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The Buddha

Put the call to action in the first paragraph because a lot of people will not read any further. This is a supplication post. I would like to get your help. Please go here and donate. The rest of this post is my slightly neurotic explanation of what I’m about.

I like being Buddhist because we do not proselytize, which I detest. We try to be good examples while being good Buddhists and hope other people will notice and want to follow us. Except for a class in high school, I can’t explain how a nice, Episcopalian boy from Oklahoma like me ever had the idea to become Buddhist at all, so maybe it really does just boil down to karma. That i know, none of the other students in that class have become Buddhists.

I also detest advertising and never quite understand how or why it works. Why does anyone make decisions on the basis of unwanted content that someone shoves in your face? I try to avoid advertising as much as I can. I especially do not understand why political advertising works. I make my own decisions about politics and do not need to see any advertisements on the question.

But I know I’m weird, which is fine with me. Apparently advertising works on other people.

When I wrote, “Enlighten Everyone,” I really meant it. Part of what I don’t like about advertising and selling is that the impulse to sell for its own sake can easily take over, leading people to sell whatever they can to make money.

If there is such a thing as a good Buddhist, I try to be such. I meditate regularly, listen to Buddhist teachers, and am clearly much more awake now than when I started. I have had multiple moments, usually in dreams, when i thought I was fully enlightened, only to awaken from the dream and find that it was not so — yet. One teacher says it always happens by accident, but meditation makes us accident prone. I try not to anticipate, since one cannot anticipate accidents.

I really do think the world would be a much happier, more peaceful, more boring place, with less suffering and less needless death, if more people, or all people, were Buddhist and had a well developed meditation practice. That is highly unlikely, but I still want to try.

Mahayana Buddhism, mostly Tibetan and Zen, has the idea of the Bodhisattva, a person who chooses to postpone their own enlightenment until all other beings, meaning not just humans, but cockroaches and mosquitoes and puffer fish, etc., achieve enlightenment. During idle conversation just before I took the Bodhisattva vow myself, I stated aloud that this is a huge responsibility that one should not undertake lightly. Someone else said, in a slightly exasperated voice, “It’s an aspiration.” That made sense. It is hardly original to me to note that humans often achieve their greatest feats when they set lofty aspirations for themselves.

I took the bodhisattva vow. Buddhists do disagree with each other, usually pretty calmly and civilly. This is a point they disagree about. The two main schools are the Mahayana and the Theravadan. The Mahayana is a later development. Theravadans claim to adhere more closely to the original teachings of the Buddha. It is mostly an academic debate that you may safely ignore. Teachers from one tradition routinely borrow from teachers in the other tradition. Just keep meditating.

But they do disagree about the concept of the bodhisattva. I have my own doubts, because postponing enlightenment is not what the Buddha did, and I know myself well enough to know that I will be a better teacher after I awaken fully than I am now. One of my neuroses is the deep seated expectation that no one will understand me, and our neuroses tend to become self fulfilling prophecies. That neurosis will disappear with all of the others when I awaken fully, so I will be better able to communicate. Teaching is all about communication.

I am raising money because I have some big ideas. I envision maybe starting a monastery, to give more people a chance to become Buddhists and to practice meditation, whether as monks or on retreats or individual courses. I also think about creating a charitable foundation that would help ordinary people with pretty much whatever they need. It would focus on religious liberty and racial and ethnic minorities, since they need the help the most.

I’ve even thought about creating a non profit health insurance company and a non profit bank or credit union. A non profit health insurance company could be very simple — participants pay their premium, then get paid for any genuine medical expense. No pre existing conditions, no lifetime caps, no exclusions for any non medical reason. Very simple. For profit health care is an inherently bad idea. It makes no sense that anyone’s access to health care should have to compete with someone else’s profit motive.

I’m a big picture kind of guy. Buddhism offers the biggest picture of all — the entire universe. I have big ideas. I’m just not very good at selling them.

Many Buddhist teachers talk about the problem of the inner critic, which very much resonates with me. I have a fierce one. My practice has helped me finally to notice that other people are almost never as critical of me as I am of myself.

So I am putting this out there, to see what happens. If you like it, if you want to enlighten everyone, if you want the world to become more peaceful and boring (less shooting, bombing, and violence of all kinds), then please, go here and donate.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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