I like your Buddha. I do not like your Buddhists. They are so unlike your Buddha. ~ Marissa Faye

Via on Oct 27, 2010

When Buddhism became hipster.

Three years ago I moved to Boulder and since then I have been surrounded by self-proclaimed Buddhists. I had once found Buddhism highly intriguing, some sort of mystical religion of enlightenment. And those that practiced it would be calm, understanding, peaceful, and dedicated.

I sat down for lunch at Noodles & Company on one of my first days in Boulder and a woman with a shaved head and saffron robes walked quietly by my table. I still can’t help but think of her as some sort of magical being, like she had the power to read my mind or walk across water. She was the perfect image of what I expected a Buddhist to be.

Hell, was I wrong.  I soon met many other Buddhists in Boulder: my hair dresser, my friends, my roommates, my boss, my co-workers, my neighbors, and so on. For some I have no complaint, but for most I have been disappointed.

The dharma brats.  They grew up with buddhist parents, they meditate, they practice yoga, and they think they’re the shit (though they would never admit this because they know it would be very un-buddhist of them). They judge others for judging others. And they are severely close-minded because their way is always the right way. If ever in an argument with a Buddhist the best you will get is an “agree to disagree.”

Most Buddhists I have met are over-emotional art majors. They pride themselves on how unique they are and their one-ness with nature, though most hardly venture outside the plastered walls of their living room. Every three weeks or so they will go for a hike up Chautauqua and thus call themselves “outdoorsy.”

My first roommate in Boulder ended up being quite the trip. Her Buddhist status was far from lived up to. She had enough clothes to dress three families, obsessed about the “traumatic” happenings in her life, and cried at the smallest inconvenience. But, she did yoga and her mom was a Buddhist and she called herself one… that makes her a Buddhist, right?

The next Buddhist I met could snap in an instant. Like a dog that happily licks your hand before latching onto your arm with his razor teeth.  Another Buddhist acquaintance ended up receiving large amounts of money and spending it on a snazzy car and new, expensive suits.  Even a friend of mine sported an “om” tattoo, which she happily showed off to people while getting tanked on cheap vodka every weekend.

And on elephantjournal.com, people can’t help but to comment on how wrong, demeaning, and rude other authors are (in that I-look-down-upon-you-because-I’m-better-and-enlightened tone), while being totally ignorant to how demeaning and rude they are being themselves.

I question this new generation of Buddhists. I do not mean all Buddhists. I really do believe that there are those out there who have this religion down and who are actually doing it right.  Waylon, a couple best friends of mine, and even my hairdresser, have kept the wonder of Buddhism alive to me.  I know that these people, people who really know a thing or two about the practice, are out there.

But Buddhism is now “cool.” If you want to be hip and fashionable these days all you have to do is put on some tibetan jewelry, throw a “What Would Buddha Do?” bumper sticker on the back of your new Lexus, take a free week at CorePower yoga, and change your facebook’s religious status to “Buddhist.”

Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

Can the same words now apply to Buddha and Buddhists? Will another beautiful religion soon see its demise?

Marissa Faye is a cultural explorer hailing from the far eastern lands of Sherborn, Massachusetts.

She is like a sponge—absorbing all things around her with a forever unquenched curiosity.  Often times she is hidden away in her mountain fortress, madly writing tales of fact and fiction.

A flowerchild at heart and an incurable addict of art, music, food, and the infinite explorations of life.  In her spare time she enjoys deep space exploration.


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94 Responses to “I like your Buddha. I do not like your Buddhists. They are so unlike your Buddha. ~ Marissa Faye”

  1. Matthew says:

    Most religions have at least a few members that… challenge us.

    Just for some balance here, a little pretentiousness is surely not as harmful as, say, highjacking a political party and attempting to deny various groups of their human rights.

  2. inescaldas1 says:

    :) I've loved this!

  3. A critic once said, “I do not care for American Buddhist as … some of the so-called disciples are far less than perfect.” When Sensei (a respectful term for teacher) heard of the remark, he simply smiled. Later, in an aside to one of his disciples, he explained, “As Christians would say, it is not the saints who need so much training, it is the sinners. Show me anyone who is not Buddha, and I will remove them from my temple at once! ”When asked about dealing with life, “Be kind, respectful, honest and continue seeing everything and everyone as Buddha — if you can’t manage all that right now, sit some more and keep training.” “Stop foolish actions, train, sit!” Namaste ~ Gassho _/|_

  4. mel says:

    Thanks for your article. I too had lived in Boulder and had a similar experience. I think when you "idealize" people, religion, a philosophy, a place or anything, you will be disappointed. It was a hard lesson for me but I learned that people are the same every place you go.

  5. Jenn says:

    Strange that people associate Yoga with buddhism, when it actually stemmed from an entirely different practice. Many people are misinformed, much like any religion, they believe in the parts they like, and discount the parts they do not wish to bother with. It is an unfortunate part of our misinformed, disillusioned generation. We are on the tipping point of becoming great, but until then, we pretend. I guess "Fake it til' you make it" is pretty much the perfect catch phrase for our society today.

  6. Colin Stubbert says:

    Marissa, this was indeed a great read, and I would like to first out myself as a dharma brat from Halifax (a notorious bunch in our own right). I think the thing to keep in mind, while many of your grievances are most accurate, is that dharma brats, like any group of people, differ from person to person, place to place.

