Bill Maher don’t know Buddhism. {Tiger Woods}

Via on Feb 27, 2010

"bill maher" buddhism "tiger woods" huffington post

ed’s note of context: Bill Maher just wrote a funny blog on Huff Post about Tiger Woods and his Buddhist path. Problem: Bill Maher has little effing idea what he’s talking about when it comes to Buddhism. If we Buddhists were more dogmatic, we’d burn him on a cross. Only, we’re not, and we don’t have a cross, and we’d hardly care (considering that 93% of all American Buddhists are Maher fans) if his commentary even approached, say, a 1st grade understanding of Buddhadharma.

With a cordial invitation to your local Dharma center ~ Waylon Lewis

Bill Maher can Suck it! Love, John

Dear Bill,

I like intelligent and humorous commentary on religion. I really do. Make it iconoclastic, dirty and irreverent but most of all … make it funny. Now, just between you and me Bill, I can understand that it is tough, well-nigh impossible, to hit it on the head every time around. Research a subject, finding a nice twist to have funny with and manipulate a bit, playing that line between funny and reflective and just mean and insult…

I’ve fallen on both sides of that equation.  However, I also don’t have a staff to research my material and bake up one-liners for me. Thus, I am disappointed.  Not “Dead Hooker Under the Mattress” disappointed but disappointed none-the-less.

Richard from My Buddha is Pink put it nicely when he stated…

Your recent comments regarding Buddhism seem to be uncharacteristically pedestrian and sophomoric. And I mean literally sophomoric. It is as if, like a 15-year-old high school student, you were asked to write a report on “What is Buddhism” and you cited a single source. I’m sure you have a crack research staff, but in this particular instance, they have let you down. And the fact that you accepted their research unfortunately portrays you as a rather shallow person, less than informed and easily duped into accepting knee-jerk definitions in much the same way as a Pat Roberson or a James Dobson.

So let’s dive into the meat of the matter, your blog on Huffington Post:

“(Buddhism) really is outdated in some ways — the ‘Life sucks, and then you die’ philosophy was useful when Buddha came up with it around 500 B.C., because back then life pretty much sucked, and then you died – but now we have medicine, and plenty of food, and iPhones, and James Cameron movies – our life isn’t all about suffering anymore. And when we do suffer, instead of accepting it we try to alleviate it.”

Buddhism does directly, and quite balls to the wall, address the issue of suffering. To my knowledge all the iPhones, movies, popcorn and blowjobs in the world will not make one happy if we still attach to and crave for those things we think will make us happy.

The whole point of Buddhist practice is to humbly and directly bow to our suffering and practice to alleviate it.  Acceptance is only a portion of it. Understanding is followed by a Dharma drop-kick to send it packing. No magic. No miracle – just straight and honest living and life.

Bottom Line:  I wouldn’t take Dharma lessons from Mr. Bill Mayer if he dressed up in whipped cream, dusted it with cocaine and let me lick it off his naked pasty pink nipples.

Please, at least read the 4 Noble Truths before commenting on them…seriously, there are only four. More Maher:

“Tiger said, ‘Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves’) makes us unhappy, which confirms something I’ve long suspected about Eastern religions: they’re a crock, too…Craving for things outside ourselves is what makes life life — I don’t want to learn to not want, that’s what people in prison have to do. Buddhism teaches suffering is inevitable. The only thing that’s inevitable is that if you have fake boobs and hair extensions, Tiger Woods will try to fuck you.”

There is nothing wrong with attaining and craving for things outside of ourselves.  We are human, after all, but craving for objects and things that I don’t have control over doesn’t make life life.  It just complicates it.  Learning not to want doesn’t mean that you don’t cease to attain ~ it just means you put it in the correct place.  A new promotion will not make me happier than a still and mindful outlook.  Illusions hamper.  As an insightful and talkative Buddhist commentator recently mentioned on twitter:
“A few puffs of a cigarette and a little fooling around don’t prevent someone from becoming a Buddhist.” ~ Khyentse Rinpoche, via ryderjaphy.

