Vexations in Buddha Camp

“Some days I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Other days, I don’t. Struggling a bit, Quinn, with staying much longer. I see hypocrisy here.”

“Why the hypocrisy?”

“For example, this particular tradition is sectarian and strongly criticizes the Dalai Lama, whom you know has helped me greatly. They protest at his events and have their reasons, some of which might be valid, but it doesn’t seem to follow with universal compassion. It turns me off.”

“Aren’t you there to focus on how to better meditate? Take what you need and leave the rest. You’ll find this in every religious organization. Remember, you’re not there to practice their beliefs.”

“It feels as if I’ve joined a cult.”

“I’d assume it would be somewhat cult-like. Personally I would be very uncomfortable there. Perhaps you can find another place for spiritual retreat? Though I’m not sure that’s what you need.”

“I’m not sure if I need anything more than I already have actually.”

“Truth.”

“Hopefully they don’t smell me out as a non-believer.”

In the following days I struggled with skepticism. My mind threatened to close and I considered running. But also there was the wondering of why; why this urge to run? tweet

“Tell them you’ve been reading Dianetics and Tom Cruise is letting you stay at his place. So is it ok if I visit?”

“Sure. Bring your Nikes.”

“Good trails?”

“The Nikes go well with the Kool-Aid.”

In the following days I struggled with skepticism. My mind threatened to close and I considered running. But also there was the wondering of why; why this urge to run? There was no real threat here. Even the frogs were fat and happy; only one appearing to have the glazed-over eyes of religious fanaticism, or indigestion from too many flies. So I was uncomfortable, but so it goes with new growth. I’d made hasty judgments as excuses to escape.

There are good-hearted people here. Grounded and kind. tweet

There are good-hearted people here. Grounded and kind. A young monk carried stones with me as we built a pathway together. Sometimes, he said, he felt shyness and blushed when teaching courses. He was soft-spoken and it was easy to imagine. I sat at dinner and listened to everyone joking and helping each other, and in quiet times I continued to contemplate myself. This is how it went and my opinions went slack. Things loosened and my urgency deflated. Each of us is different, and each to his own.

But I question! And it is delightful and awesome that we can. The Buddhists teach emptiness in all things, and in my current—although likely immature understanding—there seems a goal here similar to what all religions strive: that if we practice purely we might someday leave this world and join a marvelous utopian space where suffering is no more. But …

I sat at dinner and listened to everyone joking and helping each other, and in quiet times I continued to contemplate myself. tweet

There is a steepled church in the Spanish plains within which long beams of light enter dustily in the late afternoon and in a wooden pew alone an old woman cries for her long departed lover, and is there not beauty in that? There is a poor withering child lost on an Arabian road coughing and bloody and raw and a foreign traveler stops to care for him, bends to pick him up, and is there not beauty in that? There is a man heartbroken and angry and directionless after sudden divorce and a friend visits and they begin laughing from nowhere at the silliness of life, and is there not beauty in that? There is a scarred hopeless kid suffering addiction, loneliness and despair, and yet finds his footing even there and begins moving toward unexpected dreams, and is there not beauty in that as well? So keep your emptiness realized and your heavens above promising eternal happiness and peace everlasting, for I’ll live this life again if given a chance, and look for beauty in all things we humans do and feel and fuck up. It is our greatest art, this living and breathing and suffering and transcending, and it is beautiful and I would miss it.

If I am to meet Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, I’ll say to him, send me back and let me cry.

I’ll live this life again if given a chance, and look for beauty in all things we humans do and feel and fuck up. It is our greatest art, this living and breathing and suffering and transcending, and it is beautiful and I would miss it. tweet

The dormitories are filling in anticipation of next week’s international festival, which expects thousands of visitors from across the globe. A large rotund man from Brussels arrived last night. He snores like a grizzly bear but speaks like a French poodle and is quick to laugh. Even though his snoring is disagreeable, he’s good company in the daylight.

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