Buddhist Holy War, Part II: Tune in, turn on, drop out…

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The Buddhist situation 2500 years ago may indeed have been not so different from our own, with a rapidly expanding population soon to go into a stall, and the Brahmanization of India underway, i.e. the caste system, threatening to lock people into a form of submission to which they’d never previously been subjected. And it’s no accident that so many religions sprouted within a half millennium or so of the beginning of the common era, with any self-respecting guru prophesying the End of Days…

All of a sudden renunciation doesn’t look like such a bad option. And so it is today, because what can they do if you simply refuse to cooperate, simply renounce all ties to the current oligarchs, slave-owners and warmongers? They can’t force you to work. They can beat you; they can even kill you. But they can’t force you to work. They can threaten your loved ones, though…

Answer: no loved ones; or no children, anyway, they who can’t take care of themselves, and who should not have to take the fall for others’ karma. And no, that doesn’t mean no love. But I’ll be damned if I’ll have a house, a job, and kids, pretending everything’s okay, while the world’s being ruled by the likes of Donald Trump and his ilk. I’ll take my money elsewhere and support the resistance, however feeble, OR–renounce altogether…

Of course, it should never reach that point, anyway, but you never know with homicidal (why can’t they be suicidal?) maniacs like Trump and Putin. After all, there are at least three forms of homelessness already well-established in the modern era, with varying degrees of success: poverty American style, Buddhist and other forms of monkhood, AND (drum-roll here, please): travel, ex-patriation, etc. I mean serious travel, I mean like digital nomads, I mean like digitless monads…

Now this last and latest category may seem a bit tentative and insubstantial, but I beg to differ, as it’s always defined me, and has always been defined by me as something of a vision quest, more than any frolic in the park, and at this point is something quite normal, and sustainable, and a pleasant alternative to ‘householder’ status. And the Buddhist monkhood is still strong after 2500 years, though I doubt that it is for everybody…

Nor is Skid Row poverty for everybody, but our options are not limited here, as long as you’re not addicted to money, children, or kitchen comforts. It’s easy to subsist in the Western world if you’re sober, skilled and industrious. Many parts of the world, even the USA, are dirt-cheap, if you don’t need to hang with the movers and shakers in all the right places on Saturday nights, flashin’ fashion and posing with drinks…

If you have a garden, then you have a job, and land lies idle in much if not most of the many millions of acres currently owned by the local, state and federal governments. So you simply squat until you cannot. Or you migrate with the seasons. Or you migrate with the flow of work. Or you recycle what others toss. Or you re-inhabit the inner cities that others have abandoned. Or you simply scavenge and salvage what you can. I repeat: we did all this already, back in the 60’s and 70’s. Or you can beg. That’s what the original Buddhists did, and still do…

I personally prefer a pragmatic makeshift non-formal approach, with dharma as the guiding principle and internet connectivity the organizational tool. With ten billion people forecast for 2050 you really don’t need any kids, do you? No, I don’t think you do. But this is the ultimate existential challenge for the individual, since children are many people’s only source of happiness…

And this is the challenge for the species, too, just like it’s a challenge for anyone who wants to make changes to his or her life, without the damage of breaks and spills, of hearts and tears. It takes discipline, and faith, and hope, and delight in little pleasures. Notice I didn’t mention doctrine? Doctrine is optional, and flexible…

So it seems Buddhists have been fighting a holy war since the very get-go, like any jihad a war that is both internal and external, external in the case of Buddhists, by simply refusing to go along with the prevailing myth of the era, whether it be the American dream or the Aryan dream. For that was the predominant trend of the time, the Brahmanization of Indian society, with the difference from the American dream of no limits, the Aryan dream was one of all-pervading limits, i.e. the caste system…

Being a Buddhist was one way to escape that, one of the few ways, and far more optimistic than the rival Jainism, though neither could ultimately supplant surging ‘Hinduism’. And while much has been written about Buddhism’s mistake in becoming increasingly Hindu, with Tantra and its magical mantras, less has been written about Hinduism becoming increasingly Buddhist, in order to make the caste system go down easier, i.e. karma and reincarnation. But it did…

The ‘Hinduism’ that one-upped Buddhism in India was a far cry from the animal sacrifices and sacred fire of the Vedas. Likewise the American dream that I envision is a far cry from God’s little acre and three squares a day with a job at good pay. My vision for America has nothing to do with money and much to do with social safety nets, cars optional and guns tightly controlled. Gardens will overflow from skyscrapers and lions will sleep with the lambs…

So the 2018 US mid-term elections have come and gone and the progressive candidates have done well, so—we’ve dodged a bullet, for the time-being. But this is no time for a false sense of security, because the larger trends are still ominous. And I’m not so cynical as to suggest that we welcome that darkness to satisfy conspiracy theories or half-baked spirituality. I prefer my spirituality well-done…