More Maher:

“People are always debating, is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy: it’s a religion. You’re a religion if you do something as weird as when the Buddhist monks scrutinize two-year-olds to find the reincarnation of the dude who just died, and then choose one of the toddlers as the sacred Lama: ‘His poop is royal!’ Sorry, but thinking you can look at a babbling, barely-housebroken, uneducated being and say, ‘That’s our leader’ doesn’t make you enlightened. It makes you a Sarah Palin supporter.”

I get it…you wanted a shot at the Palin.

I can deal with this but to ignore the fact that plenty of atheists and non-believers practice Buddhism is beyond even my comprehension.  This isn’t a secret. An honest appraisal of Buddhism and its adherents would reveal that it is indeed a religion with a strong philosophical base that can exist apart from accumulated religious structure and dogma. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest strengths of Buddhism.

As the Buddha himself encouraged his students: “Don’t believe anything I say. Only what you can experience.”

And even a smidgeon of research would show you that Buddhism is far more diverse than just the subset of Tibetan Buddhism that you are representing in your unfunny comments on the Dalai Lama.  For some funny commentary on the guy feel free to reference this post by me. Or this one by a friend who, while a practicing Buddhist, doesn’t believe in reincarnation. Buddhism isn’t dogmatic. It’s experience-based.

So, Bill…Bubbala.  You know I love you, but for future reference please do some more homework or at least make it funnier.  Rather than googling “Buddhism for Douchebags” or resorting to the wealth of information that is Fox News, please feel free to check out this post by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on the basics of Buddhism and learn something.

With that I crack open a sweet organic beer and wish you luck and happy reading.

With Metta (look it up),

John

www.zendirtzendust.com

billmaher

About John Pappas

John Pappas is a struggling Zen practitioner with a slight Vajrayana palate (but he won't admit it) stumbling between the relative and absolute through the Buddhist Purgatory otherwise known as the Great Plains of South Dakota. Emerging writer, librarian and aspiring hungry ghost, John spews his skewed perception of the dharma all over his personal blog, Subtle Dharma Mouth Punch as well as on the ephemeral Elephant Journal and occasionally (while having no artistic ability to speak of) on Dharma/Arte. John also loves tacos, homebrew, yoginis and obscure Cthulhu references. You can follow him on twitter under the handle @zendustzendirt

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26 Responses to “Bill Maher don’t know Buddhism. {Tiger Woods}”

  1. Hi, John.

    Every time I find myself in the ridiculous situation of debating Buddhism with Buddhists I tell myself, Bob, don't ever do that again! You don't know what your talking about and these guys clearly do! Stay out of the next one. Just restrain yourself. Just say no!

    But I just can't seem to kick the habit. I have two observations. First of all, I think it's always a mistake to debate comedians on the merits of their jokes. They're just jokes. If Bill Mayer or Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien had to live up to your standard of fairness and completeness they would be almost devoid of material. Just try holding any of their jokes up to this same level of scrutiny and you'll find that almost every joke will be upsetting to someone if they take it seriously. Jokes are jokes because they take facts and exaggerate them all out of proportion. That's what makes us laugh. His distortions of Buddhism are no different that his hilarious distortions of everything else.

    Secondly, and more seriously, I carefully read the article you recommended by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoch. Most of my past debates here on Elephant have gotten me into hot water because I have questioned Buddhism's preoccupation with impermanence, suffering and emptiness. If this article is a good representation of central Buddhist thought it seems to me that it confirms my all my original impressions. The "Four Seals of Dharma" are about impermanence, suffering and emptiness, and almost exclusively that.

    Thanks to all of you who have put up with my naive questions and provocative comments, I have learned a great deal about Buddhism in all its forms, even though I know I still know relatively little. I think I do know enough to agree with you that Dzongsar Khyentse's article is an excellent summary of Buddhism, and that I still personally have a strong preference for a more positive and wonder-filled type of spirituality. For me personally, that's even actually a lot more real than a preoccupation with impermanence, suffering and emptiness.

