Balloonland

stuff gets examined.

Libertarian Buddhists

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This combination of things puzzles and offends me. I’m pretty sure that one of the central points of the Buddha’s teachings is the commonality of suffering and everything that happens causes something else to happen. Being concerned about other’s well-being seems pretty deep in the philosophy. The required dependence of monastic followers on handouts (“Bhikkhu” appears to derive from an ancient word for “beggar”) points to either an expectation of benevolence between humans, or some really calculating opportunism if you must insist on the Buddha being a Libertarian. The tendency of Buddhist monasteries to take in the handicapped and unfortunate is also pretty telling.

I think where these types are getting confused is over the early Theravadin school, which emphasized individual enlightenment over trying to help others get enlightened. This school was largely due to the fact the average subsistence farmer of Asia at that point in history didn’t have time to understand the ins-and-outs of the Buddha’s teachings – Only a lucky few had the opportunity to muddle through it. This changed for better or worse somewhat when the more broad-appeal schools came into being and one could invest in the enlightenment of others – handy for busy farmers and merchants.

They may also be getting confused over the large money-making aspect of Buddhism in the modern world, especially North America, but that’s an  unfortunate side-effect of our modern world where everything  has a dollar price tag, and spiritual undertakings (especially non-traditional North American ones, i.e.  Christianity) can’t expect any special treatment.

I suppose it’s also possible that some of them may be thinking left-wing Libertarianism, i.e.,  individuals or groups of organized individuals looking out for others in place of a government mandating care for strangers. This certainly would fit into the political world where Buddhism first emerged. However, most Libertarian Buddhists I’ve seen expand on their beliefs  seem to think the way any small-minded right-wing Libertarian thinks – that they are bullet-proof  paragons of Truth, and they’ve been victimized by an overbearing society that taxes them and gives nothing in return while enabling loafers, criminals, and artists who produce stuff they don’t understand.

The message I get from the Buddha’s teachings is this:  We’re all on a raft bound for oblivion (as far as we can tell).  It’s in the best interest of everyone on the raft to make sure all the passengers are as comfortable as possible.  Your personal concerns are small and very common, and as temporary as you are.  Please get over the perception of self-importance and focus on the task at hand.

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Written by balloonhed

January 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm

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