Pulp Dharma and Buffet Buddhism

1483327_10152051904436154_573310790_nSadly, Buddhism today faces two great challenges in the world, and especially in the West: on one hand, there is a misrepresentation of the teachings by those who pretend to know the Dharma better than the Buddha Shakyamuni, and on the other, there is a tendency to appropriate one or another Buddhist method as a self-help technique, outside of the context of the Noble Eightfold Path.

In the branch of “Pulp Dharma” we can identify two main models:

  • that of the ‘masters’ who do not call themselves Buddhist nor accept their intellectual debt to Buddhism, and who promote a Dharma Lite, sprinkled with New Age accretions; and
  • that of the impostors and charlatans (some of them ‘former monks’―that is, individuals who have violated their vows and disrobed) who openly or covertly declare themselves superior to Siddhartha Gautama and His disciples, and who would sell us a sort of Protestant Dharma, without Buddha and without Sangha.

Both groups are media-savvy, and their marketing is uniformly excellent. They are veritable fonts of books, videos, talks, and retreats (all very profitable), promising us a modernized and putatively improved version of Buddhist teachings. It is not necessary to name names, because the characteristics of these individuals are easily recognizable.

The individuals in the first model do not have now, nor have they ever had, any connection to legitimate Buddhist lineages, and only see in the teachings (gathered from reading texts that they do not understand and are not authorized to share) a vehicle for self-promotion and enrichment. Those in the second model have the audacity to utilize their desertion from authentic lineages, and in many cases their violation of monastic vows, as some sort of ‘virtue’ that validates them as Buddhist authorities.

The branch of “Buffet Buddhism” is more extensive, and includes

  • those ‘masters’ that neither observe themselves nor ask their followers to observe the Five Precepts and the basic practice commitments;
  • those who claim to represent an ‘original’ or ‘early’ Buddhism, cultivate extremely sectarian attitudes, and denigrate traditional lineages;
  • popularizers of mindfulness and meditation techniques, independently of their essential context within the Noble Eightfold Path;
  • those who make a superficial and exotic presentation of Buddhism, offering an esthetic or cultural experience without spiritual content; and
  • the eclectics who attempt to harmonize incompatible beliefs and practices from Hinduism, Christianity, and the New Age, with a Buddhist varnish.

This branch is often recognizable due to the fanaticism and escapism of its members, their vehemence in criticizing authentic Buddhist lineages and practices, and the lack of compassion for human and non-human sentient beings. Of course, many of these groups and individuals also have strong financial interests, although many disguise them in order to attract new adepts.

Buddhism does not consist of isolated techniques or the fraudulent teachings of self-proclaimed masters. There is no genuine Dharma without lineage. There is no Buddhism without Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. There is no Dharma without Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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11 Responses to Pulp Dharma and Buffet Buddhism

  1. Yonten says:

    Thank you Tashi la.
    Humbly – Yonten

  2. Al says:

    Tashi Delek
    Could you please explain more precisly what inspire this article, who are the impostors and charlatans?
    Parlez vous de prédicateur hors du Dharma (New-Age, autoproclamés,..) ou alors de personnes qui dans la Sangha véhiculent de fausse idées ?

    • Tashi Nyima says:

      Buddhism has become big business in the US, and also in other areas of the ‘developed’ world. Unfortunately, innocent seekers are exposed to these incomplete ‘paths’ that cannot lead to enlightenment, and may come to give up the Dharma as yet another false promise. It is not necessary to name names, as my objective is not to denounce specific individuals.

  3. James E. S. says:

    Very pertinent and valid discussion of the need for orthodoxy, tradition, lineage … i couldn’t agree more. But it also a very interesting choice for someone so fond of quoting Gendun Choephel. Thank you, Tashi.

  4. dharma pen says:

    So well said, Tashi. Thank you

  5. paulfarma says:

    Thank you. PKL

    Great Middle Way 於 2015年03月23日 (週一) 1:56 AM 寫道﹕

    #yiv4780617271 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv4780617271 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv4780617271 a.yiv4780617271primaryactionlink:link, #yiv4780617271 a.yiv4780617271primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv4780617271 a.yiv4780617271primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv4780617271 a.yiv4780617271primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv4780617271 WordPress.com | Tashi Nyima posted: “Sadly, Buddhism today faces two great challenges in the world, and especially in the West: on one hand, there is a misrepresentation of the teachings by those who pretend to know the Dharma better than the Buddha Shakyamuni, and on the other, there is a t” | |

  6. David Kidd says:

    It’s nice to read a clearly thought out critique of the reality of how ancient knowledge can get distorted and misrepresented, especially in this age of faster media. This piece was brilliantly written. My guess is that this distortion has always happened in every strong tradition. Our job, in whichever tradition we are pursuing, is to represent Truth, knowing that the real Truth is incorruptible, and be less concerned about those who take bits of it and run off in a different direction. We do not need to be the spiritual police. We need to not become bigots ourselves. It helps to know that some of the so-called charlatans may indeed rise to enlightenment without being on a more rigorous path. This happens. There are many ways to the mountaintop. Those who need to know the ancient way will eventually come around. Most of the others never will and don’t need to. Bless them and turn our attention within.

    • Tashi Nyima says:

      Thank you for your comment, Friend. We are not the spiritual police, but we are called to compassion for all sentient beings, and it is the sworn duty of the ordained Sangha to alert sincere seekers, lest they waste precious time and effort following the unprofitable. The Buddha did not remain quietly enjoying His enlightenment, but rather preached tirelessly for 45 years, speaking boldly and fearlessly. So have our Teachers left their monasteries and caves, and faced much hardship and opposition, that we may today have the uncorrupted Dharma. mangalam!

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