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May 08, 2005

"The End of Big [Democratic] Government"

From Enkidu, Theologian-in-Residence (May 8, 2005)

Every now and then, I encounter Americans who self-identify as Buddhists.  "Mahayana or Theravada?" I ask.  They never know what I'm talking about.

Really, I don't know very much about Buddhism.  Not enough, anyway.  I know enough to know that I am not a Buddhist, which is more than my interlocutors can claim.

I also know that I am not a Libertarian, and I encounter Americans who self-identify that way even more often than erstwhile Buddhists.  These people almost always vote GOP.  In the past half-decade, a few of them have even accompanied their votes with passionate rants in favor of President W's gang or against the current Democratic party.

Do you know any similar "Libertarians?"  If so, here's a Mother's Day present that I hope you share with them.  It's the May 3, 2005 Policy Analysis from the Cato Institute, a Libertarian (for real!) think tank. 

Here's part of the Executive Summary:

President Bush has presided over the largest overall increase in inflation-adjusted federal spending since Lyndon B. Johnson. Even after excluding spending on defense and homeland security, Bush is still the biggest-spending president in 30 years. His 2006 budget doesn't cut enough spending to change his place in history, either.

Total government spending grew by 33 percent during Bush's first term. The federal budget as a share of the economy grew from 18.5 percent of GDP on Clinton's last day in office to 20.3 percent by the end of Bush's first term. The Republican Congress has enthusiastically assisted the budget bloat. Inflation-adjusted spending on the combined budgets of the 101 largest programs they vowed to eliminate in 1995 has grown by 27 percent...

The GOP establishment in Washington today has become a defender of big government.

My own mother's not a Libertarian, by the way.  She's a "Buddhist."


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OK, Flint, but here's something for you. A series of three question marks in response to a commonplace, true statement has a bad effect on people who have sarcastic tendencies -- it's actually one of the international sarcasm codes. It's also bad flame-war tactics to sarcastically assume ignorance on the part of the other guy -- he might not turn out to be ignorant. You were basically playing my game.

I'm not claiming to be a Buddhist, just to know something about Buddhism. This is a non-Buddhist, non-Zen venue, and what I said was true in that context. Buddhism is, among other things, something out there in the conventional world. I wasn't talking about your practice, even though it is in some respect connected with the conventional Buddhism I was talking about.

Dear John:

I'm afraid that I must plead ignorance of "the international sarcasm codes" and "bad flame-war tactics." I was just emphasizing my surprise because after almost thirty years of studying Buddhism and being around Buddhist teachers, your statement was inconsistent with my experience.

Additionally, I spent most of my time in Asia. Mostly in Japan, some in the PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and India. I have seen many faces to Buddhism... enough to know what I do and don't know. That is why I referrred you to Kennedy Roshi.

He teaches Comparative religion and theology and may help you to deepen your understanding. He is better acquanted with the history and diversity of Buddhism and most importantly... he is empowered to teach in all of those traditions.

Again, my apologies and I sincerely hope that you do begin to practice. Good luck to you on the path.

You know, we are missing another interesting question here, which is "Who is Enkidu?"
Google suggests that he was

Molded by Aruru out of clay in the image and 'of the essence of Anu', the sky god, and of Ninurta the war god. The companion of Gilgamesh, he is the wild or natural man.

Perhaps the resident theologian can say more about his/her origins....

"Perhaps the resident theologian can say more about his/her origins..."

I did the same Google search and was wondering the same thing...

Jeez, your stubborn. Flint.

I am indeed stubborn John, it is only one of my many short comings.

>>For that matter, if I read Ayn Rand on LSD, does that make me a libertarian?

Reading Ayn Rand at all makes you a masochist.

I always thought that the Libertarians were Ayn Rand on a bad trip!

The libertarians are Ayn Rand on a bad trip. She's the only author who's book(s) I've thrown across the room. They're not just psudo-intellectul, they're anti-intellectual. I saw an eight year old kid demolish a "free market" argument at a barbecue recently, with a deft stroke of comman wisdom, and an eight year old's insight into human nature.

As for Buddisim, for all their lack of diety worship, I still think they get heavily involved in the cult of personality. "My Teacher" this and that...this means you Flint. Your EGO is tied up in your Studies and your Teacher.


Couldn't agree with you more on the Ayn Rand stuff and the "free market" stuff either. It sounds like someone is doing a good job with the kids too!

As to the Buddhist stuff you're right on the cult of personality bit as well. There is an expression in the Zen tradition "If you meet the Buddah on the road... kill him, because you should resume your own Buddah nature."

Buddhist don't like killing and the expression is a deliberate exageration to make the point that you made.

As to... "Your EGO is tied up in your Studies and your Teacher." The administrator of the thread sent me a private e-mail thanking me for my comments and bringing the third "yana" into the discussions.

