Religion

The Truth About Tibetan Buddhism

There's more to this ancient religion than Hollywood celebrities would have you believe

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Many Westerners before me have visited Tibet, popped into some monastery on a mountainside, and decided to stay there forever, won over by the brutally frugal existence eked out by Tibetan Buddhists.

I have exactly the opposite reaction. I couldn't wait to leave the temples and monasteries I visited during my recent sojourn to Shangri-La, with their garish statues of dancing demons, fat golden Buddhas surrounded by wads of cash, walls and ceilings painted in super-lavish colours, and such a stench of incense that it's like being in a hippy student's dorm room.

I know I'm not supposed to say this, but Tibetan Buddhism really freaked me out.

The most striking thing is how different real Tibetan Buddhism is from the re-branded, part-time version imported over here by the Dalai Lama's army of celebrities.

Listening to Richard Gere, the first incarnation of the Hollywood Lama, you could be forgiven for thinking that Tibetan Buddhism involves sitting in the lotus position for 20 hours a day and thinking Bambi-style thoughts. Tibetan Buddhism has a "resonance and a sense of mystery," says Gere, through which you can find "beingness" (whatever that means).

Watching Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel read a collection of the Dalai Lama's teachings in Central Perk on Friends a few years ago, you might also think that Tibetan Buddhism is something you can ingest while sipping on a skinny-milk, no-cream, hazelnut latte.

Or consider the answer given by one of Frank J. Korom's students at Boston University when he asked her why she was wearing a Tibetan Buddhist necklace. "It keeps me healthy and happy," she said, reducing Tibetan Buddhism, as so many Dalai Lama-loving undergrads do, to the religious equivalent of knocking back a vitamin pill.

The reality couldn't be more different. The first devout Buddhists I encountered looked neither healthy nor happy. They were walking from their villages in southern Tibet to Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibetan Buddhism's holiest site, and the journey had taken them nearly three months. Which isn't surprising considering that with every third or fourth step they took, they got down on their knees and then fully prostrated themselves on the ground, lying flat on their bellies and burying their faces in the dirt, before getting back up, taking a few more steps, and doing the painful prostration thing again.

It looked life-zappingly exhausting. They moved at a snail's pace. Their foreheads were stained grey from such frequent, unforgiving contact with the bruising earth. They wore wooden planks on their hands, which made a deathly clatter every time they hurled themselves downwards. I'd like to see Jennifer Aniston try this. Tibetan Buddhism sans latte.

You soon realize that no Tibetan Buddhist sits cross-legged on cushions all day long while staring into space and thinking about the universe. No, worshipping Buddha is a full-on physical workout. At the Lamaling Temple on a hillside in Nyingchi County in south-east Tibet, I saw women in their 50s doing the prostration thing, like an archaic version of a Jane Fonda workout.

The temple itself is packed with weird statues. Red demons with contorted faces. Smug-looking Buddhas smiling patronizingly at the poor, exhausted worshippers. There's a statue of the "Living Buddha" (now deceased) who administered this temple in the 1950s and 60s and it is wearing sunglasses. Terrifyingly, it looks like a cross between the Buddha and Bono.

The Lamaling Temple, like others I visited, is painted in the most obscene colors. No inch of wall or centimeter of roof beam has been left untouched by the possibly colorblind decorators of Tibetan Buddhism's sites of worship. Everywhere you look there's a lashing of red or green or bright blue paint, a weirdly fitting backdrop to the frequently violent imagery of this religion: the statues of sword-wielding demons, the fiery paintings, the images of androgynous Buddhas, some with breasts, others with balls. "Peace" and "calm" are the last words that come to mind when you're inside one of these senses-assaulting places.

The Lamaling Temple also brings home the fact that Tibetan Buddhism, like every other religion on Earth, is made up of various, sometimes horn-locking sects.??I excitedly lined up an interview with one of the monks and asked if he's looking forward to the day when the Dalai Lama returns from exile in northern India. He patiently told me—dumb Westerner that I am—that he doesn't worship the Dalai Lama, because he is a member of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism while the Dalai Lama is head of the Gelug school. Then there's the Kagyu school and the Sakya school—making four in total—which have hot-headed disagreements and have even come to blows in recent years over which deities should be worshipped and which should not. Religion of peace? Yeah, right.

Tibetan Buddhism has a whole lotta hang-ups about gays and girls, too. It says gay sex is "unnatural." The Dalai Lama declared in a talk in Seattle in 1993, during one of his whistle stop, U2-style world tours, that "nature arranged male and female organs in such a manner that is very suitable… same-sex organs cannot manage well." (Someone needs to explain to His Holiness how gay people get it on.)

And as Bernard Faure of Columbia University says: "Like most clerical discourses, Buddhism is… relentlessly misogynist." So while Tibetan women can become nuns, they can't advance nearly as far as men. Because according to Buddhist teachings it is impossible for women to become "the perfectly rightfully Enlightened One," "the Universal Monarch," "the King of Gods," "the King of Death," or "Brahmaa"—the five highest, holiest positions in Buddhism.

Of course, this only means that Tibetan Buddhism is the same as loads of other religions. Yet it is striking how much the backward elements of Tibetan Buddhism are forgiven or glossed over by its hippyish, celebrity, and middle-class followers over here. So if you're a Catholic in Hollywood it is immediately assumed you're a grumpy old git with demented views, but if you're a "Tibetan" Buddhist you are looked upon as a super-cool, enlightened creature of good manners and taste. (Admittedly, Mel Gibson doesn't help in this regard.)

I am well aware of the fact that I am not the first Westerner to be thrown by Tibet's religious quirkiness. A snobby British visitor in 1895 denounced Tibetan Buddhism as "deep-rooted devil-worship and sorcery." It's no such thing. But what is striking, and what caused me to be so startled by the weirdness, is the way in which this religion has come to be viewed in Western New Age circles as a peaceful, pure, happy-clappy cult of softly-smiling, Buddha-like beings. Again, it's no such thing. The modern view of Tibetan Buddhism as wondrous is at least as patronizingly reductive as the older view of Tibetan Buddhism as devil-worship.

Frank J. Korom describes it as "New Age orientalism," where Westerners in search of some cheap and easy purpose in their empty lives "appropriate Tibet and portions of its religious culture for their own purposes." They treat a very old, complex religion as a kind of buffet of ideas that they can pick morsels from, jettisoning the stranger, more demanding stuff—like the dancing demons and the prostration workout—but picking up the shiny things, like the sacred necklaces and bracelets and the BS about reincarnation.

It is all about them. They have bent and warped a religion to suit their own needs. As the Tibetan lama Dagyab Kyabgon Rinpoche puts it, "The concept of 'Tibet' becomes a symbol for all those qualities that Westerners feel lacking: joie de vivre, harmony, warmth and spirituality… Tibet thus becomes a utopia, and Tibetans become noble savages." Western losers have ransacked Tibetan Buddhism in search of the holy grail of self-meaning.

Brendan O'Neill is editor of spiked in London.

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  1. Dalai Lama still not wearing the cuff links Maobama gave him. Doesn’t he know who’s boss?

    1. That idiot gave him cufflinks? I didn’t know there was anyone left on the planet that was unaware of the Dalai Lama’s obsession with watches.

    2. Maobama! Because of Communism! Genius!

    3. “Maobama”… wow spot on cutting commentary that! Any more pearls of wisdom Suki?

    4. Viewing Tibetan Buddhism to other forms of Buddhism is like saying Pentecostals that fall on the floor and speak in tongues represent Christianity.

      Buddha’s original teaching was a cognitive architecture. In essence, it is the users manual for your mind and body. You see some surface features of one school, Tibetan Buddhism, and cry wolf, but the truth is that no other religion comes as close to our creator as Buddha Siddhartha has. Our Great Buddha’s teaching on the Five Aggregates explains the science and function of our nervous system from over 2500 years ago before anyone had an inclination of what cognitive science is. You can talk about how your cultural upbringing doesn’t feel comfortable with the aesthetics of another culture and paint a negative view on Buddhism, but here is your challeng: Show me another religion that has the cognitive science of how you were made at its core?

      1. No, you go first.

        And don’t proselytise while you do it.

        1. Stoicism. Same basic ideas as Buddhism/Taoism except without all the mystical one hand clapping junk.

          1. There is also another not inconsiderable source of anxieties, if you are too concerned to assume a pose and do not reveal yourself openly to anyone, like many people whose lives are false and aimed only at outward show. For it is agonizing always to be watching yourself in fear of being caught when your usual mask has slipped.

            — Seneca
            “On the Shortness of Life”

    5. Who gives a F**k about Mao. He’s rotting in a grave somewhere…the poor worms.

      Why has this conversation digressed to Mao anyway? What does he have to do with Buddhism?

      Read: http://onfaith.washingtonpost……l#comments

  2. alt text: Richard introduces the Dalai Lama to Lemmiwinks.

  3. This is true of any religion. In Catholicism, we have “buffet Catholics” who pick and choose which parts they want to believe in, usually the feel-good and easy to do stuff. So that part about “sell all you own and give it to the poor”, well, we don’t discuss THAT part.

    1. I’m willing to discuss that. That particular request was subject specific:

      Matthew 19: 16-22 (KJV)

      16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

      17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

      18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

      19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

      20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

      21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

      22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

      1. So it doesn’t follow that this was a universal prescription.

        1. my priest gave a homily on this not too long ago. he said the main point was “and come and follow me.” let go of your fears, envy, hatred, grudges and whatever it is in your life that is holding you back from fully following Christ.

        2. Notice also that Jesus says “if thou wilt be perfect”. No man is perfect. No man in his lifetime will ever be perfect. This is made quite clear in the Bible.

      2. Kinda like Scientology, why is the next level of spirituality always so expensive? Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, Scientologist (the groups I’m most familiar with). It’s never “thou shalt pick up trash” or “thou shalt fix thy neighbors leaky roof” or “thou shalt teach the illiterate to read” or “thou shalt learn a new skill”. Just another another emotional scam like progressivism or eHarmony.

        1. Not true, Christianity preaches the whole help your neighbour thing and that you should be charitable.
          The new religion on the other hand absolves individuals from being charitable, believing in and voting for govt “share the wealth” policies is the new form of virtue, you don?t need to give a dime of your own money.
          And I say that as someone who generally agrees with the concept that christianity is communism 101, but christianity preaches that YOU should give to charity and not that you should force others to give.

          1. note also that judaism, as contrasted with christianity does concentrate on works vs. beliefs, iow it’s more in line with what el segundo talked about in that the past to salvation is not about “accepting jesus” (obviously) or any particular BELIEF, but about works, mostly. iow, a person gets in god’s good graces not by his beliefs, but by his acts, primarily

            1. As long as Judaism’s “acts” to get in g-d’s grace include the coercive genital mutilation of helpless baby boys, I don’t see how it can claim any of the superiority implied by your statement. If circumcision is a religious act, that religion needs to fade away…

      3. If thou wilt be perfect

        I just suspect there’s a little more to being ‘perfect’. Maybe something was lost in the translation.

        1. The command to “be perfect” is translated by the Revised English Bible as “let there be no limit to your goodness” or something very similar.

        2. Perfect means “Complete” in the logical, philosophical sense. The meaning and usage have changed since the 1600’s. Few people nowadays understand logical completion, because they are not generally taught about it.

          Most preachers these days equivocate on “Perfect” to mean morally perfect.

          1. “In general, an object is complete if nothing needs to be added to it.”

