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::: Bait & Switch
Buddhism is a classic bait-and-switch operation. We’re attracted by enlightenment in window, but as soon as we’re in door they start steering us over to compassion aisle. Buddhists could be honest and change their name to Compassionism, but who wants that?
There's rub. They can’t sell compassion and they can’t deliver enlightenment.
This untruth-in-advertising is kind of game you have to play if you want to stay successful in a business where customer is always wrong. You can either go out of business honestly, or thrive by giving people what they want. What they say they want and what they really want, though, are two very different things.
::: Me Me Me
To outside observer, much of Buddhist knowledge and practice seems focused on spiritual self-improvement. This, too, is hard to speak against... except within context of awakening from delusion. Then it's easy.
There is no such thing as true self, so any pursuit geared toward its aggrandizement, betterment, upliftment, elevation, evolution, glorification, salvation, etc, is utter folly. How much more so any endeavor undertaken merely to increase one's own happiness or contentment or, I'm embarrassed to even say it, bliss?
Self is ego and ego is realm of dreamstate. If you want to break free of dreamstate, you must break free of self, not stroke it to make it purr or groom it for some imagined brighter future.
::: Maya's House of Enlightenment
The trick with being critical of so esteemed and beloved an institution is not to get dragged down into morass of details and debate. It's very simple: If Buddhism is about enlightenment, people should be getting enlightened. If it's not about enlightenment, they should change sign.
Of course, Buddhism isn't completely unique in its survival tactics. This same gulf between promise and performance is found in all systems of human spirituality. We're looking at it in Buddhism because that's where it's most pronounced. No disrespect to Buddha is intended. If there was a Buddha and he was enlightened, then it's Buddhism that insults his memory, not healthy skepticism. Blame naked emperor's retinue of tailors and lickspittles, not boy who merely states obvious.
Buddhism is arguably most elevated of man's great belief systems. If you want to enjoy many valuable benefits it has to offer, then I wouldn't presume to utter a syllable against it. But if you want to escape from clutches of Maya, then I suggest you take a very close look at serene face on all those golden statues to see if it isn't really hers.
::: About the Author
"Jed McKenna is an American original." -Lama Surya Das
Jed McKenna is the author of "Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing" and "Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment", published by Wisefool Press. Coming in 2005: "Spirituality X" and "Jed McKenna's Notebook". Visit WisefoolPress.com to learn more.