Sunday, January 12, 2014

Buddha and God

Most Buddhist schools teach that Buddhism teaches that there is no God.  While many of the older schools teach there is a heavenly realm populated with "gods" they see this state as not being eternal. That even these gods eventually parish.  So what they teach is heaven is ultimately a delusion. That the human state is the only one where a sentient being can pass beyond all self delusion into eternity. So they admit the existence of many realms and beings that exist there in.   So in years of study I have never seen where Buddha said there was no God he simply said we become attached to our idea of and belief in god.
         He taught that this attachment to the idea of god was another delusion that held us back in our search for Nirvana. So I have always felt these bold statements of "there is no God" so many modern Zen teachers make is an indication of their own not getting it yet.  Mostly this seems like a response that is more a rebellion from their parents religion than a wisdom obtained from their own enlightenment.
        All the killing that has been done in the name of this God or that God certainly shows the danger in becoming attached to the idea of God.  But this is a chronic disease of the human mind not a perception of reality.
     I have no idea if there is a God as in a omnipotent creator God. I am not so arrogant as to proclaim that other people's God are not kicking around in their own little heaven .  For all I know there are Angels and demons and Jinn.  I think perhaps a firm adamant disbelief in God can be as much of an impediment to spiritual progress as is a firm belief and attachment to a particular God can be.  

       So I welcome Christ and Ali to have a seat on our cushions. All who worship them are welcome as well.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Laughing Buddha - and American Greed

      So today I am wandering around in a so called outlet mall when I come upon a store called "True Religion".  So you know I have to go in and check it out. The goods are nothing special mostly blue jeans and tee shirts and some baseball hats. But I am surprised to see their logo is a Buddha. To be precise its the Laughing Buddha playing a guitar. You know the guy, fat belly, bald head and a big smile. And of course the name Buddha was plastered on dozens of cheap tee shirts and hats along with his image. This is not the Buddha of history, meditating or teaching. Instead, a fat, bald, jolly character called "The Laughing Buddha who is  strumming a guitar and dancing.
      The Laughing Buddha emerged from Chinese folktales of the 10th century. The original stories of the Laughing Buddha centered on a Ch'an monk named Ch'i-t'zu, or Qieci, from Fenghua, in what is now the province of Zhejiang. Ch'i-t'zu was an eccentric but much-loved character who worked small wonders such as predicting the weather. In time he became a folk character. The tales of Ch'i-t'zu spread throughout China, and he came to be called Pu-tai (Budai), which means "hempen sack." He carries a sack with him full of good things, such as sweets for children, (i.e. the Chinese Santa Clause)  and he is often pictured with children. Pu-tai represents happiness, generosity and wealth, and he is a protector of children as well as of the poor and the weak. Today a statue of Pu-tai often can be found near the entrance of Chinese Buddhist temples. The tradition of rubbing Pu-tai's belly for good luck is a folk practice, however, not a Buddhist teaching.
        Pu-tai also is associated with the last panel of the Ten Ox-herding Pictures. These are ten images that represent stages of enlightenment in Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism. The last panel shows an enlightened master who enters towns and marketplaces to give to ordinary people the blessings of enlightenment.
Pu-tai followed the spread of Buddhism into other parts of Asia. In Japan he became one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Shinto and is called Hotei. He also was incorporated into Chinese Taoism as a deity of abundance.
        So I am not up set about his image being used in this way. Until I look at some of the prices on the goods. A $5 tee shirt with the logo has a price tag showing its $49.  A baseball hat with the laughing Buddha and the word Buddha across it says its $89.00. These outrageous prices being associated with the name Buddha and a beloved folk hero did in fact get me a bit agitated. And all this with the words "True Religion" plastered on everything both irritated saddened me.
      It was only then  that I began to wonder how Christians would react if the image was a smiling dancing Christ or Muslims would react if this was an image of Mohammad. I don't think they would put up with it, do you?
          So I began to wonder about all the western commercialization of the word "Zen" and the name and image of Buddha. To me selling this image and Buddha's name at such outrageous prices is no different than putting the Pope's name and image over a whore house. These Folks know Buddhist won't raise a fuss, they won't issue a kill order on their owners or burn down their stores.
        But shouldn't there be some point where we Buddhist and Zen practitioners object to   our name and images being used to sell greed? Putting the image of a  Zen Monk and the name Buddha on a cheap shirt or hat and then Charging 10 times the items possible retail worth is more than just a bad joke, it is misleading a generation of American young people in the worse way.