    2. So that part about “sell all you own and give it to the poor”, well, we don’t discuss THAT part.

      The same goes for birth control and abortion for a lot of Catholics. It is all about feeling good without having to feel bad first.

      1. Catholicism? Not about feeling bad? What the fuck kind of Catholics are you?

        1. As someone whose mother might be the most obsessively devout Catholic in this country who isn’t a member of the clergy, I don’t think it is about feeling bad, actually. My mother would say that confession is just the opposite: you get to get things that are already bothering you off your chest, to hear a priest tell you that God forgives you. Every other religion requires you to just carry your guilt around with you (correct me if I’m wrong and other religions do have some way of absolving oneself; I’m not a theologian so I really don’t know).

          1. Other Christian sects allow you to just confess to God/Jesus and you will be forgiven for your sins without the priest being involved.

            1. Very true, but the priest makes it “official.” It isn’t so much the act of confessing, as it is hearing someone “of authority” tell you that “God forgives you.”

              1. Someone “of authority” this authority being ‘given’ by a man. And how can a mere priest tell me “God forgives me”, I don’t believe any mortal can speak for God, nor fully understand His will. Better than getting them off your chest, is practice the principles of Christ and you don’t need to confess.

          2. you get to get things that are already bothering you off your chest

            These things only bother you because the church has convinced you they should. Using a priest to relieve the pain of sin is like using morphine to relieve the pain of heroin withdrawals.

            1. There’s nothing you can do that you should ever feel bad about? A conscience is strictly the result of false religious teaching?

              If you truly believe that, you have done the world a service by identifying yourself as a sociopath.

              1. Uh, try again?
                There was *nothing* in that post that said you can’t make a fool of yourself; it said don’t expect some whacko in a robe to make it better.

            2. Conscience does not stem from religion. It’s there regardless. Every human being on the planet has a sense of morality, whether the particular morals come from one’s own opinions or from one’s religion.

          3. That was always my impression, you do whatever you want, then go to confession and repent and you?re off and gone.

          4. I have always thought that was a very enlightened part of Catholicism. It is like shrinks, minus the bills in the hundreds per week.

    3. You mean religions have evolved away from ancient traditions and literal interpretation?!

      1. I thought this would be a good thing.

      2. Not a chance, they are still stupid.

    4. Ah yes. Philosophies based on myths, developed prior to the development of rational methods of inquiry.

      One doesn’t go back and study ancient alchemy if he wants to be a chemist, or learn about the elements of earth wind, water and fire, to learn chemistry.

      But to study morality, people still follow myth based, pre-reason beliefs. No scientific method, but plenty of demons and things to believe without proof or evidence.

      1. Oops…….”earth wind and fire to learn Physics”

      2. One doesn’t go back and study ancient alchemy if he wants to be a chemist

        No, one now studies modern alchemy.

      3. the scientific method is not particularly applicable to morality. reason and religion are not inconsistent. some of the most brilliant physicians, biologists etc. are also theists.

        i also see no evidence whatsoever that atheists and/or agnostics are safe from extremism and general fuck-upedness. see: mao’s china, stalin’s USSR, pol pot etc.

        religious based morality evolves, but so does science.

        you don’t study religion or religious history if you want to build a bridge, and you don’t study structural engineering if you want to learn about morality.

        1. dunphy|7.28.10 @ 7:35PM|#
          “the scientific method is not particularly applicable to morality. reason and religion are not inconsistent.”
          Uh, yes they are. One requires “reason”, the other requires “faith”.
          And you also make the totally un-proven inference that religion is somehow related to morality; cite required.

          “…some of the most brilliant physicians, biologists etc. are also theists.”
          Yeah, and there’s this law prof at Cal who thinks evolution is wrong. So?

          1. “Uh, yes they are. One requires “reason”, the other requires “faith”.”

            actually that’s not true. and even IF true would not disprove my point.

            science does require faith, at least to certain unproved basic principles. we accept them as givens. sometimes we find the givens are in fact wrong (god knows quantum physics has done a lot of that) but SEEM to work pretty well, so we get pragmatic.

            and one does not have to HAVE faith to study religion. one has to have faith to adhere to a religion. that much is true.

            iow, your point wouldn’t be relevant, even if it was correct. which it isn’t, in that it sets up a false dichotomy.

            i also never said religion was necessary for morality, btw. which is what i think you mean in your next sentence. it is neither sufficient nor necessary for morality and i never claimed otherwise. but the study of religion in many respects is the study of many aspects of morality and the history thereof. also, useful on a comparison basis between societies. but that’s hardly all religion is about. it’s about a lot more than morality.

            why does he think evolution is wrong? i think evolution is the best theory (occam’s razor and all). i have no idea if it’s right or wrong. at one point, newtonian physics was clearly RIGHT, and was way more substantiated than evolution currently is. yet… it was wrong.

            hth

            1. dunphy|7.28.10 @ 10:26PM|#
              “Uh, yes they are. One requires “reason”, the other requires “faith”.”
              actually that’s not true. and even IF true would not disprove my point.
              science does require faith, at least to certain unproved basic principles. we accept them as givens.”
              Yes, it does disprove what you hope is a point: One works, the other doesn’t. Try flying a plane based on religious truth. Fail.

              “i also never said religion was necessary for morality, btw….”
              Leave the fig leaf aside; you “hinted”, “inferred”, tried “innuendo” and every other sleazy method to maintain deniability. Do you think that was clever?

              “but the study of religion in many respects is the study of many aspects of morality and the history thereof.”
              No, it’s the study of mythology; nothing more or less. Unless you’re a bleever who hopes to convince others that you’re not *really* as dumb as you are.

              “but that’s hardly all religion is about. it’s about a lot more than morality.”
              Yes, it’s about stupidity.

              1. There is a larger point there. You cannot (at least, should not) use faith to solve questions of how the world works because it is not the proper way to do it (and this applies to Progressivism as much as it does to Catholicism). In the same way, you cannot (should not) use science for morality. Morality isn’t subject to testable hypotheses and predictions: it is always picked up rather arbitrarily (even if there is no particular faith or religion involved). Even if you adopted a utilitarian stance of morality (whereby you could test the effects of an action according to your criteria before deciding it was moral), the decision of what you regard as positive and negative in order to set the “utility” is itself arbitrary and untestable – and, in purely scientific terms, it is the same if you choose to value, say, human life and how awesome our solar system would look if you blew up Earth to make up a new asteroid belt.

                1. exactly. very well put. and your post illustrates quite well why (religion and science) OR (Faith and Reason) are not mutually incompatible.

                  the primary difference between science and religion is the scientific method. you can’t apply the scientific method, for example, to morality any more than you can apply morality to mathematics. (the fact that 1+1 = 2 says nothing about morality)

                2. …it is the same if you choose to value, say, human life and how awesome our solar system would look if you blew up Earth to make up a new asteroid belt.

                  By what standard would it be “awesome”?

    5. In Buddhism, Buddha said listen to the Buddhist Preists and Monks and “take what is good, leave what is bad”. There is much less dogmatism in Buddhism. Its more about making good decisions than following legacy beliefs.

  4. I wonder what a salty british marxist who never has anything positive to say is gonna write about an organized religion a few liberals dare embrace /me grips keyboard in eager anticipation…

    1. i don’t think hitchens is in any way enamored of buddhism. it’s just that buddhism/buddhists are rarely in the news for killing/threatening people over disagrements about religious doctrine and who the boss in the sky really is.

      1. Yes, the instability and violence in Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand has nothing at all to do with religion.

        Of course it has to do with many other things too, but the fact that most Buddhists are not violent doesn’t say much the Buddhists who are. Same as Christians, or as?

        1. well yes. just as there are atheist who are violent.

          but again, i am not seeing people threatened and killed because they leave buddhism, or criticize buddhism.

          1. Well, it does seem like the Sri Lankan government isn’t too excited about converts to other religions:

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8588611.stm

  5. Is there any religion left that hasn’t divided in some way? Seriously, if your’e going to hold on to some irrational ideals, can’t you do it… together?

    1. No, there isn’t. There also isn’t any secular philosophy that hasn’t divided. Any human organization united around a set of ideas will inevitably divide, because those abstract ideas mean different things to different people, and eventually factions will form, and then split, around those shades of meaning.

      1. The United Atheist Alliance has taken the bait! Soon they will send their ships out to destroy our decoy clam fields! And while their ships are away, the United Atheist League intends to attack them! Our plan has worked perfectly! For when the United Atheist League attacks the United Atheist Alliance, we will charge in and kill them all! Our Science, our answer to the Great Question shall prevail

        UAA Leader: Fellow atheists: the time child has returned with information on our sworn enemies, the Allied Atheist Alliance. They have started digging for clams in sector J7. If we mount an all-out attack, we can wipe out their food supply!

        UAA Member #1: But, those are civilian otters.

        UAA Leader: We cannot tolerate the otters! Their Science is flawed! Their answer to the Great Question is different from ours.

        UAA Member #2: Yes, but? sending out all our ships at the same time? it would leave our city exposed!

        UAA Leader: ?That’s why we have to be super-duper sure that nobody finds out we’re doing it.

      2. “If one wishes to find that which is truth, one must be totally free from all religions, from all conditioning, from all dogmas, from all beliefs, from all authority which makes one conform, which means, essentially, standing completely alone, and that is very arduous ……..”

  6. The Beastie Boys lied to me? How can I go on, unsure if the brass monkey is funky? I don’t even know if slow and low is the tempo anymore!

    1. You must make the pilgrimage to Brooklyn, my dear child, and there you shall find true enlightenment. There you shall find the Prophet, Mike D, and unto him you must lay all your belongings, including your cash and your jewelry, for that is what he expects.

      1. On the journey thou shalt rock thy Adidas but shalt never rock Fila

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rewSToCtdPg

      2. I just got punched in the face for some reason.

    2. That was fucking awesome…

    3. Mike D 1:1-2

      Noowwww, heres a little story i got to tell about three bad brothers you know so well. It started way back in history…

    4. well, i am certain that if you are cooking brisket, slow and low IS the tempo

  7. The last two paragraphs are telling. In summary, when people try to create or modify a religion (any religion) you end up with a hypocritical mess. People calling themselves Christians can be just as guilty of picking out shiny things (God’s blessings, woe to the unrighteous) and ignoring the tough parts (loving your enemies, helping the ungrateful). When your holy grail is your own self-meaning, you’ll cherry-pick teachings that inflate that.

    1. Gee. You mean they are…human?

  8. Why did you pass up a chance to talk about Buddhist hells?

    Be nice now.

    1. Those Hot Nurakas sound delicious!

    2. The term “Buddhist hells” doesn’t mean anything unless you specify which Buddhists you’re talking about. Just because a Tibetan refers to mental or spiritual states called “hells” doesn’t mean all Buddhists believe in them. You’ll also find that the Tibetan notion of “a hell” is different from the Christian concept of “Hell.”

      For what it’s worth, Tibetans (and some other Buddhists) also believe in “heavens.”

  9. This article is so filled with bias and outmoded reporting I cant imagine how or where to start. We get it: you think Tibetan Buddhism is horseshit.

    So it IS, to YOU, because you’ve made no attempt to understand it. ..I’m not a Tibetan Buddhist but as a meditator I know MANY and while some DO indeed engage with it along the “lite” terms you’re describing here, many others find profundity and depth in it — and that’s what they get back.

    This was just lame.

