People Are Crazy

William B. Turner
4 min readFeb 17
Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion

Including you and me. Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa liked to use “neuroses” as his modern, westernized term to help explain Buddhism in the modern west.

Until we awaken fully, we are still a bit neurotic, at least. Our perspective on the world is at least slightly deranged from the load of concepts we start to learn from the culture we grew up in, starting pretty much from the moment we pop out of the womb.

Various teachers talk about this in various ways, but I think they do not emphasize enough the very simple point that the Buddhist diagnosis of the human situation really is just an account of how our greatest asset is also our greatest liability. Human language, our ability to name objects and attribute qualities to them in the abstract is both a major cause and a symptom of human neurosis in the Buddhist sense.

The problem is not with concepts or definitions per se, but the ease with which we fall into the bad habit of relying more on our definitions than on direct perception of the world to know what is going on.

This is the problem with Christianity, with all monotheistic religions, really. Christians define this god guy as an omnipotent deity that created the universe and us, then forget that it is really a human creation and pretend that we have some moral obligation to listen to someone’s idea of what this god thinks about how we should behave and, far worse, that the people who claim to be authorities about what god supposedly wants should impose their standards on everyone else.

Getting onto the Buddhist path already is a huge step away from that particular form of insanity. The Buddha was an ordinary human who figured out how to end his own suffering as such, then spent the rest of his life, fifty years or so, explaining his solution to anyone who would listen. I suppose humans might evolve enough eventually to render his solution inoperative, but he only lived 2,600 years or so ago, which is a very long time in terms of human culture, but a tiny blip in terms of evolutionary time.

We’re only about ninety years beyond the beginning of the period when a group of good Christians called Nazis tried to eradicate all of the adherents of Judaism, the religion of the Christian savior and eponym of the religion. In 2015, a spokesmodel for German prime…

William B. Turner

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.