A Compleat Idiot's Introit to Buddhism


Doan getcher dander up, the idiot of the title is yours truly.  Of course, you may be an idiot too, but I'm certain I am.  It's pretty much a conscious choice, forgive me if you must.  Important to acknowlege it here though, so you understand both that I'm not telling you anything you can't find expressed with greater clarity and beauty elsewhere but that buddhism works even for idiots, and that it may be easier than some would lead you to believe.

I discovered D. T. Suzuki at age twelve.  I had already discovered mortality, puberty was coming on strong, I was sick to death of the physical sufferings of my mother, cousin and by extension all others diminishing by degree of proximity, and I haven't found a religion that addresses any of that in a meaningful way.  Haven't, yes, that's one bit of prose that is not an idiotic mistake.  Buddhism is not necessarily a religion.  Trungpa noted it's not necessarily a philosophy.  So what is it?  A way of life. How does it address suffering?  Very simply.  Four truths:

Life is suffering (get used to it)

Suffering comes from desire (remember puberty?)

To end suffering, end desire (yeah right...)

There is a way to end suffering called the eight-fold path (is there now?  Do tell!)

Not just yet.  First let me explain how many years it has taken to finally pry those last two truths apart in my idiotic mind.  Might have been a bad translation or two too, but I was battling with:

3) It is desirable to end suffering

4) There is a way to end suffering

I just don't get 3).  I have no desire to end my life.  Or anything else's.  Well, rarely at any rate.  And correlating 3) with the first truth kept leading me to it as the most efficient solution.  I understand why some people think Buddhism's grim or depressing.  That first truth's a doozy.  Well, lottsa folks think I'm grim and depressing so it's obviously the faith for me.  But let's go with my earlier statement of the third.  I think I'm learning the Pali by way of Thai (I have certainly learned the Thai language for the truths but this document's going to be encyclopedic before I finish telling you what I think of Thai Buddhism) and I gotta tell you what Siddata said seems a little open to interpretation:



The World

Eight-Fold Path

I understand why 3) is problematic for translators.  I haven't yet pinned down the monk who will confirm my translation but that is what the words mean, assuming I have the tone right.  Which I may well not, being an idiot.

And I couldn't make much of 'there's a way' either.  Yes, usually literature follows immediately with the Eight-Fold Path (let's call it EFP from here on) since that's how the sermon went, but it isn't always clear how important it is.  And for this idiot 8 things are twice as many to memorize as 4!  Really only got it in the past few years in English (one possible translation) and don't ask me when I'll get the Pali.  I did it by finally getting an association to the mnemonic that stuck.  It won't work for you, keep looking if you need to memorize the EFP.  I mean, probably not, I am a unique idiot.  Think of a Star Trek or similarly cheesy sci-fi villain named Utsa Lemc.  Yeah, that's it.  Good luck with that.

Right Understanding

Right Thought

Right Speech

Right Action

Right Livelihood

Right Effort

Right Mindfullness

Right Concentration

OK, honestly perhaps it's difficult to memorize 'cuz it's freakin' impossible to do.  At least as hard as the Ten Commandments... well, maybe, never have gotten my arms around them.  But isn't there a 'no graven images' or somesuch in there?  Loses my interest immediately.  Our problem is life, not some nut-job narcissistic deity.  I mean, unless you choose that as your problem.  But I have plenty of essays harping on about the idiocy of (a)theism so go read those if you like.  Life has chosen you as a problem if you're reading this.  So buddhism can be a solution to that unavoidable.  Now believe me, I KISS.  Keep It Simple...

The EFP is really not for those of us living outside the monastic lifestyle.  I hear they may have another two-hundred or so laws to worry about but let's just dissect EFP.  How many legs do you have?  Are you a spider?  If so stop reading this, you're freaking me out.  Eight-fold.  And I understand it's meant to be simultaneous.  So if right understanding says your wife is a whore does right speech require or preclude publishing that fact?  If right livelihood says you should help as many people as possible, perhaps work for a giant hospital in a huge metropolis does right effort say doing their UNIX hosts is adequate?  And what does right thought say about all the money you make while right mindfullness is reminding you that people are starving and right concentration tells you to meditate but right action points out that your pager is going off... ?  Any living in this world, parenting, watching TV, shopping for cucumbers, it's a minefield dude.  All the same, I strive for the EFP.  I believe the man.  If you pull it off, suffering will stop.  Let's make Good Luck With That an acronym too.  EFP is worth the effort.  But I want to stay out of the monastery FTM.

So, lo and behold, here's a slightly shorter list.  Call them The Five Precepts, my handiest translator does.  And I ain't got the Pali yet and if I did would you want it?  Here, these are almost doable:

No killing

No stealing

No sexual misconduct

No lying

No intoxication to the point of carelessness

But wait, isn't my kink sexual miconduct by definition?  And who doesn't like to get a little careless?  Hey, I said these would be easier, not possible.  And until I learn the Pali I have a lot of weasel room.  I have never fucked around on any of my partners.  So there.  And after the last debacle that ate three years of my life and my early retirement I think I can moderate the sauce.  I have to kill mosquitoes though, sorry.  And I like to meat eat and wear leather, difficult.  But then I look at cats.  Does the cat have buddha nature?  The cat is a pure carnivore.  Unless they live with a very knowlegable vegetarian nutritionist with entirely too much time on their hands they must eat meat to live.  So I'll take a little cat karma.  Be kind to creatures that are not kind to me, breathe in the poison and breathe out light and cut myself a little slack.  Not stealing is easy, I've never really wanted any thing that much.  Not since I was a juvenile.  But my strength is not lying.  I have never been Mr. Popular for this reason high amongst the many others.  In fact as I think on the EFP I wonder if right speech ever means lying 'o no, you're not fat!  Can't do it, sorry.  Keep my mouth shut, now that I can do.  Some think me the strong silent type.  Others, mute or feeble.  In fact if I said what I thought all the time.I'd be Mr. Less Than Popular right quick, naw?  So pick your favorite.  As long as you keep them in mind and work towards some understanding and observance I guarantee your life will be better.  It really has worked for me and lord knows I oughtta be a miserable sonofabitch.