    1. Peter Jernigan|7.28.10 @ 1:57PM|#
      “..I’m not a Tibetan Buddhist but as a meditator I know MANY and while some DO indeed engage with it along the “lite” terms you’re describing here, many others find profundity and depth in it…”

      Yes, because slavery and violence is *so* profound….
      http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html

      “…In 1959, Anna Louise Strong visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by the Tibetan overlords….”
      There’s more and it’s not pretty.

      1. seriously, you’re quoting Parenti? this is too much. is this a practical joke?

        1. Care to explain?

          1. long story short: Parenti’s (in-)famous among Buddhists for his very blatant and misinformed bias.

            1. Peter Jernigan|7.28.10 @ 3:59PM|#
              “long story short: Parenti’s (in-)famous among Buddhists for his very blatant and misinformed bias.”

              Sorry, repeating a claim /= prove the claim.

      2. Violent people come from all religions. People tend to corrupt good philosophies all of the time.

        1. Hell, look at 75% of those in politics who say they are working in the name of “capitalism” and “free markets” – but what do we have?

      3. Yes, because slavery and violence is *so* profound

        You are confusing the message with the adherents. The Buddha did not talk about spreading the religion through wars and many forms allow for syncretism. But like any religion, the message can be co-opted by people in power to consolidate or expand their power. I often say Christianity would be a fine religion if it weren’t for the Christians. I’m sure this can apply to many religions, at least as philosophies on how to live.

        1. mr simple|7.28.10 @ 2:42PM|#
          “You are confusing the message with the adherents. The Buddha did not talk about spreading the religion through wars and many forms allow for syncretism.”

          Ah, yes: ‘Jesus didn’t mean *that*!’
          Where have I heard this before? Why from every bleever apologist who ever existed.

          1. Wow, great comeback, you illiterate bastard. So if I go out and murder someone and say Ron L told me to do it, then it’s your fault, even though you probably didn’t actually say go kill someone. People have used every belief system out there as a validation of whatever they felt like doing. That likely means there is something wrong with their interpretation, not necessarily the original message.

            1. mr simple|7.28.10 @ 3:54PM|#
              “Wow, great comeback, you illiterate bastard.”
              Wow. Great comeback, you brain-dead asshole.

              “People have used every belief system out there as a validation of whatever they felt like doing. That likely means there is something wrong with their interpretation, not necessarily the original message.”
              *What* “original message”? The one that says kill unbelievers? Or the one that says love thy neighbor?
              Sorry, stupid bleevers are stupid bleevers regardless of the cherry picked which cherry-picked part of their favorite myth they prefer.

              1. stupid bleevers are stupid bleevers

                Now you get it. It’s the people, not the message. People can find peace in a religion or whatever, regardless of what others have done in the past in it’s name. Was that so hard? Or is that not spelled out enough for you?

                1. mr simple|7.28.10 @ 4:37PM|#
                  “stupid bleevers are stupid bleevers

                  Now you get it. It’s the people, not the message.”

                  Right. “The message” somehow exists without people? Got any evidence?
                  You’re missing the point; there is no “message”; there are myths, myths and other myths from which people choose.

                  1. You are clearly too dense to converse with. I never made a statement as to the veracity of beliefs. The argument was over whether people can find profundity and depth in a belief system when others in the past have claimed faith while performing violent acts. AFAIK, war and killing were not part of the Buddha’s teachings. But you’re not interested in honest debate, only attempting to score points with non-sequiturs.

                    1. mr simple|7.28.10 @ 5:12PM|#
                      “You are clearly too dense to converse with.”
                      You are obviously too simple minded to understand the point.

                      “I never made a statement as to the veracity of beliefs.”
                      Then why do you continue to refer to the “original message”?
                      And “The Buddha did not talk about spreading the religion through wars and many forms allow for syncretism.”
                      As if there were an “original message” or you had some direct line to what the budda said, presuming that the budda was anything other than another myth.

                      “The argument was over whether people can find profundity and depth in a belief system when others in the past have claimed faith while performing violent acts.”
                      I guess it’s certainly possible for the naive to poke through the debris of most any faith and find something to ogle; hell, some people claim the same about Depak Chopra.
                      Just don’t bother to label it “profundity” without the scare quotes; it’s triviality or nonsense on stilts.

                    2. Are you serious? What the message? Can you be more disingenuous? Well, in Buddhism the message is how to live without sorrow, as told through the stories attributed to th Buddha. I’m clearly not talking about all the mystical crap in religions. There was a claim the someone found profundity in Buddhism and you countered with an article on how some buddhists were bad people. That is a non sequitir. Most stories are fiction, but most fiction has a moral or message. Have you never read fiction critically? Science fucking reason, man, you can’t say you know the only way to truth.

                    3. mr simple|7.28.10 @ 7:34PM|#
                      “Are you serious? What the message? Can you be more disingenuous?”
                      Are you serious? Can you be more ignorant? The “message” you claim above and below.

                      “Well, in Buddhism the message is how to live without sorrow, as told through the stories attributed to th Buddha.”
                      Along with how to hold slaves; got it. And you do know Il Duce made the trains run on time, right?

                      “I’m clearly not talking about all the mystical crap in religions.”
                      You are doing *exactly* that. But, like every other bleever, you claim *your* bleef is, well, *different*. And *better*.
                      One more sucker for brain-leakage.

                    4. mr simple|7.28.10 @ 7:34PM|#
                      “…you can’t say you know the only way to truth….”

                      Ah, yes, the *other* brain-dead claim (like not bleeving = bleeving).
                      You’ll notice I made no such claim, but don’t let that stop you. You’re on a roll of ignorance, and I’ll be happy to see what nonsense you post next.

                    5. Oh I get it, you’re retarded. My bad. I thought maybe we were both rational adults, but I can see I was wrong. I am not an adherent of any religion. Buddhism does not advocate slavery. Care to make any more fatuous claims? You are clearly not a critical thinker or curious about life and learning because you know it all already. I get it, you’re rebellious and angry. Don’t worry someday you’ll grow up and can move out of your parents house. I’m sure if you break this post down half a sentence at a time you can find something to argue with, though.

              2. Sorry, stupid bleevers are stupid bleevers

                Pot, kettle.

                1. DLM, does that make me some sort of bleever since I don’t beleeve in Santa Claus?
                  Claiming that an atheist is somehow equivalent to a bleever is the ultimate in ignorant non-sequitors.

                  1. Okay, that’s taking this a bit far. Let’s leave Santa out of this, okay?

          2. When you have given him permission to facilitate your sarcasm, impatience or anger to its fruition, then you have lost the argument. This is not activism and it is not sustainable. It will make you tired. Come away from that into a more compassionate viewpoint. There are things none of us understand, people we have misinterpreted and seemingly logical arguments we have all made in defense of incorrect views. You have a good nature, remember the fruits of your practice

            1. Compassion|7.28.10 @ 11:57PM|#
              “…There are things none of us understand,…”

              Therefore we should all act as stupid as you?
              Fail.

    2. Peter – when you do that “empty your mind” thing those wacky monks talk about, you are supposed to fill it back up again.

      1. oh, i see what you did there.

    3. “Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”
      G.K. Chesterton

    4. Peter Jernigan|7.28.10 @ 1:57PM|#
      “This article is so filled with bias and outmoded reporting I cant imagine how or where to start.”
      Well, *that* explains things. Or not.

      “We get it: you think Tibetan Buddhism is horseshit.”
      We get it: You’re a wooo.

    5. I think the point of the article is that Tibetan Buddhism isn’t what most people have been led to believe it is.

    6. “So it IS, to YOU, because you’ve made no attempt to understand it. ..” What’s to understand…it’s religion….it’s horseshit.

      1. But it’s *profound* horseshit!

        1. These guys, scientists, are doing reasearch that is showing that Tibetan Buddhist monks have the highest levels of brain activity of the group tested in the area of contentment and happiness. The techniques they teach also improve immune function and affect health along many measurable dimensions. That says to some people that maybe, just maybe instead of taking the path of the angry or of the judgmental or even of the ignorant, it might be worth investigating what is buried under the cultural trappings. Tibetan Buddhism is not what most people think it is, but that is not reason to be overexcited or angry about it. Or even disappointed.

            1. Uh, I’m sure they’ll join up with the Native American Studies Department sometime soon and we’ll all be, well, bored.

    7. “If one wishes to find that which is truth, one must be totally free from all religions, from all conditioning, from all dogmas, from all beliefs, from all authority which makes one conform, which means, essentially, standing completely alone, and that is very arduous ……..”

  10. Its my firm belief that leftist demonization of “Orientalist” authors has rendered the Western world completely ignorant of the rest of the world – those dead white males had many insights and you could reject those and still read tremendous amounts of detail on native cultures/habits.

    Edward Said is the evil that one must blame. Go back to any book from the 1800s on some Oriental culture. Sure, they are written from the bias/perspective of the European, but match the account you read with what you see today and you will be surprised at your own ignorance and the account’s accuracy.
    In that sense, Google Books is a God-send.

    1. “If one wishes to find that which is truth, one must be totally free from all religions, from all conditioning, from all dogmas, from all beliefs, from all authority which makes one conform, which means, essentially, standing completely alone, and that is very arduous ……..”

  11. 8,999,999,871…
    8,999,999,872…

    1. Arthur?

  12. I miss the days when Jane lay prostrate.

  13. “Tibetan Buddhism has a whole lotta hang-ups about gays and girls, too. It says gay sex is “unnatural.””

    And your position is that gay sex* IS natural?

    If so, then so is eating your children.

    *NTTAWWT

    1. What about gerbils?

      1. Eat only other people’s gerbils.

      2. Cleaning them is more trouble than they are worth.

    2. so is eating your children.**

      **NTTAWWT

    3. “I don’t care who’s a f– no more. I mean, who cares? It’s natural. It’s all around us. “

    4. I don’t see anything unnatural about eating your children, if that is what you are into.

    5. Yes, it is natural, since many other vertebrates, especially mammals, engage in homosexual behavior.

    6. If so, then so is eating your children.

      For about 5% of the population, eating their children IS natural. They just don’t do it because of the intolerant majority who refuse to understand them.

  14. Big hitter the Lama.

    1. he said, oh there won’t be any money, but on your death bed, you will receive total consciousness.

      So I got that goin’ for me..

      Which is somethin’.

  15. “It is all about them. They have bent and warped a religion to suit their own needs. As the Tibetan lama Dagyab Kyabgon Rinpoche puts it, “The concept of ‘Tibet’ becomes a symbol for all those qualities that Westerners feel lacking: joie de vivre, harmony, warmth and spirituality? Tibet thus becomes a utopia, and Tibetans become noble savages.”

    For what it’s worth, we’ve done the same thing with a lot of other things too.

    Socialism, environmentalism, African-American culture…you name it!

    Remember when Kerouac said that black people were the only one who were really free? That was in the ’50s.

    Same thing.

    Part of it goes back to a human tendency to have great affection for things that are a little bit like us–but not too much like us! When something is just like us, we tend to have no sympathy at all.

    This is why some people will take time out of their day to go rally for Tibet–they’ll send money! …but some fellow American losing a job because of a spotted owl or getting harsh treatment in prison?

    A lot of people have very little sympathy for other people just like them. It’s a weird thing.

    1. “A lot of people have very little sympathy for other people just like them. It’s a weird thing.”

      Another example would be the left’s sympathy for Mexican immigrants, legal or otherwise, and no sympathy at all for white, protestant ne’er do wells who have to compete with them for work.

      I’m an open borders guy myself, but just because that’s in an issue I tend to agree with the left on doesn’t mean the same dynamic isn’t going on there.

