Life in a Buddhist Monastery, part 2: Karma Krushes Dogma…

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Continued from previous…

You can’t beat the price: less than one hundred clams USD for a week of classes, room and board, $125 if you want a private room with shared bath—yeow! Don’t spend all that extra thirty bucks in one place! Boutique Buddhism in Phuket, Thailand, this same week will set you back almost $2K, with a 5-star hotel and waves crashing in on the beach, sex optional. For that price in India you can get a day or two with the Dalai Lama himself (no sex, sorry)!

The only problem is that they’re a little disorganized here, and a little unclear on certain points of dogma: like whether Internet use is or is not consistent with the Dharma. And at some point they decided that the course I’m taking would be a silent retreat, cue thunder for unsympathetic magic, which is not so bad on the surface, as long as it’s merely suggested and not strictly policed…

IMG_0526But it is. They go beyond child-psych guilt trips and suggest that if you don’t like it, then you can leave. The problem is that no mention was made of this in the course description, nor that use of the ‘cyber-cafe’ (remember them?) was prohibited. They even snidely suggest that the room of four desk-top time machines “is probably where you’ll mostly want to be.”

Shared desktop computers? What year is this? Obviously anybody with a smart-phone and a local SIM card can FB themselves into a perfunctory orgasm right in class, no questions asked, so why cop a ‘tude in the first place? Do religions want to be irrelevant? Apparently so, jealous of Communism and begging for equal status; what to do? So I sneak out and get some on the side, down the street, coffee, that is, with Wi-Fi the main entree, back-up generator standing at the ready…

IMG_0540Is it a class or retreat? Do I beat a hasty retreat? And there is some confusion in the ranks of instruction, like absolutely no reference to the one book that serves as ‘course material’ and much reference to another book which was finally secured for short-term loan when the class nearly revolted after two days with not even a reference to the ‘Four Noble Truths’, which are to Buddhism what the ‘Diez Mandamientos’ are to Cristiandad…

Perhaps it’s better that way, like the forest Thais do, with no books and DIY Buddhism for the price of admission, and a promise to keep your little thingie in your pants. For when we finally do get down to dogma and karma, it turns out that if you have a young daughter who is raped, then it’s not the fault of the rapist, but it just so happens that your daughter did something bad in a past life, and so is being punished in this one for it…

IMG_0520Moreover, this has even been proven by the testimony of clairvoyants, who can see that she was in fact once a pirate who raped a young girl. Ouch! Double ouch!! This holds equally true for the Holocaust, which was, in one sense, and I quote: “no big deal. Millions of cockroaches are slaughtered all the time.” Pause for a moment of silence…

Well, I considered leaving the class upon that pesky little revelation, and at least two girls actually did, broadly and vocally, but I decided to stay for the meditation practice and out of respect for other people’s bullsh*t (and prepaid R & B). Still the verdict won’t go away: this is wrong on so many levels. Without free will there can be no morality…

IMG_0549The other instructor pedaled it back a notch, suggesting there was no one-to-one correspondence with Karma, but that it can indeed take a couple a couple of lifetimes to manifest itself. How convenient! The first instructor even suggested that we should thank someone who does us wrong for giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves as worthy practitioners of the dharma. Okay, but shouldn’t the wrong-doer be given the same opportunity? A small talk might be in order…

But still the damage is done. Theravada Buddhism is not like that, as far as I know, and which I intend to verify immediately with Buddhist monks upon return to Thailand. The Dalai lama himself said that when Buddhism is at odds with Science, then Buddhism must change. Since when does Science support the notion of past lives, much less omnipotent karma? Can someone clarify this for me? “Operator, long distance to Dharamsala, please.” “Hello.” “Uh, hello, Dalai…”

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