is properly practiced, I don't think that Zen is a religion, at least not in the same way that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and mainstream Hinduism are. Beware the institution that exists for its own sake!)

This is very different than other spiritual traditions. While some religions renounce representing God with graven images, they fall into a much more subtle, insidious trap--they create an idea of God. And then they defend that idea, and sometimes kill for it.

Ont the other hand, no Buddhist idea is worth fighting over. Which is not to say that people don't fight over them; it's just that, properly understood, Buddhism is a tool, not a lifestyle or dogma.

Every idea must be recognized as a concept. Admittedly, some concepts are more helpful than others (such as washing your hands during the flu season), but all are merely bubbles floating in our minds--transient, insubstantial, yet sometimes dangerously seductive.

So kill the Buddha. Let go of all ideas and ideals about what you think an Enlightened person looks and acts like. Then act in accordance with what's in front of you.

The toilet's dirty? Clean it.

You hurt someone's feelings? Apologize.

It's snowing outside my house right now. In a few hours when it stops, I will go outside and shovel. In the meantime I'll get a snack.

No God. No Buddha. Just a banana with a cup of coffee. And when that's done, let that go too.

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