      …and besides, since the judge just granted the Obama Administration’s injunction stopping Arizon’s anti-illegal immigrant law from going into effect, I think everybody’s about to start talking about immigration anyway.

    2. Familiarity breeds contempt?

      1. Bingo.

    3. Grab a copy of the essay “The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed”, by Bertrand Russell. My sources tell me that it might be available online.

  16. I guess I am not following why I should care about this article. It is a strange religion. But Tibetans seem to like it. And even at its worst in this article, it still sounds a hell of a lot better than Chinese communism.

    I read this and think so what? That that mean that China’s conquest and forcible colonization of Tibet is now okay?

    1. I don’t it was really about Tibet.

      I think it was about Americans who treat Tibetan Buddhism like a fad.

      1. You mean Hollywood celebrities are stupid and don’t understand other cultures? Well that is real news.

        1. It’s not just Hollywood. I think it’s been a feature of the left for a long time, going back to the ’60s and ever farther back than that.

          Ever listen to an animal rights activist or, in my case, listen to someone show up to a city council meeting and oppose your development plans because it might hurt rabbits and other furry creatures…

          And you sit there and think to yourself, “…this project will create 750 jobs. Don’t you care about those people too?”

          Tibetan Buddhists aren’t like us, so we sympathize. Chinese factory workers aren’t like us, so a lot of people side with them against white, American consumers–’cause Chinese factory workers aren’t as much like us…

          It’s the same thing as I quoted…

          “As the Tibetan lama Dagyab Kyabgon Rinpoche puts it, The concept of ‘Tibet’ becomes a symbol for all those qualities that Westerners feel lacking: joie de vivre, harmony, warmth and spirituality? Tibet thus becomes a utopia, and Tibetans become noble savages.”

          You can plug in African-Americans, illegal immigrants, Chinese factory workers or burrowing owls!

          …or Tibetan Buddhism.

          1. They are morons. It is funny how some of the people who consider themselves urbane and sophisticated have the most cartoonish views of the non western world.

            1. What I don’t get is why any of the Hollywood types would choose the Tibetan version over some other sect of Buddhism at all. Buddhism in general, at least Mahayana Buddhism, is quite big on philosophical discourse, questioning, and disagreement. It’s perfectly acceptable in most sects to do exactly what Hollywood eastern religion enthusiasts love to do: take what they want, and leave the rest. No one, in most sects, could ever accuse anyone of “not being a real Buddhist.” Zen, in particular, doesn’t even require one to read that philosophical discourse. They actually believe you can reach Nirvana spontaneously, by asking yourself asinine questions about the sound of one-hand clapping. Zen seems to me to be ideally suited for the average, intellectually lazy Hollywood star. In fact, I believe Goldie Hawn is a Zen Buddhist…

              The Tibetan brand of Buddhism, on the other hand, is comparatively faith-based and superstitious. They are not open to philosophical debates, at least not without requiring that you split off and form your own sect.

              1. Asking oneself asinine questions. I like that.

              2. “What I don’t get is why any of the Hollywood types would choose the Tibetan version over some other sect of Buddhism at all.”

                Because Tibet is oppressed and it has a photogenic figurehead that’s more than eager to use whatever sympathy it can get.

                I mean, you can fault whoever you want for whatever reason, you can say Tibetan Buddhism ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, but I think you have a hard time saying those people haven’t suffered some pretty serious oppression.

                If Zen Buddhism were living under the yoke of an oppressive regime with a handy figurehead like that, I’m sure it would get more press.

                1. Exactly. See Hollywood’s love of the Burmese resistance as another example. An Sung Le is well spoken and attractive by western standards so everyone picks out Burma to take up as a cause. Other places that are just as oppressed but don’t have such a good and photogenic spokeswoman get ignored.

                2. Nail. Head. Etc.

              3. Jen, I have often wondered the same thing. Of all of the forms of Buddhism, the Tibetan forms seem to be the most restrictive and irrational.

                1. People like to suffer. The harder something is to do, the more people will value it once they achieve it. Militarys and fraternities are built on the same principle. Long term “do what you like I am okay your okay” religions never thrive. People look for meaning in deprivation. Can’t explain why but they do. It is the same reason why strict religious orders have survived for centuries and still thrive today even though our society is more secular than ever.

              4. Why Tibet: the victim status, Free Tibet stickers on their cars?

            2. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a human tendency–I don’t think any of us are immune.

              I used to work bailing hay for living in the Shenandoah Valley, so I don’t feel sorry for anybody who has to work for a living…

              When I don’t feel sorry for somebody ’cause they’re just like me, that’s the kind of thing I’m susceptible to.

              We’ve all got somethin’ like that. Everybody’s got a grandfather that can tell ’em stories about how they don’t feel sorry for kids today– ’cause when they were young, it was during the Great Depression and they had to hold hot potatoes in their hands to ward off frostbite as they trudged three miles to school through the snow…

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13JK5kChbRw

          2. We all do have value…

    2. John|7.28.10 @ 2:13PM|#
      “..And even at its worst in this article, it still sounds a hell of a lot better than Chinese communism…”

      In this article, yes, but:
      http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html
      No defense of the Chi Coms, but picking between the two isn’t all that easy.

      1. Actually it is easy. Tibetan Bhudism, whatever its faults, seems to be what at least most Tibetans want. Chinese communism was enforced from outside.

        The Aztecs practices human sacrifice. But I doubt Reason will be writing any “Cortez did a lot of good” stories.

      2. I read Parenti in a plitical science class. He’s a fucking progressive / communist moran.

        1. And yes, the spelling of “moran” was intentional. But not the spelling of “plitical”

          1. Intentional? Were you asserting that Parenti is related to the U.S. Representative from Virginia’s 8th Congressional District?

        2. Could be, but are his claims wrong?

  17. ” But what is striking, and what caused me to be so startled by the weirdness, is the way in which this religion has come to be viewed in Western New Age circles as a peaceful, pure, happy-clappy cult of softly-smiling, Buddha-like beings.”

    I would contend that this is because the bulk of “Buddhists” in the US are influenced by what author Meera Nanda calls neo-Hinduism “the brand of Hinduism that is taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Deepak Chopra, and their clones, not Tibetan Buddhism.

    Think the Beatles and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi circa 1968.

    1. Beatles should have stuck with LSD!

  18. I’ll say this, I love me my meditation / prayer / thoughtful wool gathering time. There’ also plenty that I’ve gathered from all manner of spiritual texts.

    And I’m glad someone’s poking at Buddhism. Christianity is too easy a target and reason needs to be spread equally around this globe. All the sects and religions which man has drummed up are wonky if seen from the perspective of a cold shower and a clear head. And when you start eyeballing the practices, the traditions and the materialism? Well, things get even weirder.

    I wonder though, if those who cry “you just don’t get it!” in their defense of the Buddhist religious practices and material aspects; would they jump to the same defense if you’d written this article about say, Greek Orthodox churches and practices? Doubt it.

    1. would they jump to the same defense if you’d written this article about say, Greek Orthodox churches and practices? Doubt it.

      Good thing you know the hearts and minds of everyone who disagrees with you.

      1. You don’t have to be a mind-reader to listen to Christians complain about the ridiculousness of, say, Islam. I don’t here very many of them coming out and claiming that those of us who ridicule Islam simply “don’t understand it.”

        In this sense, Maria is absolutely correct. The majority of believers of some sort of religion will not defend other religions from nay-sayers.

        1. I swear I corrected that to hear*. Hmph!

        2. Yes, there are many out there who are like that, and I have know some. But I also have known many who will argue against misconceptions, regardless of whether they are believers or not. I will argue against someone who argues against communism if they don’t have their facts straight, and I abhors communism. My objection is to her all people who defend Buddhism and your all Christians remarks. These overgeneralizaions are not good arguments and do nothing to convince others.

          1. I didn’t say “all” Christians, but most is certainly accurate. You can claim it as an over-generalization, but generally speaking, there aren’t that damn many. You and a couple people you know doesn’t make very many people overall. Heck, I’m an agnostic atheist that would be considered “one of them,” as you put it, but let’s not delude reality here. The notion that there a large quantity of these people is utter crap, be it among believers and none believers.

    2. “Buddhism” is not defined by what is seen in Tibet except by the western media.

      As to jumping to the defense of anything – it is usually people who have some knowledge of what is being skewered who would be expected to respond. I have little, if any, knowledge of Greek (or Russian) Orthodox practices and would not be in a position to say anything written was mostly true or mostly false.

  19. I see no difference with the “western” presentation of Buddhism and the common understanding and practice of Judaism, Catholicism, or any other religion. When was the last time a catholic in America sequestered his tainted wife for a week while she was “unclean”? Seriously. Yeah there are sects and cults and 1%ers in everything but the vast majority of people take the “lite” version of most things…even beer damn them. It has truly ruined the beer palate of millions of people.

    color me unimpressed

    1. That ended after Vatican II. So, I don’t think any Catholic who is not a member of the Mel Gibson family practices that.

      1. So you’re saying that after Vatican II, Catholics can drink lite beer?

        1. You’re confusing Vatican II with Godfather II.

      2. You guys can go straight to purgatory…er…limbo…or which ever one still exists…

    2. Religions aren’t allowed to evolve, too?

      1. Not really. Not much of a religion otherwise.

  20. Great article, Brendan.

    Oh, and what Maria said.

  21. If you haven’t seen Unmistaken Child I would highly recommend it. There are parts of that movie that touch on what Mr. O’Neill is referring to in this article in terms of the not-so-calm-and-peaceful aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.

    There are a few scenes wherein the four year old that has been chosen as the reincarnation of a deceased Lama is basically abducted by the monks so that he can fulfill his destiny. There are clearly mixed feelings present among the parents as the child is taken away, for several reasons. Obviously they are “honored” that their child has been chosen, but the father talks of how this means they have one less man in the fields to help feeding the village and mother is clearly upset about losing her child. One gets the feeling that the family is not entirely down with the program, but due to peer pressure has to go along with the whole thing.

    The movie definitely does a good job of making you question the omniscience of the monks themselves.

    1. It is a funky religion. Read about the rituals they did before the Chinese invasion in hopes of thwarting it. It reads like something out of HP Lovecraft.

      But they were this isolated place that didn’t seem to be bothering anyone. If they had a civil war, I would support the people trying to end the theocracy. But I think it ought to be up to the Tibetans.

      1. Great comment. U might be interested in my 60 or so latest comments @SatSiri (Twitter) and in http://www.trimondi.de

    2. And, if you don’t have time for the movie, watch the “King of the Hill” where the monks come to town & think Bobby is the next incarnation.

  22. I can only speak to what I see:

    Occasional disgruntled americans convert to muslum and attempt to engage in terrorism.

    Occasional aimless americans convert to christianity and attempt to prosthelatize endlessly.

    Occasional liberal americans convert to a quasi-buddism, and… meditate.

    I think all three religions are bullshit, but buddism wins on my admittedly subjective and anecdotal criteria.

    1. Actually it’s funny that we haven’t seen a Hollywood version of Islam. guess Jennifer Anniston has better things to do than be beaten, raped and stoned to death.

    2. I’m actually grateful to those shitforbrains actors for neutering a perfectly harmful religion and making it all individual flowers and individual sunshine and therefore totally unattractive to those looking for a mystic excuse to rule. I say one less religion to worry about.

