Pulp Dharma and Buffet Buddhism

12239673_1679623542272512_8261517193427871013_nBuddhism 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 (sola scriptura), 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 putative ‘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
  • 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. Steve says:

    Could you tell me the name of some of these organizations? It would help me to watch out for them. I will not judge, I simply want to understand. Thank you so much Tashi. I’ve enjoyed your blog for a few years now,

  2. Mick Canning says:

    Yes. I’ve come across at least one of these. It is also irritating how everything seems to be ‘Zen’, now, from perfumes to motor vehicles.

  3. tibet2009 says:

    I don’t follow this articles line of reason.
    Yes, without a doubt Buddhism has to be shared correctly by qualified teachers. But I don’t believe in the idea of a ‘watered down Buddhism’. To share Buddhism in a way that eases suffering and benefits others who normally would not follow Buddhism, is the practice of ‘skillful means’ which was taught and used by the Buddha himself (the three turnings of the wheel of dharma). Simplifying and making Buddhism accessible, is no threat to the ‘real dharma’ and should not frighten us as practitioners.

    • Tashi Nyima says:

      Making Buddhism simple is not what is objectionable. Simplification and misrepresentation are two different things. There are “teachers” today promoting Buddhism without rebirth, without Right Conduct, and without lineage.

  4. Pingback: Pulp Dharma and Buffet Buddhism | Zen Flash

  5. celalopez says:

    Hello. I’m not a Buddhist but somehow I’m interested in it and once in a while I research about it. Viewing it from the “distant point” where I am placed, I found a lot of what you said certainly right but I read too often how “what others say Buddhism is (about)” is not the truth but without actually explaining why it isn’t. As a non iniciated person I would kindly like to ask: then what’s THE truth, what Buddha teach and how is that we know this today (in the most empirical way)? I’m not unaware of The Four Noble Truths but for instance the core of Catholicism is The Bible in which “The Truth” it’s preserved on the hands of the Vatican. So how does it works in Buddhism with so many traditions and schools?. Who or which one holds The Truth?and ultimately does that have a really practical relevance in the Dharma?
    I’m honestly asking because I feel that a lot of times (among Buddhist groups) I kinda don’t have the right to ask if I haven’t taken refuge, or answers are the kind of “go and read this book”. Thanks.

    • Tashi Nyima says:

      Thanks for your question. The Buddhist scriptures are extremely extensive. No one lineage can (or should) claim to hold “the Truth”. What can be asserted without fail is that there are uninterrupted lineages (from the Buddha to this day) which presente various approaches to enlightenment. Reading is good, but practice is better. Find a Sangha (community) and begin practicing the Noble Eightfold Path. Your own Buddha Nature will guide you.

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