The Nonsense That Passes as Buddhism in the West


Richard Hunn (1949-2006), whilst on one of his annual visits to the UK (from his home in Kyoto, Japan), once commented to me that in the West, the shops are full of book-covers featuring smiling lamas grinning like Cheshire cats!  He said that in the East Buddhism is simply not misrepresented in this manner, because it is taken very seriously as a method of self-development.  You do not mock the medicine that makes you better by taking the p*ss out of its packaging.  He went on to say that true self-cultivation involves a tremendous amount of suffering – that is if the practitioner is serious about purifying his or her mind by using this distinctly ‘Eastern’ method.  Whereas in the West the subjects of modern psychology and psychiatry are interested in the ‘measurable’ and ‘quantifying’ content of the brain/mind that manifests through speech and behaviour, the Buddhism of the East by-passes this altogether.  Why is this the case? – because the Buddha did not, and does not ‘care’ about the intricacies of the content of your mind as he has already declared it to be ‘delusional’ and ‘suffering’ inducing.  The Buddha does not want to talk through your delusional conditioning because he sees this as just more delusion.  The point of the Buddha’s teaching is not that it makes you ‘happy’ in a one-sided sense, but rather that it enables you – as a practitioner – to take control of the machinations of your own mind, and transcend the polarity of the two major aspects of human suffering, namely shallow ‘happiness’ (smiling lama) and profound suffering (my suffering is really important and self-consuming).  Buddhism in its real essence is in no way a ‘comforter’ of humanity in the sense that a religion, a good film, or a bag of decent chips are to the average ego.  Buddhism is the a priori undermining of everything the ego holds dear, and this is why probably around 90% of what passes as ‘Buddhism’ in the West is not Buddhism at all, but merely the sophisticated ‘modern’ ego’ doing what it does best – mimicking happiness and reality.

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