    3. Tuck|7.28.10 @ 2:47PM|#
      “Occasional liberal americans convert to a quasi-buddism, and… meditate.”

      Well, for starters, if Gere isn’t proselytizing, I’m not sure what you’d call it. Meditation wouldn’t be my first choice.
      And what’s really strange is that, seemingly, the CIA is (or was) funding the DL in the hopes of sticking a pin in the side of the Chi-Coms. Hard telling what goes on now; maybe Gere and his buddies cover the ticket, but he’s poop his pants if he knew he was just replacement bucks for the lost CIA funding.

    4. “If one wishes to find that which is truth, one must be totally free from all religions, from all conditioning, from all dogmas, from all beliefs, from all authority which makes one conform, which means, essentially, standing completely alone, and that is very arduous ……..”

  23. I have always wondered why it’s called “meditation” when the purpose of it is to help you empty your mind of thought.

    In our society as we currently live it, why would “meditation” even be necessary?

    1. I don’t think it is necessary. I don’t do it and I am still here. But some people like it, so they do it. Not terribly difficult to understand.

    2. i hear you but the purpose is not “to empty your mind of thought.” rather, it is to see clearly what your mind is doing. an important distinction.

      1. Peter Jernigan|7.28.10 @ 4:02PM|#
        “[meditation]…is to see clearly what your mind is doing….”

        Uh, so listening to voices in your head is “good”?
        Plato has been debunked, you know.

    3. It’s the first step in performing self-hypnotism. And self-hypnotism is great for making small personality changes and eliminating undesired habits.

      1. Yeah, except that self-hypnosis has yet to be shown as other than, well, sorta falling asleep.
        I should listen to crap from Gere or the DL to fall asleep?

      2. Oh, and got any data that sorta falling asleep is “great for making small personality changes and eliminating undesired habits.”
        Any better than, say, deciding you didn’t want to do something anymore?

  24. They treat a very old, complex religion as a kind of buffet of ideas that they can pick morsels from, jettisoning the stranger, more demanding stuff?like the dancing demons and the prostration workout?but picking up the shiny things, like the sacred necklaces and bracelets and the BS about reincarnation.

    It is all about them. They have bent and warped a religion to suit their own needs.

    Either religion reveals universal truths about existence, or it’s just a bunch of fairy tales people tell themselves for comfort. If it’s the former, make the argument that Tibetan Buddhism tells universal truths about the universe. Be sure to tell us which branch and sect is The Holy and Apostolic Buddhism. If it’s the latter, then who gives a shit if they think some crystals comfort them? It’s no sillier than believing that a crazy Jew from 2000 years ago is God Incarnate.

    1. Either religion reveals universal truths about existence, or it’s just a bunch of fairy tales people tell themselves for comfort.

      It can’t be both?

      1. It can be but bleevers don’t like it.
        Religion is an invention of man; those who invented various religions incorporated the morays of the culture in which they lived and co-opted them in the name of their favorite sky-daddy.
        So long as you accept that the (so called) “universal truths about existence” already existed without religion and that they were co-opted, there’s not reason they can’t coexist.
        But then stone-age cultures really can’t tell us much about “universal truths” anyhow, can they?

        1. oops: mores.

        2. The test of how universal a religion is, is exactly to see how it adapts (or fails to) to cultures different than the one it was born in. Buddhism qualifies. So do Taoism and the Western monotheistic threesome. I am not so sure about Hinduism and Shinto, which are often also cited as “world religions” on the basis of their number of adepts.
          Hmm, I am not really disagreeing with your point here. Just trying to show you how the apparent dichotomy has been solved in the real world.
          And I am religious. I just recognize that universal truths about the human condition exist even outside my religion and historically and geographically prior to my religion existing.

  25. Well said.

  26. My favorite thing about Buddhism is that it’s almost always the first religion discovered in Civilization, so you can usually spread it around the map really fast and make a bunch of friends.

    1. This sounds vaguely like a Jack Handey quote.

  27. So the religion that says everything changes is not supposed to change? Really, Brendan?

  28. They have bent and warped a religion to suit their own needs.

    Um, yeah. It’s religion.

    1. And they are people.

      1. Haha, right — the other critical part of the equation. Good call.

  29. Many Westerners before me have visited Tibet–means there are people before one, i.e. in ones presence, that have visited Tibet.

    Many Westerners before I have visited Tibet is correct.

    Before me visit Tibet?

    Does Reason have an Editor? Nick?

    1. That guy off in whose shed they were whacking.

      1. If they were whacking off, this refers to masturbation. If a guy was off in a shed, what was he whacking–perhaps he was harvesting chickens?

        1. choking his chicken ?

    2. No no, the westerners were all standing in front of him at the time of writing.

  30. Quite a lot of british people convert to Sufism. they see it as the nice mystical version of Islam.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufism

  31. It would be better if you had at least elaborated on “Tibetan Buddhism” and referred to it properly as Vajrayana. Of all forms of Buddhism this is probably the one which might be called ‘religion’ rather than philosophy (such as Chan).

  32. What’s next? Reason publishing an article by O’Neill about how girls are “weird” and have cooties?

  33. This probably Hollywood Irish Catholic, (lapsed), is more entertaining than insightful. What does he think all those ancient traditions in Catholicism are all about, the hairshirts, the self-flaggelations, etc.? The older the religion, the weirder it is, right? Just as Catholics are free to pick and choose from the menu, so are those who dig Tibetan Buddhism. No biggee! O’Neill’s observations are entertaining, but by no means enlightening!

    1. “If one wishes to find that which is truth, one must be totally free from all religions, from all conditioning, from all dogmas, from all beliefs, from all authority which makes one conform, which means, essentially, standing completely alone, and that is very arduous ……..”

  34. As a Tibetan Buddhist, this piece appears wrong on so many levels. There are no gold fat buddhas in any Tibetan tradition. At least none that any westerner would recognize. I suppose the author could have seen Dzambhala, who is connected to prosperity. That might explain the money around the statue.

    Attaching Mel Gibson to Tibetan Buddhism is another glaring error, because he is a member of a splinter Catholic church, which inspired him to make the film, Passion Of The Christ.

    While it is interesting to read accounts by someone completely outside Tibetan Buddhism, I am disappointed to see that through either the lack of curiosity or ignorance of the topic posted to my favorite opinion source. Very sad.

    1. Rickpa, I don’t know that much about Buddhism and its different branches (including the Tibetan ones) so I can’t assess the accuracy of this article. However the author’s remark on Mel Gibson did not refer to him being a Tibetan Buddhist but the fact that in Hollywood Catholicism often conjures up the image of “a grumpy old git with demended views” and in this regard Gibson is not much help to destroy this stereotype. In short: it was an ironic jab at Mel Gibson and and the disservice he does to his Catholic faith by being a complete bastard. Of course you can agree or disagree with this statement but he was in no way referred to as a Tibetan Buddhist in this article.

  35. Free Tibet!*

    *Offer valid only with the purchase of a Tibet of equal or lesser value

  36. I hear the Dalai Lama hates fags.

    1. Harley riders?

  37. At Po, Tibet I learned the art of the pitch.

  38. You guys can go straight to purgatory…er…limbo…or which ever one still exists…

  39. What is really really cool is that the big guy llamas have this magic thing that can make people bullitproof! The used it when the British came a knockin’ at ol’ Tibet back when. That’s why the rich hollywooders go there. They buy all the magic to make themselves young and smart and goodlookin’.

    We know that the magic is real because the current Governor of Calleforniya used it to get elected just like Reagan did!

    The bald guy that all go visit sells this stuff and the Chinese know it! That is why they took Tibet over and are using the magic to take over the world!

    Wake Up America and grab your Jesus magic and stop them before it is too late!

    1. “What is really really cool is that the big guy llamas have this magic thing that can make people bullitproof! ”

      In the immortal words of Ogden Nash:

      The one-l lama
      He’s a priest
      The two-l llama
      He’s a beast
      And I will bet
      a silk pajama
      There’s isn’t any
      three-l lllama

      after which Nash included a footnote: “The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.” 🙂

  40. Burbank shook a 4.3 on the Richter when this article hit the web.

  41. The Hollywood version of Buddhism is just as authentic as the Qabala “practiced” by Madonna; a 90 minute from-beginning-to-end movie version of reality.

    [@pre-reason – 4:10 post; the same also applies to true Alchemy vs Hollywood Alchemy – philosophical and intellectual self-improvement vs lead-to-gold cr^p.]

  42. I don’t actually care about this topic; I just came here to see if anyone had made any Twin Peaks references. No one has, and I am ashamed of all of you.

  43. “Because according to Buddhist teachings it is impossible for women to become “the perfectly rightfully Enlightened One,” “the Universal Monarch,” “the King of Gods,” “the King of Death,” or “Brahmaa”?the five highest, holiest positions in Buddhism.”

    “The Enlightened One” is an epitaph for a buddha. There are many buddhas. We refer to the historical buddha as Shakyamuni. A buddha is important because of the teachings (Dharma). “The Universal Monarch” is a Dzogchen term for awakened mind/primal awareness. Gods and Brahma mean little in buddhism. After the primal buddha, most important is one’s spiritual mentor, and lineage mentors and protectors.

    In the monastic aspect of buddhism, women do get short shrift, but in Tibetan traditions, there are many female buddhas such as the 21 Taras (Drolma), Dakinis (Khandro), Teshe Tsogyel,Mandarava, and others. Disparaging women is considered to be a major down fall and breach of vows in many Vajrayana (Dorje Thedgpa) lineages.

    1. And we should give a shit, why?

    2. “If one wishes to find that which is truth, one must be totally free from all religions, from all conditioning, from all dogmas, from all beliefs, from all authority which makes one conform, which means, essentially, standing completely alone, and that is very arduous ……..”

  44. It is difficult to find a more reasonable belief than the Eight Fold Path and Four Noble Truths of original Buddhism, and I gravitated to that from Christianity over forty years ago. A couple of years ago I went to the Tibetan region of Yunnan Province in China and unfortunately saw about the same things the author of this article talks about. Tibetan Buddhism is not on track at all as far as I’m concerned.
    In regard to the Dalai Lama it should also be noted that before the PLA arrived in the early 50s 5% of the Tibetan population owned virtually 100% of land and assets. 65% of the population were serfs tied to the land they didn’t own, and 30% were out and out house hold slaves who could be bought and sold. The Dalai Lama was part of the 5% and used his leadership of the monks to act as an enforcer for the status quo. After a time the Chinese introduced the 17 Point Plan which abolished slavery, abolished usury, eliminated serfdom, and promoted land redistribution. This was one of the factors that kicked off the rebellion resulting in the flight of the Dalai Lama. I have seen photos of that rebellion featuring monks running around with light machine guns, something which isn’t possible for real Buddhists to do.
    It always amuses me to hear the “Free Tibet” folks yammer on about getting the Dalai Lama back in charge and restoring the old cultural values. Some Tibetans I have met are not happy with the introduction of too much Chinese culture into the country, but I imagine if they got the Dalai Lama back again within six months they would be pushing to have the Chinese back, especially the masses who benefited from land reform and the elimination of slavery.

    1. So you’re condemning the spiritual tradition because of the politcal/economical climate of Tibet at the time of the Chinese invasion? You claim the Dalai Lama as one of the perpetrators, but didn’t he take over the country when he was 18 years old and the problems with the Chinese were already in full swing? Pretty lame argument about the spiritual tradition know as Tibetan Buddhism.

      1. “condemning the spiritual tradition because of the politcal/economical climate”

        So being the spiritual leader and monarch are two separate positions that just happened to be filled by one person 14 times?