    But I know that's just me. I completely respect those for whom Buddhism is their chosen path. and I will continue to enjoy learning about Buddhism from your writings.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

    • Hey Bob! I'm in the middle of a tasting of a delightful Belgium Abbey Beer so I will be brief. We love your questions and comments but I think while the central themes of Buddhism are those that you named, the large problem that many Buddhists take opposition to is when people insist on it being depressing or nihilistic. Emptiness is a deep concept that takes a bit of introspection to really touch base with.

      Many will say that emptiness is, indeed, the most positive and wonderfilled aspect of Buddhism. The large difference is the oneness with a centralized entity that is large in yoga circles but not so much in Buddhist (but not unheard of).

      Respect is central and I think it is safe to say that we (as choosen representative of all Buddhists) respect your questions and path greatly.

      Cheers,

      John
      http://www.zendirtzendust.com

  2. jesus says:

    WTF Bill. lol – Is he saying that suffering is not inevitable with that comment? Also – is he saying Tigers desires were thereby good? FAIL.

    • ant says:

      I think he is saying that suffering is not inevitable, because we have drugs and entertainment. It's an interesting position. I call it, the CU life-style. Prozac, Pot, TV, adolescent sex now and then, hard-core hospital drugs when you fall off the roof drunk, etc.

      • That's what's sad and serious about his funny riff on Buddhism.

        The whole point of Buddhism, or at least the aforementioned Four Noble Truths, is that suffering is inherent to samsara, to the endless cyclical search for external happiness. iPhones and drugs and wealth and all don't help. Sex doesn't help.

        They're all awwwwesome, short-term. Long-term, or fundamentally, you need to be present to enjoy life. That's where life, and love, and enjoyment happens.

  3. [From Isharkey on my Yoga Journal blog:]

    I don't believe he is. I believe he is simply being Bill Maher. Bill Maher, in my opinion, is a typical celebrity pundit. He has branded himself as an authority, of sorts, on the evils and pitfalls of believing in pretty much anything. While I do not happen to agree with the majority of his observations, I do believe his voice is important. It provides a cirtical counter-balance to our cultural tendency to abdicate our responsibility to think for ourselves to an institutionalized religion, philosophy or political view.

    While his views on Buddhism are a caricature, at best, I see them as exactly that – a cartoonish backdrop for a celebrity pundit whose audience expects irreverant, black-and-white commentary on anything and everything that someone or other might rely on to provide them with direction when they need validation for the way they live life.

    The funny thing about this is that Bill Maher, as far as I can tell, has a very similar method of thinking and reasoning as the people/religions he makes a living bashing. He expresses an intensely dogmatic view and does not appear to be open to differing opinons regarding his subjects. Or maybe he just markets himself that way because he knows how to engage an audience. He is an entertainer. It is his job to get your attention and encourage your emotional investment in the debate he creates.

    My guess is that if the Buddha were here to answer to Bill Maher, he would either find him humorous or simply choose not to engage.

    But that's just my opinon…

    Isharkey (from Bob's Yoga Journal blog)

  4. integralhack says:

    John,

    I posted my own take at http://www.yogabuddhist.com/blog/bill-maher-is-a-

    Also, isn't it "metta" rather than "meta?"

    With maytree,

    Matt

    • YAY! Typos!

      I read your take and I like it. Any time there is a critisism of a religious or philosophical framework we should take it as an opportunity to re-examine our own practice and provide some education if we can.

      • integralhack says:

        LOL. Just giving you a hard time, John. Like Bill Maher, I'm not above pointing out someone's typo to make my lame joke work. "Maytree" or "maitri" seemed pretty funny last night.

        I liked your post too, naturally.

    • Hi, Matt.

