As readers know, I’ve been looking for a new Buddhist temple for a while now, but so far, I haven’t really found what I was looking for. Some of my experiences recently with Buddhist groups remind me of a quotation from Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”:
… the post-modern, politically correct atheists were like people who had suddenly found themselves in charge of a big and unfathomably complex computer system (viz. society) with no documentation or instructions of any kind, and so whose only way to keep the thing running was to invent and enforce certain rules with a kind of neo-Puritanical rigor…. Whereas people who were wired into a church were like UNIX system administrators who, while they might not understand everything, at least had some documentation…. They were, in other words, capable of displaying adaptability.
In some of my experience, I’ve met Buddhist converts and communities that seem to fit the “post-modern, politically correct atheist” types, and I just didn’t find their view appealing to me. From my experiences in Japan and elsewhere, I just don’t find that kind of “pristine”, modern Buddhism attractive to me. It almost feels self-righteous and insulting somehow. Worse, those temples seem almost allergic to family-style Buddhism, children’s services, etc. Is it uncool to have babies or something?
Then again, I’ve been wondering if I should go back to my old temple, even though I haven’t been there in years. That temple was for a particular immigrant community, and although it was very family-friendly, every time I went I always felt like a guest in someone else’s house.
Anyhow, lately I have become worried that I won’t find the right temple around here, but then I saw a good discussion recently on the Jodo Shu Buddhist Group, and one person’s comments kind of struck me:
I’m on the mid east coast so there is no Jodo Shu temple nearby so I’m just trying to connect I suppose. I think at one point I tried to force myself to find a school that was represented in my area and get with that but, anyway I’ve come to see over the past 5 years that , that is simply not a good idea….I have learned in my little “temple hopping” (as a friend called it) that without a deep trust in the teachings/ teacher there is nothing to find in that.
It sounds like this person has had the same experience I did, but after 5 years, realized that “temple hopping” wouldn’t work. In the end, the right approach maybe is to find a Buddhist teaching/teacher you trust and just follow that, even if the community is imperfect or simply not there.
But which teaching/teacher do I trust? I am not sure.
People who read the blog years ago (2008-2009) might remember I followed Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, but then had a long period in which I kept switching between different Buddhist sects over and over again. It was like a rotating cycle between this Buddhist sect and that.
Eventually, I got tired of this and kind of settled on a general “Mahayana” Buddhist approach that kind of worked for a long time. But without some structure and sense of community, I don’t think is something I can sustain in the long-run. Plus I want to have a community for my daughter and #2 (the new baby) to grow up in. I want my children to be good little UNIX system administrators in life and have some adaptability. 😉
I still plan to visit at least one other temple, but I suspect the real solution here is to hit the books again like I used to do, search my heart and figure out the best path within Buddhism I really want to follow. That may not be an easy or quick process but may be necessary anyway.
Time will tell.
P.S. Longer version of the same quote here.
P.P.S. The “two posts a week” idea was getting kind of frustrating. Meh. ;p Also today is a double-post.