        1. The fact that the DL is(was) the monarch is not an element of the spiritual tradition. Just ask those Tibetan Buddhists who are not a member of the Gelugpas. It was a position held through the consolidation and use of power. So my point was to say that making judgments about the spiritual quality of Tibetan Buddhism based on the political situation in a now defunct state is an erroneous argument.

    2. “This was one of the factors that kicked off the rebellion resulting in the flight of the Dalai Lama”
      Being invaded by China was not a factor?

    3. Laoshi|7.28.10 @ 5:35PM|#
      “It is difficult to find a more reasonable belief than the Eight Fold Path and Four Noble Truths of original Buddhism,…”

      No, it’s very easy; no faith at all.

    4. Laoshi|7.28.10 @ 5:35PM|#
      “…original Buddhism,…”
      Oh, and “original buddhism”? Is that sort of different from the new and improved buddhism spouted by the DL?
      Exactly how is it different, and how would you *ever* know it was the “original”?
      I’d say we have a woo first-class right here.

    5. Quite right. American Buddhists will never truly realize the dharma as long as they cling to their hippy-dippyness. It always amuses the shit out of me when they’re all hurt and disappointed when ol’ Grampy Lama, the former absolute theocratic ruler of Tibet, turns out to be a bit right-wing.

  45. What in the world is this silly article doing on Reason.com? I’m used to reading purposeful journalism about things that aren’t totally obvious on this site …

  46. How can someone be so right and yet absolutely wrong at the same time. Marxism too has the same problems

    1. it’s funny you mention this, because one of the most “hardcore” (for lack of a better term) buddhists i know is a guy who in high school used to wear a “labor is value” button and thought marxism was AWESOME. i remember when the movie “reds” came out was a big day for him, and he saw it a bunch of times. he dragged me to it. i thought it was an ok movie, but i certainly wasn’t about to become a bolshevist.

      he, like me, was a student at a mid-priced east coast prep school. which i find kind of ironic.

      he currently organizes trips to various holy sites. i don’t know what happened to his “labor = value” buttons.

      i think for those in the US, buddhism is gooey and romantic in the same way marxism and socialism are. people who LIVE under such regimes are usually not as enamored of them.

  47. I think that an honest take on Tibetan Buddhism might be elusive in a country where the state is the official religion, and all of the lesser faiths must put the state first in a strictly regulated version of whatever religion, or be subjected to harsh sanctions.

    Want real Tibetan Buddhism? Go to Bhutan, Mustang, Dharamsala India, and other enclaves of the Tibetan diaspora.

    1. Rickpa|7.28.10 @ 6:17PM|#
      “I think that an honest take on Tibetan Buddhism might be elusive in a country where the state is the official religion,..”
      Strangely, it is those who favor the state as a religious power who seem to like buddhism.

  48. Personally, I pray to Obama.

    I’m still waitin on hooker and beer reform to go along with my free health insurance.

  49. This would have been a fine article if the “truth about Tibetan Buddhism” was that “There’s more to this ancient religion than Hollywood celebrities would have you believe.” Because that is certainly true. And the author makes some fine points about this. The mistake the author then makes is in comparing this reductionist view of Buddhism with the apparently very little actual Tibetan Buddhism he’s study. He posits how silly the hollywood view of it is, but then uses that very view to condemn what it really is. Hmmm… He goes on to tell us that the Dalai Lama is not the overall authority in Tibetan Buddhism and there are indeed 4 different main sects only one of which is headed by the Dalai Lama. But then claims all of Tibetan Buddhism views gay sex as bad, because the Dalai Lama said so. He generalizes Tibetan Buddhism based on very little info. Generalizes western practitioners based on the new age interpretation. And concludes that those people are stupid and since Tibetan Buddhism isn’t what they say it is, that Tibetan Buddhism is bad. Pretty sophomoric treatment of a belief system that’s been around for thousands of years. Tibetan Buddhism is by no means for everyone. But if one takes a bit of time to understand what its about, one may find that it is a mind training system that’s had thousands of years of study, debate and actual experience all designed to bring oneself to an understanding of the true nature of our reality. such That the concept we cling to called “suffering” isn’t what we think it is. And that this “truth” once experienced, liberates us from this suffering.

    1. “Tibetan Buddhism is by no means for everyone.”

      It’s for everyone in Tibet when there’s a Lama around.

    2. Rigdzin|7.28.10 @ 6:21PM|#
      “Pretty sophomoric treatment of a belief system that’s been around for thousands of years.”
      Yep, *exactly* the defense of astrology I heard the other day.

      “…system that’s had thousands of years of study, debate and actual experience all designed to bring oneself to an understanding of the true nature of our reality.”
      See above, and add, oh, Xianity, Suffism, and probably other bleefs I could dig up.
      And none do touch the “true nature of reality”.

      1. So what’s your point? Mine was to say that someone writing an article telling the “Truth about Tibetan Buddhism” should be doing more research and there would be a lot of research to do with such a long and rich (in diversity among other things) history. Yet what the author, and I suspect you regarding the other systems you speak of, has done is positioned himself as an authority on the “truth” with very little information and what I would suppose is some pre judgement. Therefore, sophomoric.

        1. Please, results of ample research on http://www.trimondi.de and on @SatSiri (Twitter) (latest 60 or so tweets)

    3. more info on @SatSiri (Twitter) and http://www.trimondi.de (not me)

  50. “Smug-looking Buddhas smiling patronizingly at the poor, exhausted worshippers.”

    Stop projecting your flaws onto Buddha. : )

    It’s surprising that after interviewing one monk the only tidbit you thought worth mentioning is the plurality of factions.

  51. Laoshi,

    Mao’s minions took Tibet from 5% owning land, to 0% of the Tibetans owning even their own lives. Over a million Tibetans were murdered (Mild compared to what happened to the rest of China under Mao!), and Tibetans are now a minority in their own country.

    1. Which is why the Lama wants independence. Oh wait…

    2. I’ve lived in China off and on for the last 27 years and have traveled and lived in provinces as far apart as Heilongjiang and Hainan. Calling on your extensive experience in the country I would appreciate your views on the current conflicts within the Communist Party in regard to the development and stabilization of Tibet and Xinjiang.

  52. My “extensive experience” is not of China, but I have developed certain understanding over the years and through multiple sources, including Tibetans who escaped, about it’s history, and a bit of that is recent.

    I am sure that even the butchers of Tiananmen Square were kind and liberal compared to Mao’s “Cultural Revolution.” While an oppressive tyranny to many in the west, historically China is basking in liberty’s warm glow. Such a liberty under which a 6 year old can be arrested and made to disappear as a political prisoner. http://www.freepanchenlama.org/

    Oh… To correct another assumption expressed by everyone on this thread. HH Dalai Lama has for some time not asked for Tibetan independence, rather autonomy as a part of China. It is mostly western hooligans that keep yelling “Free Tibet.” Gotta love hooligans!

  53. Westerners go Buddhist because it lets them dance around the Nihilist fire without having to jump in.

    1. “Westerners go Buddhist because it lets them dance around the Nihilist fire without having to jump in.” – KPres

      True for those who do not understand the 4 extreme wrong views.
      1. Eternalism
      2. Nihilism
      3. Dualism
      4. Monism.

      After thinking about it, The author doesn’t really understand western adaptations of Tibetan Buddhism any more than he understands what Tibetans practice. Moreover, like many on this thread, he doesn’t WANT to understand any of it, and couldn’t give a rodent’s posterior about “the truth about Tibetan Buddhism.”

      1. Rickpa|7.28.10 @ 9:10PM|#
        “True for those who do not understand the 4 extreme wrong views.
        1. Eternalism
        2. Nihilism
        3. Dualism
        4. Monism.”

        You left out Wooism. *Very* important to understand

        1. He even made Tom Cruise look like he can act!

      2. You bring up an important point. Buddhism started out as…whatever it was when the Buddha first taught the Dharma. But then it spread all over Asia and in its progress it adapted to the various cultures it encountered. That’s why Vietnamese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism and southern Chinese Buddhism and northern Chinese Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism and Korean Buddhism all look and feel different. And within those regional and national variations there are specific cults and sects which (as the article correctly points out) often have very different or even contradictory beliefs and practices. All these Buddhisms exist together because they all agree on four essential facts:
        * All compounded things are impermanent.
        * All stained emotions are painful.
        * All phenomena are empty.
        * Nirvana is peace.
        Those are the Four Dharma Seals. Any “version” of Buddhism that teaches them can be considered “authentic.” Any version that leaves them out or contradicts them is considered false.

        So American-Tibetan Buddhism may look posh and new-agey compared to Tibeten-Tibetan Buddhism – but that’s because it’s taught and practiced in America by Americans. You’ll also find Japanese-American Buddhism and Chinese-American Buddhism and Vietnamese-American Buddhism, etc. None of them are practiced “just like we did back in the Old Country.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re illegitimate. It just means Buddhism has adapted itself to yet another culture.

        If you want to know whether Richard Gere or some other American Buddhist is the real deal, talk to him about impermanence, suffering, emptiness, and Nirvana.

      3. Another point: Buddhism in different countries has gone through periods of “decadence” similar to what the author observes in its current state in America. These are often followed by periods of reform which give rise to new variants of Buddhism. The advent of Zen (Chan) in China was the result of one such reform movement. So who knows what “soft” American Buddhism might engender…

  54. I see you put “beingness” in quotes. I agree it does sound marketing seminar talk. But if you’re interested in learning what it means you could check out “Get out of your life and into your mind” by Steven C. Hayes. It’s a modern psychology technique that is very much in accord with Buddhist thought. Not only does it have data to back it up but it’s also explained in a non mystical way(Of course). I recommend it.

    1. Data to back up what?

      1. There are data behind Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT; a behavioral therapy influenced by Buddhist psychology) as well as Relational Frame Theory (behavioral theory of language and cognition). There are randomized controlled trials demonstrating the efficacy of ACT across a variety of psychological disorders. Relational Frame Theory has been studied in a number of laboratories worldwide.

  55. “If one wishes to find that which is truth, one must be totally free from all religions, from all conditioning, from all dogmas, from all beliefs, from all authority which makes one conform, which means, essentially, standing completely alone, and that is very arduous ……..”

  56. this is true…Tibetan Buddhism is no picnic…neither is Hinduism.

    1. The scary thing is, in some countries and some eras, life in a Buddhist monastery was considered a step up from the way most people normally lived.

  57. I couldn’t agree more with you, Mr O’Neill, when you refer to the pick-and-choose attitude of many Western practitioners (if indeed they can be called that, maybe ‘enthusiasts’ is more accurate). I agree because I see evidence of this around me; not far away in Hollywood, but right here where I live (Belgium).
    You have a good point, a reasonable point that should get people thinking.
    Sadly, your article is marred by misinformed judgements and (to an informed reader) rather silly references to Tibetan painting styles, statue-making conventions, claims of misogyny etc. If reason is what you stand for, then basic factfinding and doublechecking are a must, wouldn’t you say? And ‘I saw it with my own eyes’ is not enough: that’s just observation, the starting point of factfinding. Have you bothered researching just one of those demon-like statues that freaked you out so much? Any idea why they look so terrifying, and what their relevance is in buddhist practice? I think not, sadly.
    In short, the first half of your article is vitriolic self-affirmation on your part which gets horribly in the way of your worthwhile second half. I, for one, find a lot more emotion in your writing than reason, an irony readers of this website should appreciate.

    1. Agreed about the cultural observations. All those scary statues with male and female body parts? They’re symbols. That’s called “iconography,” and all religions – all cultures in fact – have it. Those peasants bashing their foreheads in the dirt? Could be they’re just ignorant people who think they earn “merit” (spiritual brownie points) each time they smack the turnpike. Or they could be fairly smart people practicing a mental discipline intended to help them overcome their attachment to physical phenomena. It might look weird to us, but football practice probably looks weird to them.

