Monday, August 29, 2016

Buddhist Magazines, Not Worth Your Time or Money

Against my better judgment, I borrowed a Buddhist magazine the other day. I stopped reading Buddhist magazine about five years ago because, frankly, I thought they were sheer drivel. Most of the magazine consists of advertisements of retreat centers and celebrity Buddhist teachers. "Come meditate for a week with..."

The content tends to be along the lines of, "How to make sure you're meditating correctly." These magazines are the Buddhist equivalents of Fitness and Mens Health. "Want to jump-start your meditation routine? Follow these three steps..."

But I borrowed the magazine anyway from our meditation center, mainly because the lead article piqued my interest. And besides, maybe I had been too critical, maybe their content had evolved since I'd last read them.

Inside, I was greeted by all of the same schlocky material that you'd find in an advice column. The article I was interested in turned out to be a panel interview with teachers from various Buddhist traditions. No one said anything compelling. Maybe the questions weren't substantive enough; I don't know. 

What irks me about these magazines is that they don't promote Buddhism; they are selling the Buddhist lifestyle. Like any other consumer niche, the Buddhist lifestyle requires its adherents to subscribe to all of the major Buddhist magazines, amass and quote serene quotations about mindfulness and forgiveness, and purchase books by all of the major Buddhist authors. And of course, attend retreats, the longer the better, preferably ones led by brand-name teachers.

In my opinion, Buddhist magazines exist to promote books and retreats. They provide revenue streams so that Buddhist teachers can continue doing...whatever it is that they do--teach, lead retreats, write books, travel. 

If Huang Po, Deshan, or Yunmen were alive today, they would burn every copy they could get their hands on. 

You don't need to read a Buddhist magazine to be a Buddhist. In fact, if you want to practice Buddhism, take the $20 you would have paid for a year's subscription to one of these magazines, and donate it to the charity of your choice. That's much closer to the heart of the Buddha's teaching than anything you will find in a Buddhist magazine. 


  1. So instead of the old "Bedstand Buddhists" who have a stack of dharma books on their nightstand, the intended audience would be "coffee table" Buddhists, eh?

  2. I find that all of the Buddhist magazines are of the same quality--heavy with advertisements, promotions, and chatter.

  3. Is that a compassionate response?? Or derision?

  4. I think that the post is critical more than derisive.