      Your post above is so filled with insight I hope you will consider summarizing in a comment here so more people will read it. Otherwise I might have to quote you myself.

  5. ant says:

    pardon my french, but bill maher is just an ugly woman with a rotten heart.

  6. natasha speer says:

    he is a comedian! i personally find him to be fantastic and funny, as well as at times dead on balls accurate. i would not take what he says on this topic so literal. knowing that much of what he says is just for show… and as he does pull from the ongoings of the broadcasted community gossip, created for the benefit of this drama addicted nation, he needed material, big deal. so the man is ignorant about buddhism-not a huge surprise. need everyone "we dharma folk" get up in arms? i'm thinking that is probably not very mindful and quite unnecessary considering the source.

  7. Tiger Woods naming Buddhism reminds me of why Alcoholics Anonymous advises members not to boast about AA. It taints the org if the member falls off the wagon…

    I love the way Buddhists talk about issues. I find them to be the communicators, the explainers, the teachers, the humans who care deeply about all colors of the spectrum and respect you enough to dialogue with you when they disagree.

    Thanks for schooling me…again.

    • This has come upa few times with Brit Hume, Tiger and now Maher. People will state that they were only joking, speaking opinion or whatever. The problem is that most of the comments I hear through the mainstram media about Buddhism are false and thus should be addressed compassionately. Usually this means starting a discussion and trying to correct misinformation.

      Since Maher is a comedian, I took some liberties in making my responce (somewhat) funny.

      Personally, One of my favorite aspects about Buddhist practitioners is the emphasis on understanding rather than conversion. I have little interest in hearing that people converted to Buddhism but I love when someone has a better understanding of the premises, philosophy and practice.

      That being said I am still learning much myself and most of my learning come from blogs like this and the comments made there.

      So please keep the comments coming!

      Cheers,
      John
      http://www.zendirtzendust.com

  8. via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal
    Lynn Henderson, John Pappas and 6 others like this.
    Erik T
    neither does Tiger though, apparently…

    Penelope S
    I dont believe 93% of Americans are fans… really? I like the DKR quote and link. I dont agree that our lineage teaches us not to want. I like CTR's instruction " just dont suppress it and dont act on it"

    Jenna B
    I Love Bill Maher!!

    Rikki D
    Religion is not Bill Mahers thing and that's ok. He presupposes a truth and then gathers the info to support that truth. This is the action of an ideologue rather than that of a dispassionate observer. A dispassionate observer may find that the Dalai Lamas have been more effective leaders than most US Presidents.

    Martin C
    Nice spank!

    Michael M
    OK, it is misinformation; but there are some things that I find funny in his blog, lets imagine Buddha reading it, maybe he would be laughing as well. Of course having an iPhone will not bring contentment and of course I still crave one and 3 quarters of the world do not live in Bill Maher's reality and they ARE suffering which could be reduced by technology but in the end even the rich will have Dis-ease and un-fulfilment as shown by Tiger Woods.

  9. via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal
    Lynn Henderson, John Pappas and 6 others like this.
    Erik T
    neither does Tiger though, apparently…

    Penelope S
    I dont believe 93% of Americans are fans… really? I like the DKR quote and link. I dont agree that our lineage teaches us not to want. I like CTR's instruction " just dont suppress it and dont act on it"

    Jenna B
    I Love Bill Maher!!

    Rikki D
    Religion is not Bill Mahers thing and that's ok. He presupposes a truth and then gathers the info to support that truth. This is the action of an ideologue rather than that of a dispassionate observer. A dispassionate observer may find that the Dalai Lamas have been more effective leaders than most US Presidents.

    Martin C
    Nice spank!

    Michael M
    OK, it is misinformation; but there are some things that I find funny in his blog, lets imagine Buddha reading it, maybe he would be laughing as well. Of course having an iPhone will not bring contentment and of course I still crave one and 3 quarters of the world do not live in Bill Maher's reality and they ARE suffering which could be reduced by technology but in the end even the rich will have Dis-ease and un-fulfilment as shown by Tiger Woods.