  58. Want to know more about Tibetan Buddhism then watch Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! episode Holier than Thou. They pulled out peasant’s eyeballs for disobeying the llama (or Lama).

    1. I disobeyed an alpaca once. It crapped on my shoe.

      1. Woolly creatures are vicious bastards.

        1. Now that’s just plain racist!

  59. Buddha’s original teaching was a cognitive architecture. In essence, it is the users manual for your mind and body. You see some surface features of one school, Tibetan Buddhism, and cry wolf, but the truth is that no other religion comes as close to our creator as Buddha Siddhartha has. Our Great Buddha’s teaching on the Five Aggregates explains the science and function of our nervous system from over 2500 years ago before anyone had an inclination of what cognitive science is. You can talk about how your cultural upbringing doesn’t feel comfortable with the aesthetics of another culture and paint a negative view on Buddhism, but here is your challeng: Show me another religion that has the cognitive science of how you were made at its core?

  60. I confess I have a bit more patience with Buddhism than with some other religions. It has a lot more to do with psychology and human experience than belief in invisible beings. Among other things, the Buddha advised his followers to question his teachings and test his methods until they were satisfied that he was the real deal. In other words, try before you buy.

    I’m not an expert on the Buddhist scriptures, but so far I haven’t found anything in them about people being damned merely for failing to believe or acknowledge that the Buddha’s teachings are the only “true” teachings.

  61. I am not a Buddhist, but have found many useful qualities and profound insights from Buddhist psychology. There are a number of new behavioral therapies which incorporate Buddhist ideas, especially on mindfulness and the relationship between person and the person’s inner experiences (cognition, emotion, sensations). These new technologies include Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). While you may say this has little to do with Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism itself does not require a belief in a revealed deity, nor any of the mystical aspects the author describes. There are many useful, transcendent, and existential ideas borrowed from Buddhism which can assuage the psychological suffering of countless individuals. BTW, “beingness” probably refers to simply being; i.e. non-judgmentally accepting and observing one’s external world as well as one’s internal experiences. Try it, you might be surprised how quickly your mind hooks you with a thought and takes you away to the future or the past.

    1. imo, all (or nearly all) of the established (iow that have had time to evolve, mature, etc.) world’s religions have “useful, transcendent, and existential ” iow ideas and ways of thinking/doing that transcend belief in any deity and are just plain a useful way of understanding oneself and the world about us.

  62. Next in the series: “The Truth about Scientology. Meet Tom Cruise.”

  63. “nature arranged male and female organs in such a manner that is very suitable? same-sex organs cannot manage well.”

    So… that Illinois college professor who was fired for saying that could have pointed out that the Dalai Lama said the same thing? That might have worked – hell, he would probably be offered a full time position and be on the fast track for tenure if he had done that.

  64. buddhism appeals to the type of people that think it’s oh so cool to say “i’m spiritual, but not religious”. this is why liberals (in the US) are more likely to embrace buddhism, if not actually BE buddhists.

    also, buddhism, as i understand it does not require a belief in an actual deity(ies).

  65. So true it is that the west has such slanted ideas of what Buddhism is and is not. I had much the same view many moons ago, until I encountered Nichiren Buddhism, as taught by the Soka Gakkai, in the mid 70’s. I tell people taht since Buddhism has been around for a millenia longer then Christianity, and how many sects of Christians there are, it is not surprising the number of Buddhisms there are around. Suffice it to say, I am still practicing (or at least trying to) with the Soka Gakkai, and am so much happier because of it. And yes, we believe that women can reveal their enlightenment. Check the Lotus Sutra, upon which Nichiren based his teachings. It says in part, “Constantly I have this thought, to make all people equal to me, without any distinction between us.”

  66. Oh BTW, may I recommend the book ‘The Buddha in Your Mirror’? Good introduction to Nichiren Buddhism.

    1. Daisaku Ikeda got rid off all the so-called celibate priests & monasteries all together. Good for him AND his followers!

  67. Our conditioning is to accept authority – the authority of the priest, the authority of a book, the authority of a guru, the authority of someone who says he knows. In all spiritual matters, if one may use that word, spiritual, there must be no authority whatsoever; otherwise you cannot be free to investigate, to find out for yourself what meditation means. To go into the question of meditation, you must be wholly, inwardly free from all authority, from all comparison, including the authority of the speaker, especially that of the speaker – that is, of me – because if you follow what he says it is finished. You must be aware of the importance of the authority of the doctor, the scientist, and understand the total unimportance of authority inwardly, whether it is the authority of another, or the authority of your own experience, knowledge, conclusions, prejudices. One’s own experiences, one’s own understanding, also become one’s own authority: “I understand, therefore I am right.” All those are forms of authority to be aware of. ……

    ……So there is no one to guide you, no one to tell you that you are progressing, no one to encourage you. You have to stand completely alone in meditation. And this light to yourself can only come when you investigate into yourself what you are. That is self awareness, to know what you are. Not according to psychologists, not according to some philosophers, not according to the speaker, but to know, to be aware of your own nature, of your own thinking, feeling, to find out the whole structure of it. …………….

    ….. So freedom to observe, and therefore no authority of any kind, is essential.

    — J. Krishnamurti
    “This Light in Oneself”

  68. He has sooo totally missed the mark. As a practitioner from the US its not about picking and choosing what I think religion should be. it’s not the mysteriousness of it all or the fact that its Asian. Its the fact that when I comapred all major religions, all faiths, all beliefs, Buddhism is the only one that says to try out what has been taught and see if it works, its one of the only one that says that we ourselves are responsible for bettering ourselves and our life and the that says that we can become free from suffering (but not pain, pain is inevitable). So that’s why most of us Westerners that have adopted Buddhism did so. And so far it has made a tremendous improvement in my life.

  69. wow…you really are an un-educated moron.

  70. Very funny, in a tragic sort of way, experience reading this poorly reasoned and researched article on the superficiality of Tibetan and Western Buddhism followed by equally reactive posts and commentary by the “literati” who this Ezine clearly caters to. Mr. O’Neill you are clearly as captivated by the paints and colours in Tibet as you are by those in Hollywood. The fruits of your visit to the Chinese city of Lhasa will tickle your Chinese hosts, I’m sure. However if this is what one is to expect of REASON, count me out. The ego bashing on Fox News offers just as much vitriol and bias and is just as poorly researched or reasoned. If you are to re-invent the wheel I may as well subscribe to the original.

    1. Reason is usually a wonderful and insightful read, or at the very least, it has a few ideas that one might disagree with, but still worth considering.

      It just so happens that there is now at least ONE article which displays willful ignorance in spades.

  71. The writer has a point. The “hippyish” thing, the New Agey stuff, misses the point. Before the Dharma can have a real impact on our society it has to get past this petite bourgeois segment and into the working class where there are lots of intelligent people who will benefit from it.
    While the writers views are as expressed here are far from what Tibetan Buddhism is about, he raises issues that are important.
    I’m Karma Kagyu, love the coffee too! Not so much the Richard Gere thing. To others who took offense, my but it’s hot in the kitchen, isn’t it?

  72. The emphasis on the Buddha as a person/deity and all the statue worship and incense stuff is a relatively recent marketing campaign seen mostly in the Tibetan (Mahayana)school. The actual teachings of its original practice are known as the “Dharma” which means truth. This is the Theravada school or “Teachings of the Elders”. Think of it as the conservative sect. The Buddha had no use for ritual and derided people who practiced such nonsense. Don’t tell the IRS but this version of Buddhism is not a religion. It has no eternal deities or metaphysical faith based doctrine. It is a technique of mental concentration that gradually frees human beings from the conditioned stress that is the inevitable result of living and dying. It is different from Scientology because:
    1. It does not involve soup cans or external devices
    2. It can be done at home without supervision
    3. It is free (donations accepted)
    4. It actually works by rewiring the processing of your brain as proven by PET and MRI scans of advanced practitioners. (Also from my own personal experience)
    The practice is based on insight into the conscious processing of the mind an area that is only now being understood by Western neuroscientists. Praying to a statue of the Buddha to gain insight into how your mind actually creates the illusion of consciousness is like praying to a statue of Niels Bohr to gain insight into Quantum Mechanics.

    1. I didn’t know that Theravada rejects the notion of any lives before Gautama’s awakening, karma, rebirth, or embraced annihilationism? It’s nice to know that for cessation all you have to do is die. Of course to believe otherwise is to have some metaphysical beliefs for which there is no empirical evidence.

      1. The Theravada school includes the earliest discourses which include the one on “dependent origination”. This includes the concept of rebirth which is the Buddhas refutation of the nihilist fallacy. This whole area appears to be metaphysical at first glance but is really an investigation into the evolution of the illusions created by our conscious minds centered on a non-existent self. For obvious reasons this whole set of teachings was hidden by the Buddhist clergy because it confuses most people and doesn’t really help with with the practical goal of stress elimination.

    2. “Praying to a statue of the Buddha to gain insight into how your mind actually creates the illusion of consciousness is like praying to a statue of Niels Bohr to gain insight into Quantum Mechanics.”

      This is absolutely true, and that’s why this is NOT practiced in any school of Buddhism of which I am aware.

      1. I stand corrected. The term praying is probably the wrong concept. Most Buddhists use the statues as focal points for expressing reverence to the Buddha for bringing the Dhamma to the world. In some cultures the leave offerings and gild the statues with gold leaf for example. This is not unlike the way iconography is treated in the Catholic church.

    3. Dave, I’m afraid your comment about praying to statues for gain fuels the misinformation about Buddhism. Unlike Christianity where Jesus the Carpenter is believed to be God incarnate (and therefore recipient of many wishful prayers), Buddha is not a god nor is he considered a god. Buddhahood is only a state of mind, much as the Carpenter allude to when he said to Thomas, “This I have done and you can do also”. The point is not to go to heaven and reap the bounty of God’s Lottery in the afterlife but to find joy here and now (freedom from suffering) and help others along the way to find theirs. Take away the separations and the messages clearly converge.

      Unfortunately ignorance is something media sources profit on and from. It is not the dissemination of (correct) information that drives the purpose of the media that buys or commissions the type of entertainment Mr O’Neill has put together but the stirring up of emotion and predisposed ideas (much as the Becks, Limbaughs and Palins do for politics here in the US) …. sensationalism and angst is what sells – fear and loathing. Fear of the unknown (misunderstood) and loathing of those who participate in it. Whatever happened to curiosity? to the honest portrayal of facts for the sake of intelligent, even if disagreeable, discourse?

      It is not surprising Mr. O’Neill was freaked out by the colourful demons as they represent the worst in all of us….. fear, hatred, prejudice, anger, jealousy, uncontrolled desire – the states of mind that Siddartha/Gautama/Buddha discovered to be the roots of all suffering or disappointments. Seeing them there in all their glory parading in your face is unsettling isn’t it? That’s the point! How can you know them if you hide them in the basements and pretend they are not there? Name and claim your demons then do the necessary work to vanquish them. According to the Bible it took the Carpenter 40 days and in the Buddhist tradition it took Siddartha 6 years. How about you? or me? How long will it take either of us? Buddhism says we can do it…. Christianity (and other religions) says we can’t, not without the middlemen (the brahmans, the ministers, the priests, the go-betweens and profiteers for God).

