Monday, October 30, 2006

Life and Hope and Buddhist Nuns

Sometimes the propositions of Tibetan Buddhism really cross sticks with Human Nature, especially in the seventh chapter of this little Pema Chodron book I've got here, "When Things Fall Apart." In the "Hopelessness and Death" section, the charming, round-faced sage with a buzz-cut promotes the benefits of "hopelessness" and disparages the comforts of theism (indulged in by millions). It's an addiction, she says. Well, maybe some folks get hung up on a jolly, kindly, managerial God and can't stop thinking about him (not that addiction is always to kindly, jolly things), but I never did, even as a kid. Somehow, the threat of years-long punishment in Purgatory for childish transgressions outweighed any images of his hippie son Jesus's loving glances and mysterious but compassionate words. I was kind of glad to give up on God when I "came of age," and I had only recently advanced to laughing at the Everything-Happens-for-a-Reason cliche (whether it had to do with God or not). But I draw the line at dropping "the fundamental hope that there is a better 'me' who one day will emerge." I mean, what the heck did I buy this book for, anyway? Isn't an occasionally meditative, more peaceful, less reactive and impulsive "me" a better one? And isn't this book touted as an aid to achieving this? (Even though there's no "self," we're supposed to behave well toward others.) What's going on here is your basic "Zen" paradox: the harder you try to grasp an idea and roll with it, the slipperier it gets, and then the landscape changes, the leaves turn yellow, the clock falls back, and you're rolling uphill.