Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Buddhism-informed versus Buddhist-inspired blogging

Although I do not recall articulating it before, I have increasingly been interested in blogging that had more to do with the spirit of Buddhism than with the language or topics commonly associated with Buddhism (at least in the West). That is, if I come across something from a Christian or Sufi or what have you that produces an inspiration or revelation or other reaction affirming or enlivening the spiritual insights that Buddhism (as well as other faiths) encourages, such as an expansiveness of the heart and the virtues that accompany such a change, I would rather read that than another account of rediscovering the myriad levels of subtle interplay between Buddhist concepts and the profound philosophical implications that come from such reflection.

I am not against people going through such a process of documenting their perceptual and cognitive re-alignment in light of a new cultural perspective or shift in philosophical orientation, let alone articulating their experiences as they go through it. Indeed you can find a lot of that here on this very blog. But I also have a degree of sympathy with the view that spirituality must be lived, not merely pondered. I have, I suppose, always had a sympathy for that view, but it was more of an intellectual assent. My actual appreciation in real terms has steadily grown over the past couple of years. This is not a new thing either, nor is it a sign of some greater awareness or insight. I don't presume that those who primarily focus on the "Buddhist" aspect of Buddhism are somehow less wise or accomplished than I. Far from it.

I can see where documenting an experience can be useful for others going through a similar process, but there is that danger of self-satisfaction which, to the chagrin and delight of some of my readers, I dubbed becoming "Bodhier than thou". And yet, an astute reader may point out, this post is about myself and my reactions or perspective. Which goes to show how readily blogging lends itself to narcissism when one isn't focusing on some greater topic or purpose. So that finally begs the question - what should I come here to write to you about? On the larger score, this blog is concerned with being a voice for those who reject religious and irreligious intolerance. But what should such a voice say? I have attempted to keep a balance between that which is provocative (such as reflexive discourse on being an "American" Buddhist), that which is inspirational (from all spiritual and religious paths), and that which promote social justice by advocating progressive politics and the protection of basic human rights. But I find that I am often redudant, either saying what has been said more effectively elsewhere or repeating what I have said before here. Perhaps that is one reason why some blogs seem to burn out after a year or two. I would like to keep this place vital and relevant, and I would appreciate your assistance.

So, please share. What has been of use or comfort? What would you like to see more of (or for the first time)? I look forward to your replies.


  1. Well i have enjoyed the book recommendations (I may never have read "Dangerous words" or "Mystic heart" where it not for having read this blog)

    I like your inter-faith themes and I'd be keen to hear more about how buddhist thought and practice touches your lived experience.

    Namo Amida Bu

  2. "I'd be keen to hear more about how buddhist thought and practice touches your lived experience."

    I'll have to consider that. I suspect it is the case that the cliched view of our egos is correct. We all have the constructed version of ourselves in which we would like to believe, and then there is the often unobserved (at least by own selves) reality. Ironically, I suppose such an observation and honest appraisal would be a form of introspection consistent with (if not unique to) the concept of "buddhist thought and practice."

    As it is, I am currently unaware of how either touches my lived experience. That is not to say there is no influence, but more to say I am not particularly conscious of it. This is in no small part owing to the fact that I haven't had a regular "Buddhist practice" in well over a year, not since circumstances undercut my ability to continue practicing with the sangha I had been with for 15-16 months. The fact that I have in the last month moved nearly eight hours distance from my previous residence precludes the option of returning to that group or teacher in the foreseeable future.

    While the changes that have occured over the last three to four years in the philosophical underpinning of my personal cosmology were greatly accomodated by and influenced by Buddhist tradition, this is in more of the abstract realm. Paradoxically, however, I am interested in the day-to-day outcome of such traditions at least as much as how well they lend themselves to abstract musings. In other words, the "daily cosmology" and assumptions about the world, not the "big cosmic picture" stuff.

    And while Buddhism is a tradition which suggests an equivalence between these two views (the extraordinary and the mundane, the cosmic and the commonplace), I still think most of that has been an intellectual exercise for me. A successful exercise to be certain, in which I've gone into all sorts of interesting thought-experiments and cool realizations of how concepts fit together in amazing ways, but I am not sure I would say that it makes a difference to me when I go to work, sit in traffic, or cook my dinner. But then, my understanding of Buddhism is allowing oneself to see what is, not the projection of our assumptions and cravings and hangups. So it is simple, yet very difficult. If dinner is just dinner and work is just work, then what is there to seek?

    I can be pretty sure that there are still plenty of underlying motives and implict prejudices coloring everything I see, so I can be assured that I am constantly taking myself away from/letting myself be distracted from the truth and balance and simplicty of Bodhi/Buddha-nature. But I also feel that Buddhism, intellectually at least, has helped me to consider/open my eyes to possibilities about the meaning of existence and the potential of life that I had previously ignored or dismissed. This includes not just readings or dharma talks, but such lessons also came from things like prostrations and bowing.

    I don't know if that means I was already "Buddhist" in some ways and simply found a philosophically compatible and liturgically interesting tradition to affiliate with or if I am one of the many Westerner folk for whom "Buddhism" is simply a palate on which can one explore non-traditional or non-mainstream spiritual orientations that are otherwise obscured or neglected by the current orthodoxy in the Abrahamic traditions (with a twist of exotic Eastern mystery).


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