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The Buddha

On the one hand, the Buddha was very clear that all humans have the capacity to awaken as he did, and we have good reason to believe that people still do so. Even if you are not there yet, you can verify the Buddha’s method for yourself just by meditating regularly. It works.

On the other hand, human cultures are highly specific. The culture of the United States is, in many ways, hugely different from the one the Buddha lived in. We have all manner of technological devices that we have no reason to think the Buddha anticipated.

Our culture also commercializes everything, so it commercializes Buddhism.

Don’t buy it.

If you think you can buy your way to enlightenment, or need to, you have missed the point. The Buddha himself was a wandering mendicant before he awakened, and he remained one after he awakened. He owned nothing but his robe and his alms bowl, which he used to solicit food donations daily. He slept where he could.

Living that way was possible in ancient India. People thought it was beneficial and proper to give food to wandering mendicants. It would be nearly impossible in the modern United States. Anyone who tried it would be indistinguishable from persons who are homeless, and likely suffer the same treatment.

But even during his lifetime, the Buddha had students who were householders, people who lived in houses and owned property. A vow of poverty is not necessary for awakening.

But neither is any meditation app, or the latest Buddha statute, or the perfect meditation cushion. No material product is necessary to awakening, and none will be much help to it, either.

People in the United States like to buy convenient solutions. We make ourselves happy with alcohol and prescription medications, which, as the Buddha told us, are always impermanent. They may make you feel better, but not for very long.

The only way to feel better indefinitely, if not permanently, is to achieve the deathless, to give up entirely on the current quest and the fictional self that is on the current quest.

So keep meditating and letting go.

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Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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