Buddhism … the end of my suffering ?

About 6 years ago, in 2002, I approached Buddhism for the first time. I opened my DVD of Encyclopedia Britannica and found more than 70 articles about the major movements. I read about Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana en Zen. Buddhism appeared to me as something cold, exotic without passion. I saw compassion instead of passion … i was missing the DRIVE inside this religion. So after a week of reading about Buddhism, I went back to the Gnostics and Western Philosophy. I can imagine Britannica was not the best of sources to get enlightened. However, one has to start somewhere.Months later, my hunger for more information brought me to the east, and Yogananda and Osho entered my bookshelf. Yogananda gave me an interest in meditation techniques, something i would search for, for a long time. The other side of the bookshelf was taken over by Jung, Assagioli, Charles Tart and Stan Grof. I loved Grof’s “Spiritual emergencies”. However, Grof often talks about the same thing (LSD and the physical experiences at birth, prebirth and young childhood and their influence on the psyche. He gives a solution to this traumas in his holotropic breathwork). His “Beyond the brain” was not exactly my piece of cake.

During that period I discovered Wilber. Wilber had a lot of interesting things to say: “Up from Eden” and “The Atman Project” caught my attention. Especially the latter had a steep learning curve, so I had to take notes this time. I was unaware Wilber is a Buddhist. I liked his writings, and it took me two more books before I knew that this multifaceted pandit is indeed mostly connected to Buddhism. When I read “One Taste” I noticed that Buddhism does not necessarily have to be boring and without passion. Neither can one say that Wilber is a man without passion.

My re-awakened interest brought me to many other sources. Osho talked about Tilopa, in his book “Tantra” and The Dalai Lama talked about the 4 noble truths.
At least 2 of these truths were revealed earlier to me through life experiences. I guess those unwelcome experiences in the summer of 1996 initiated my search for truth and love. This lead me to the knowledge of the cause of suffering: GREED. Buddhism says it is attachment. Greed and attachment have very much in common. Especially when one extends greed to more than money. There is greed for love and sex as well, and greed for power and even knowledge. Greed is a more ego-centered subset of attachment.

The Dalai Lama also talked about Nagarjuna, the middle way and Madhyamikakarika.
Nagarjuna brought me again to the cold philosophical treatises that I disliked years ago. But when I finally got at least part of his message, on emptiness, I saw that this cold logical message was nothing more than a shadow about the real warm experienced emptiness. Something words cannot grab. Such a coldness of the text is also to be found in many theological christian writings, moreover, many philosophers from the west read as cold and pragmatic too. This doesn’t mean that the philosopher himself doesn’t know passion. Mathematics is also quite cold, but mathematicians can be very interesting and passionate people.

However, now we come to the core of the problem.

Wherever I go in my own country, Belgium, (and lets include Holland as well – since i spend a lot of time working there) I don’t see any passionate Buddhists. I find too many superficial people: many call themselves Buddhist after reading 2 or 3 books. They feel, or sometimes do not feel, that they are doing something spiritual, having found a religion according to them without god and without the dogma’s and without church-leaders as they are found in the catholic church (or other christian churches).

Buddhism is not about dogma’s. Buddhism is about experience, but Buddhism has many saints and deities who need equal devotion and prayers as catholic saints. Besides, isn’t a rosary a mantra? The Tibetan leader is equally clear about sexuality as the pope, with one important exception: he sees that birth control is necessary for this world to remain hospitable to (human) life.

How hypocritical is it to call one-selves to belong to a given religion but to select the practices according to ones own discernment? How reliable is that discernment? How much pride does one need to put this discernment above the directives of the spiritual leader of this religion. Isn’t this a lack of humility and respect? Some (but not all) are quite cold towards their immediate families and neighborhoods. Doesn’t compassion start in your own street? And again about the cold: have i ever met a European Buddhist with a warm personality and presence? I mean face to face in a conversation or encounter. Buddhism in my country is often elitist and fashionable.

Buddhism falls somewhere in between science and religion. You could say it has a bit of both worlds, but actually both those worlds will deny it has anything to do with them. Science doesn’t want to be related to anything you cannot count or measure and most religions of this world avoid personal experience and try to impose their view of the world on any of their followers, even if their followers are in fact not-followers.
This could imply that us Europeans who ran away from the dogmatic view of the world and who have embraced science so dearly in the past century, primarily like the part of Buddhism that is closer to science. We realize that a 100% material world is not something we want to live in. But often we don’t get any further than to engage ourselves to have a smaller ecological footprint, to promise ourselves to meditate daily and to feel compassion for victims of natural disasters as far away as possible. In reality we will accept the SUV company car, go twice a year on a meditation weekend in a luxurious Buddhist monastery and will eventually try to avoid any eye contact with beggars or homeless people on our roads. WE? yes, i also do belong here. I shouldn’t project my situation on “THEM” only. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Are all European Buddhist as lukewarm as this? As cold as I am?

I have more sympathy for the aroma therapy and pyramid energy seekers. I do not believe in those things, but the people I’ve met in the local bookshop around the crystal and tarot section gave me always a very warm and welcoming smile.

I really think there are other European “Buddhists” around. Warm and humble people who not only smile but are always ready to help a fellow (human) being. Practising “humility” they won’t say they are Buddhist. Only if you ask they might admit that they have a lot of sympathy for Buddhism but will never be a real Buddhist. I’m sure I have met some of them face to face. But as they are not directly identifiable under the concept “Buddhist” I can/could not put them in the box of “European Buddhist” with my limited mind.

Brings me to one last remark. When 6 years ago i informed myself thoroughly about Buddhism I wrongly thought that the end of suffering meant the end of all emotions, leading to icy personalities.

Now I know that the most compassionate Buddhist are indeed also very passionate in their lives and drives. But they have realized that their emotions, whenever they arise, will also pass. They don’t take themselves too seriously and they know that even the strongest drive is nothing more but a futile breeze in the holistic cosmos of interdependent origination.

 

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