  10. 93% fans—that was in my intro—obviously I researched that figure as much as Maher researched the entire religion of Buddhism before using it to riff. My assumption, which is pretty valid I think, is that American Buddhists tend to be liberal, liberals tend to love Maher. Of course Maher has many conservatives fans, I'm sure—I'm just not sure many of those conservative fans are also Buddhists.

  11. ethan davidson says:

    I never thought Bill Maher was funny.
    A) By the time his show "politicly Incorrect" went on the air, the term was no longer used by the far left to sqash dissent. It was used by the far right to squash dissent.
    B) He like to match people who wanted to get a seriouse messgege out with comedians who made fun of them.
    Cheap trick, said I.
    This bit on Buddhism fails even the bad taste comedian test, it isn't funny.
    Much funyer was William S Burose, (forgot how to spell it) who said that Buddha was a junky who learned to make his own stuff, then avoided prosecution by calling it a religion.
    I like my blasphemers to be smart.

  12. Mary Henschke says:

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your blog. You have some really great posts and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Regards!Katy Home Security, 4410 Huntwood Hills Ln., Katy, TX 77494 – (281) 394-0477

  13. "Buddhist practice is about doing something kind of like an exercise routine. This "exercise routine" is the practice (not implying it has to be vigorous). The "exercise routine" is what you get from the teacher, and by doing it you start to get a very different experience of life. (if it's a good practice)"

    I agree so much with the excercise routine analogy but very much against the inability to start a routine without a teacher. Most of my small grass-roots sangha practices daily but without the added benefit orliability of a teacher.

    The need is very much in regular practice rather than just reading and understanding of the philosophy. When I first started reading and trying to understand Buddhist practice I called myself a "non-practicing Buddhist" and it was years before I started an actual practice. But, for me, it was just an organic growth of understanding and then application. I wouldn't begrudge others that growth.

    Great comment!
    Cheers,
    John
    http://www.zemdirtzendust.com

  14. integralhack says:

    Ant,

    You raise some good points and I think that for John and myself, probably like yourself and many of the readers, Buddhism is more than philosophy and many of us do the "exercise routine."

    I also gloss over some issues for the sake of the subject of the post, such as faith in Buddhism (a kind of faith is necessary, but it isn't blind faith) but we do use faith to know that we can improve and that our practice has meaning. This practice isn't skepticism, after all.

    But my essential point was about treating Buddhism like an essential label, an identity (for which we become offended if anyone criticizes the label) and this to me also goes against Dharma practice.

    BTW, I've also seen advanced yoga practitioners "glow," so this phenomenon isn't isolated to Buddhists! :)

    -Matt
    http://www.yogabuddhist.com

  15. Maher is not even close to a Carlin. I watched Religilous and was largely disappointed. Going to Jesus Theme park and mocking people in a place that isn't claiming to be anything other than what it is ~ a religious theme-park ~ seemed in bad taste to me.

    However, were he to have crashed a Creationist "Museum" I would have been cheering from the aisles!

    Cheers,
    John
    http://www.zendirtzendust.com

  16. integralhack says:

    Chagme,

    Bill Maher probably can be smug, vain and unfunny at times. But there have been terrorist attacks by groups claiming affiliation with Buddhism in Japan, Sri Lanka, etc. Naturally, I tend to think that these groups aren't "true Buddhists" just as many Muslims don't think terrorists who claim their faith are true Muslims.

    Part of compassion is seeing beyond the lens of our own spiritual and cultural identity and putting ourselves in the place of the other. Any terrorism is bad, of course, but we need to be careful before blaming a specific religion as its cause. Bill Maher makes this mistake too, ironically.

  17. Yay, finally! I've never liked him. He has his moments, but yah: so smug. Jon Stewart is my apple pie.

  18. ant says:

    It's good for me to hear agreement on this "exercise routine" analogy. Thanks for taking the time to write.

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