Thursday, May 14, 2015

Best vs Better

A "Beyond Mindfulness" event is being aired online for five days, ending May 17th. Free to the public and choc full of prominent American Buddhist teachers, it is an act of generosity in an era when mindfulness teachings can cost a pretty penny to attend.

Nonetheless, the title remains a mystery, as there is nothing but mindfulness teaching going on. To date, no one has addressed the title of the entire event: what is "beyond mindfulness" if all the teachings explain mindfulness?

Is this title meant to be a Zen koan or what? 

Having been a student of Tibetan Buddhism for over four decades, learning only from authentic lineage holders who were raised in the rigors of a monastery or nunnery old world style, I see in this whole "Beyond Mindfulness" endeavor a conundrum.

Buddhism was born in India, but when it spread to Tibet, China, Thailand, Japan, and many other lands, it took on the flavor of that country - in terms of customs and traditions that were then attached to the inherent purity of Buddhist methodology. 

In a similar fashion, many American Buddhists endeavor to translate the metaphoric and culturally specific elements of Tibetan Buddhism into a language more accessible to the western mind - without watering down the potency of the transmission. That "translation" is my intention as well.

Nonetheless, my analytical mind has been doing backflips as I peer into the level of understanding expressed by 90% of these nouveau American Buddhist teachers. Granted, their mindset is eons ahead of ISIS or Halburton executives, in terms of what would bring about a better world. And for that, I salute their noble efforts with gratitude.

However, the whole event, with 24,000 online enrollees worldwide, seems to linger many stories below the wisdom of the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and other great ones less known to the general public.

As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous and its offspring (Alanon, Alateen, etc.), take what you like and leave the rest. It is always upon the individual to maintain intelligence and awareness and not swallow the teachings of others indiscriminately.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from this 5 day marathon, which will in fact reinforce mindfulness meditation to the hoards, is a French aphorism that my late husband used to quote: "Sometimes the best is the enemy of the better."

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