      If a necklace of yakbone beads makes a pretty coed happy why must we judge her as an airhead? We would certainly have no problem if the object was a picture of the latest popstar that is fanning the flames of consumerism, would we? Or perhaps if she wore a gold and gem studded cross we’d be more understanding. If meditation helps the computer software exec, actor or rockstar deal better with stress and thus kick the dog less, appreciate the spouse more and not vent ragefully at other motorists why are we so preoccupied by the caliber of their Buddhist practise? It seems that they are certainly doing better than the Sunday-go-to-church-Christians who can’t control their hidden demons (how’s a mere mortal to take on Satan if God can’t).

      And why has Richard Gere become the accepted spokesperson for Western Buddhism in this piece? Is Sarah Palin the accepted spokesperson for Anglo American Christianity? I think not.

    4. This corrects my comment above. Tibetan Buddhism and its rituals are really part of the the Vajrayana teachings which are a subset of the Mahayana sect

  73. I have no vested interest in Buddhism one way or another, but I did find it interesting that the author has some very puritanical ideas about the statues, what with all their balls and breasts. I mean how shocking!

  74. Is the point of this article to insult liberals? If so, then what is the point of this magazine? I thought that Reason was about libertarian thought.

  75. I am more than a little disappointed in this article. I thought this publication was called “Reason” not “opinions on religion.”

    There was no useful research or cultural significance. I would expect this from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, not a supposedly Libertarian source.

  76. What a willfully ignorant article. The author has obviously made no effort to educate himself about Buddhism and Tibet, and relies on making sweeping generalizations about Western followers of Tibetan Buddhism for his editorial ‘point’.

    Really? You asked a Tibetan in public place- a tourist destination run with the cooperation of Chinese authorities- his views on the Dalai Lama, and were surprised to receive an ambivalent response? Do you really think an ardent supporter of the Dalai Lama would be left in charge of a Chinese tourist attraction? Or that if he was, he would be so foolish as to voice his views in front of a foreigner and his tour guides and interpreters? Do you have any awareness at all of the actual role of the Dalai Lama in pre-Chinese Tibet? There has been controversy about his duel role as political and religious leader since the 17th Century, something that could be easily discovered if you cared to make the effort.

    There are plenty of real and substantial critiques of Buddhism in Tibet and the West to be made, but in the absence of any actual effort to educate yourself, this article is just provincialism thickly smeared with uninformed contempt for people doing something you don’t understand.

    It’s all well and good to depict yourself as a rakish individualist bucking the conventional wisdom, but you might make at least a token effort to learn something about your subject first.

  77. I think all Christian, Buddhists, Muslims et al are all wrong. There is only one true God and we honour him at the Church of the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    All others are just beating your heads against a wall. You are all wrong.

  78. I think all Christian, Buddhists, Muslims et al are all wrong. There is only one true God and we honour him at the Church of the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    All others are just beating your heads against a wall. You are all wrong.

  79. Nicely put and funny, but…
    There are female bodhisatvas in Buddhism which you didn’t mention. Think of Tara. Women can be masters and teach in Tibetan Buddhism, generally speaking.
    Yes, there are schools of Buddhism, as there are schools of Judaism, and Christianity. This doesn’t mean Tibetan Buddhism isn’t a religion of Peace. Have they ever killed each other, brutalized each other, persecuted each other?
    Finally, not all westerners interested in Tibetan Buddhism, or any other oriental religion, are just picking up shiny things and leaving other unpleasant stuff aside. There is something called “ecclectism”, and another thing called “spirituality”, and if you apply that on this, it enables you to adopt a wide and global view of world’s religions and wisdom, to compose your own references to pursuie your own path. Because yes, Buddhism is about finding one’s own path.
    And one more thing, Dalai Lama is definitely doing some PR for tibetan buddhism, and I say: why not? Tibet is colonised by China since the 50s and who the hell cares? It is only by attracting us, westerners, whose opinions matter, to Tibetan Buddhism that he achieved attracting our attention towards the invasion of Tibet and ongoing massacre of Tibetans.
    I’m wondering if you didn’t write this just to sound subversive and really unconformist, which is of great merit today, or if you really are raising the right, deep, questions.
    PS: I like tibetan temples decoration

  80. Good for you with your clear eyed report on Tibetan Buddhism. You might have mentioned the observations of the author of “Seven Years in Tibet”. I was struck by the accounts of authoritarian monks who would club the insuffieciently pious with wooden staves. Not up to Taliban standards but there is certainly a common theme.

    1. Women are treated VERY badly in Tibetan circles. They have no place, in a room, in a house, in a temple. Many have to carry the babies of so-called celibate lamas, also nuns. Imagine the impact! There are also those who pose as the sister of a so-called celibate lama (very high ones) but are, in fact, the hidden wife! Some of these also have to sleep with other lamas, get pregnant, and have to give away their babies (I had a very famous one in my house in India begging me for the pill). Preferable to be a moslem?

  81. You really don’t understand much of whats happening around you isn’t it? Since your childhood you had hard days in school. Maybe its because too much sugar? Anyway try to live to the fullest and don’t mind the bollocks.

    1. Mirror? @SatSiri (Twitter)

  82. Any superficial glance at a complex topic such as Tibetan (or any other form of) Buddhism is bound is produce a superficial response from a superficial mind. Entry into the buddhadharma is a slow and individual process; that some in the West are beginners with not much knowledge is not a fair indictment of Buddhism as a whole. There are many Westerns who have committed themselves to the buddhadharma but do not make a spectacle of themselves. Those peasants you hold in such contempt are no different from pilgrims to Lourdes, or the the Wailing Wall. Faith is the entry point for all religious experience; this author clearly has no conception of that. How about a modicum of respect for that which you do not understand?

  83. “It is all about them. They have bent and warped a religion to suit their own needs.”

    This seems to apply generally to all organized religions, and perhaps many personal ones, too, don’t you think?

  84. Ummm Brendan,

    I don’t think you know what orientalism is… If you did, you’d understand that *YOU* are being extremely reductionist in your own understanding of Tibetan buddhism. I suspect that this diagnosis has more to do with your pre-ordained anti-religious agenda than with any thing you actually learned or came to understand about buddhism. More study next time please. It might save you from publishing similar, useless drivel.

  85. Ahh those Tibetans and their kooky religion.
    I think this article misunderstands Tibetan Buddhism though.
    First of all, Tibetan Buddhism is among many other religions that engage in self-mortification to reach a higher state. I’m not saying I’m into that sort of thing, but they aren’t unique in their olympic prostrations.
    The other thing is, their pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, on a deeper level, are really just meant to represent aspects of The Mind. For instance, a ‘demon’ in the western sense is some entity of absolute evil seeking to wreak chaos on its human victims and drag them to hell for all eternity etc etc etc. This concept is nothing like Tibetan Buddhism where they view these ‘demons’ as parts of your mind which you must integrate to transcend them. So, in a nutshell, the dark gods of TIbetan Buddhism are basically mnemonic devices for psychological aspects of the mind.
    Granted, there is a male-dominated tradition in Tibet which is not quite as prevalent in the west (ahem). But this is not particularly unique relative to other western traditions historically. The Bible is full of misogyny as well — not that Christiaity is some beacon of reason by any means! It is something that I imagine will eventually be weeded out as more and more westerners take part in this type of buddhism, bringing along their western ideas of male and female equality etc.
    I am surprised that the Dalai Lama views gay sex as unnatural. That is one of the lures for western practitioners. You can be gay and buddhist without some big community upheaval, or so I’ve read. If you ask me, gay male sex is probably easier to pull off than sex between a man and a woman if you think about it (don’t think too much!), but it doesn’t do much for procreation so maybe that is his hangup. But doesn’t the Dalai Lama abstain from sex altogether? If you ask me, complete abstinence is even more unnatural than gay sex, but that is just me. I figure it is one of the reasons all the Catholic priests end up molesting little kids.
    I’m not a buddhist fan bois, but I did live in Asia, and found some understanding of some of those kooky asian religions from a western point of view.

    Like all religions, there is a fundamental irrationality at bottom, but within there systems of philosophy, there are smatterings of rationality here and there. Tibetan Buddhism, is rational in the sense that they have some fairly remarkable techniques for liberating the self from the self which, in theory, leads to that sort of bambi-like bliss you see on the Dalai Lama’s face from time to time. I believe their is some empirical evidence to support the benefits of meditation. But that is a whole other discussion. I guess anyone can be happy and still deluded. The guy meditates like five hours a day though. Maybe that’s his form of masturbation or something. Who knows?

  86. I was horrified and saddened to read this article, which is the voice of intolerance and bigotry. I am a scholar of Tibetan culture [not the religion only….but also the people, their history and their material culture]. To write off an entire tradition, country and artistic aesthetic because it leaves you “freaked out” is intolerant and closed minded. What do you think people from other cultures think about the music you listen to, the TV you watch, and the values you hold most dear? Maybe you should try to open your mind a bit, and see if you might find a way to see the world through someone else’s eyes for a change.

  87. I think you, Brendon, are the wrong person to view this religion and discuss about it, specially here, everything that you said was desrespectful, close minded, and you think that the society in which we live in, of TV, Hollywood, fashion, money, power etc is far more superior than Buddhism, your wrong, Buddhism teaches us to let go and leave our sellfishness behind, our desire tou want more and more, gread, and the materialistic world which leads no where, and simply learn how to love, how to be one with de animals, humans, objects and the universe, that is what Nirvana (Enlightnment) the ultimate state of mind is all about, and they do it through meditation, in which through meditation they don’t try to believe in something, or force anything, it simply comes naturally, this is very hard to explain to a close minded person, but once you reach Nirvana, you understand your true meaning, live in absolute peace and tranquility, isn’t that what we all want? Of course, but we think we can reach it through more money, more work, more power, in the end…you realize, “I feel empty, what am i doing here?” . I recomend to everyone who is interested in what i just said to learn with a very special story, a book… Robin Sharma “The Monk who sold his ferrari”.
    Just Love

  88. This article hardly touches any of the core concepts of Tibetan Buddhism, and merely criticizes a few, mostly minor, aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. This does your readers a great disservice by so easily dismissing a vibrant and beautiful culture. The fact that so many westerners steal bits and pieces of Tibetan culture which they find to be useful or cool is not something to be ridiculed. It is simply the evolution of our cultural traditions, mythologies, and belief systems which has been continual process since who knows when. It is good that cultures can borrow bits and pieces from other traditions, because this brings more color, diversity, inspiration, and perhaps improvements in our lives. Tibetan Buddhism is a multi-faceted, deeply philosophical and spiritual belief system that is worthy of much respect. There are certainly a few quirky, archaic, and perhaps even exploitive aspects of the religions of Tibet – but come on! Give these people a break! Tibet was pretty much an isolated, Medieval-style society which was thrown into the modern international spotlight with China’s invasion only about 60 years ago.

  89. I came across this board and I find It really helpful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to provide one thing again and help others like you aided me.http://www.itunes.com/download

  90. Great article & good fun. Brilliantly written! Please also read my latest 60 or so tweets @SatSiri for a mUch sterner series of comments on events & styles in Tibetan Buddhism! Reading http://www.trimondi.de might open your eyes for the ubiquitous black magic in Tibetan Buddhism.

  91. I am sorry, what???. Tibetan Buddhism is a cult that invaded the west, not the other way arround. It is Tibetan Buddhism that has come to the west dressed out as a different animal, not the other way arround. This last part of the article are the lies that Tibetans typically say. I qoute: “Its all about them. They bend a warped TB buddhism/ a religion to suit their nedds…”

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