I wrote him back, thanked him for his remarks and apologized for my behavior which I called "very unBuddhist." Yes I have an ego as does everyone... in fact the practice has also been called "The Battle of Ego." I am a practicing Buddhist, but I never claimed to be a very good one nor should anyone judge it based on who I am.

I've spent long periods in monestaries and if it weren't for doing hospice care for my dad here at home and rehabing with my mother who was recently crippled... that's where I would be. But this too is path, just more challenging than I would like.

It's all attachment, baby. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

PS - Killing the budda was one of the best things I've ever done.

Have you ever been a practioner? Do you know what you are talking about or are you just being flip?

What I find most difficult now beyond having little time to myself to even attempt practice as that I'm "on duty" 24/7 with my folks, it is an environment where its constant life and death situations.

You don't have time to indulge or acknowledge emotions... you have to keep a clear head and make decisions fast. So far the docs tell me that I've done extremely well... but the emotions are surpressed on the moment and have a nasty habit of appearing later in inappropriate circumstances. Generalization.

I was a caretaker to a stroke patient (my grand mother, whom I brought to live with me; meals baths, dressing, walks, doctors apointments, administering medications, diapers, death) for
4 years, so I know what you're talking about. Try standing in the supermarket buying DEPENDS if you want to "practice" detatchment.

I've been a practioner and I'm being flip, the two aren't antithetical. It took me twenty years of meditating to realize that meditating makes me feel frustrated, bored, angry and not a little bit silly (the opposite of what practioners claim it does.) My mind just isn't made to slow down that much, and when I try my mind rebels. I think meditating is a real time rip-off, but people swear by it.

That said, I used to find the reading/study of it
interesting, but then, most things are interesting if you observe them closely enogh.

Hats off to you for the service that you did your grandmother. As to "depends"... done that too. I find the greatest detachment exercise to be the suppositories and enema stuff myself.

My dad's a double amputee diabetic in the final stages of congestive heart failure. Mom just about died from diverticulitus
/ perotinitus and was crippled by the use of a statin drug.

I stabilized my dad and got him off 10 of his medications by using vitamin and supplements. The medications were killing him faster than the diesease. The docs say that the turn around is nothing short of miraculous. My mother has gotten some of her leg use back as well. Me... I'm toast from months of sleep deprivation.

As to your practice... I know how you feel. I went through a nasty divorce some years ago and developed hypoglycemia. I decided to do what the Vajrayana groups call a Dathun. Its usually about five weeks in meditation from morning to night. I came in in the middle of one and stayed through to end of the next one, about eight or nine weeks... not really sure because you lose your sense of time.

The boredom and restlessness you describe were dealt with by the Vajrayana folks better than the Zen sects. The first week is called "hot boredom" restless, uncomfortable, body aches, fidgits galore.

That passes and then "cool boredom" sets in the second week. Here your sense of time and body begin to change... the body no longer hurts and it takes on a dreamy quality. People get lost in their thought streams... lots of people start crying or laughing as they drift off in their thoughts which they have been repressing or simply forgotten. There's nothing going on but sitting on the damn floor counting your breaths.

The third and fourth weeks are where it begins to get interesting. after you've seen all your psychological stuff go round for the umpteen thousandth time... it does stop coming up. The meditation is called Shamtha/Vipasyana in the vajrayana... peace and awareness. Here the mind settles and awareness begins. Your sense begin to become very acute... the sound of the river outside of the shrine room was amazing to me, I noticed everything, the grain of the wood on the floor, odors from the forrest around the montestary, the taste of food. Everything became enhanced and very vivid. Time also felt... there were days when the sun just seemed to sail through the sky in minutes and other days where a moment just seemed to be days. It felt like when I was a little kid in a lot of ways.

The sensory stuff continued to intensify until the end of the Dathun. Coming home was a real trip and integrating back into the world was difficult at first. The Buddhist have a certain contempt for the body that the Taoist don't and I had some physical stuff to deal with. So I started running and blended my breathing and meditation techniques with exercise. Runners talk about the occasional experience of the "float", I used to get that every time I ran.

after a year went by I had a bout with staph in fection in the bone. It almost killed me. The doc pulled me in after I got out of the hospital six weeks later and told me that he was publishing my case. He said that I should have died or been crippled but my bones grew a protective sheath around them and looked like a baby's bones. He also said that I should have been in the hospital for six months not six weeks and that I healed at ten times the normal rate... ther were other things to all of which led him to publish the case.

So as long as I now have some time I'm starting that same regimen again. I don't really care about the politics of Buddhism as much as I do what works. I don't read a lot of the sutras any more. I don't know if just sitting is enough for everyone, our lives get pretty damned speedy. All I know is that when I coupled exercise, nutrition, and meditation together it made me feel more alive than I have ever felt... just good basic existence. I speak only for myself... it is my path. My only regret right now is that I can't go do another Dathun.

Believe me. Just sitting is not enough for me. (Lying down is much better.)
Like I said, people swear by it, but I resent the time rip-off aspect of it.

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