Flying Free

FreefallIt’s strange how Gotama’s path to freedom became an organized religion—but then, Buddhism is a treasury of paradoxes.

It’s also a cradle of iconoclasts. How many owe a debt of gratitude to the very foundations they’ve smashed. For twenty-six hundred years the institutions of Buddhism preserved the history and pickled the words. Siddhattha’s human story was turned into trite formulas—noble truths, folds of a path, heaps of consciousness—untouchable arrangements of words that as easily bog you down in dogma as unleash your imagination. Yes, the paradoxes abound.

To be more specific, we owe a debt of gratitude to those Buddhists who work in the uneasy shadow of paradox, wrenching fresh meaning from dry words and usurping the local establishment.

It’s always local. There’s no monolithic Buddhism, just a thousand regional interpretations and communities, each sprouting its own its left and right wings. It comes down to the tension between the conservatives and the progressives, one claiming to own the original and the other claiming it can’t be owned. Gotama himself cut off his beautiful long hair and abandoned his family, driving a knife deep into the hearts of his loved ones. If he were around today he’d be trashed in the tabloids and trolled on social media.

Liberation must be wrenched from dogma

Liberation cannot be guaranteed. It must be wrenched from dogma, puzzled over like a cryptic equation until the simplicity is unlocked and you feel, “Yes! Surely, this is what he felt.” Somehow, it must explain his audacious claim.” Perfect enlightenment indeed.

One thing’s for sure. Breakthrough takes special courage—an outrageous leap of faith in oneself, one that cannot coexist with the certainties of any ancient and venerable tradition.

Author: Stephen Schettini

Host of The Naked Monk

11 thoughts on “Flying Free”

  1. Don’t trust anyone, or yourself . Be skeptical, but learn to listen. We are all free, to free ourselves from knowledge and domestication. Respect yourselves, and others, love who you are , leave your ego at the door, play the music and love the people. There are no boundaries with music because of common ground, we all want to share the vibrations of being in tune with it’s feelings and emotions, we all want the same thing, to be happy, for is that not the purpose of life.

  2. Frank Cervetto

    Yes Stephen you are so correct when saying in current times actions & behaviour demonstrated by the Buddha would be attacked & that includes begging. However He chose to do just what he did & somehow it has stood the test of times no matter in what shape or form it currently has. You yourself have done similar twice. I personally would not wear robes or belong to any formal group however I do know that what was passed onto myself from the Buddha via the likes of Lama Yeshe in the area of ” be your own Therapist ” introduced the Buddha to me as maybe the world first personal Psychologist. As you point out it has nothing to do with Religion, simply between oneself & the current circumstances one finds oneself having to deal with, & it is those circumstances together with the individual which will show the path one should maybe walk.

  3. I have just completed the first chapter of Stephen Batchelor’s book ‘after buddhism’ where he states that “what is taking place between Buddhism and seculartiy is, at its best and open-ended dialogue between two partners rather than an attempt by one partner to forcibly impose a viewpoint on the other.” Then he quotes Alasdair MacIntyre in saying “…the past is never something merely to be discarded, but rather that the present is intelligible only as a commentary upon and response to the past, in which the past, if necessary and if possible, is corrected and transcended, yet corrected and transcended in a way that leaves the present open to being in turn corrected and transcended by some yet more adequate future point of view.”

    I have been employing this wisdom recently as I contemplate and write about my past. In my early twenties I embraced Christian Fundamentalism. For many years, as I emerged from the psychological wreckage, I could only feel embarassed about my ignorance in that decision. In reaction to that embarassment I gradually developed a philosophy that I might describe as an ‘evangelistic neo-atheism.’ Buddhist philosophy and psychotherapy is helping me to make peace with my past, remembering the initial healing psychological impact that my relationship to Christ brought. In my mind, I see a similarity between this personal reconciliation to my past and the “open-ended dialogue” taking place between Buddhism and secularity.

    The tools that Buddhism is providing me with help me to “correct and transcend” in a new way that is leaving my present open to further correction and transcension. Goaded by a shame-based identity, I have spent so much time and energy in a perpetual process of re-inventing myself. Correction and transcension seems to be a more healthy alternative for me now.

    I am grateful for your blogs, Stephen. Thank you

  4. I applaud your openness Travis, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed for having tried and failed. The shame would have been to have never tried, or to have remain stuck in something you couldn’t fully embrace. The key is to keep moving while everything moves around you. There is no solid ground.

  5. Great post, Stephen. I appreciate the free expression of what I believe to clearly be what exist is all realms of religious institutions. I think what your comments mean to me is to keep practicing and to trust the process. Finding my own way on my own path with others of like minded thoughts and ideas.

  6. I love your statement: “Breakthrough takes special courage—an outrageous leap of faith in oneself, one that cannot coexist with the certainties of any ancient and venerable tradition.”

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