    I, as a dharma brat, have struggled with "chosen people-ism" in my life, and as you so eloquently pointed out, as soon as someone uses the dharma to aggrandize themselves they have completely missed the point. I've found that my attempts as a more immature man to behave this way have backfired horribly. I also feel that the "we're all imperfect" argument is a bit of a cop out. The teachings of Buddhism are so clearly directed at openness and relating with one's ego that encountering someone who is narrow minded and arrogant about being a Buddhist can be quite egregious and nauseating. "I'm the best because I'm egoless!" …riiiight…

    I hope that the dharma brats that put you off haven't totally convinced you that we're all (or even mostly) bad, all the same, all obsessed with our own perceived spiritual significance. There are many of us who try every day to let go of our arrogance and to be open and non-judgmental to the people we meet. I know we certainly can be a stubborn bunch, because that's easy to forget that all the teachings of the Buddhadharma are not a dogma or "the only path to enlightenment," but more like a road map, various teachings and practices that point to something at the heart of all living beings: completely awake, innate enlightenment.

    I don't know if you've been reading these comment, but I hope to hear back from you.

    God speed.

  7. Iain says:

    "They judge others for judging others"……could that statement not be applied to the above article, lol? Or are you judging others for judging those who judge? Non-judgement is difficult in theory and even more difficult in practice. Believe me, I am no exception. Not trying to be preachy or judgy, just trying to point out the obvious!

  8. acha2010 says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. I have to agree with you on what you said. I see that with different religions there can be extremes and like with yoga, buddhism has picked up an element of mainstream and the next big thing in the West trend. I always remember what HH Dalai Lama says anything can have its extremes and it is the lesson that everything must have balance. Thank you for that reminder with your article. ~Jen

  9. Steve Deedon says:

    When I took the Bodhisattva vow, SMR said to all the candidates, "I know you guys don't believe all this" (multiple lifetimes). "But you should at least be willing to [ [keep returning to samsara till all beings are liberated] if it were true."
    "
    To gloss this a bit …. There may be many of us, who at a given time may not be strong enough to realize even the early stages of the Bodhisattva path. But we should be *willing* to devote our lives to the well being of others, to the extent that we are strong enough and have the resources. If not we risk becoming like the seasoned tantric who stelas a friend's wife at Seminary, drives a BMW SUV, eats nonumans and travels widely and generally worships at the shrine of his own pleasure … rationalizing it all with vacuous remarks about how "It'sall empty." And who needs to be denounced as a liar and a fraud.

  10. Buddhist are also human as like you who do mistake so often, try to see them as a human. Become a Buddhist doesn’t mean become a Buddha.

  11. Krister says:

    I think the Buddhist perspective here would be to explore the "attention getting" tactics that all of these people exhibited. One was anger, another being emotional, and materialism with the car and suits. I think that, just like most people, this "buddhist generation" means well, but just like me and many other members of this world..we get distracted by the many layers of media (including these sites) and then judged by outside perceptions of what people really think is going on. As a person who does Identify as appreciating eastern religions, I would want to talk with the three people you refered to as not being Buddhist in their practice, because I bet I could find full-hearted reasoning for all of their ways, thus allowing me to understand and connect with them..even if I disagree. Nice read though, thank you for your article.

  12. R Snyder says:

    My only disagreement with your article is that I don't think this is a new trend! ; )
    I moved to Los Angeles for college in 1991 from the East Coast. The first person I rented a room from was one of those Nam-myoho-renge-kyo chanters who explained that she chanted for anything she wanted. Material things, whatever. Hmm. She then proceeded to nickel and dime me about everything in the apartment that I looked at, let alone used. (I was a freshman in Architecture school and was never EVER there! She also ran a business out of the apartment and wanted me to pay for more than half the rent!!)

    She compared my boyfriend (who was actually from India) to a gorilla because of his skin tone. I moved out after a few months. Not a great impression of a religion that I actually had a high regard for previous to that. I've met too more many people like her. There are also plenty of hypocritical Christians, but I guess I had higher expectations for a religion that has openness and enlightenment as goals to attain (unlike Christianity). I prefer people who keep their religion close to their chest and practice privately.

  13. Rabga says:

    I am a Buddhist monk and all I can say is, you hit the bull’s eye here. Looking at the current environment, I fear The Great Teachings of Buddha is somewhat changing into a fashion. Those OM MANE PEDME HUM tatoos and Buddha statues and images as decorations are now a trend. I know no one is perfect and every religion is defiled by idiotic individuals. But still, just blaming it on few is not going to hide the fact that Buddha will be sad seeing our plight.

  14. Padma Kadag says:

    The bottom line for me is the author's judgement that she can identify a good buddhist from a wanna be or fake. We can throw around all kinds of metaphors about authentic practice but we should not relate them to "another's" practice. We should watch our own minds..nothing else. Ahter all isn't our own minds which have kept the fires in hell burning? hahaha

  15. Padma Kadag says:

    It really doesn't matter what she or you or I think. There will always be self satisfied buddhists, not just American but Chinese, Tibetan, and so on. And who said anything about not changing anything? Hopefully that change is in ourselves…I am still waiting for the author to answer my original questions. Not that they are all that important but seeing she has the gumption to submit an article regarding her subject I would have liked to have heard her answer, in a Buddhist perspective, her answer. You see , to me, there is nothing in her article which remotely freflects the Buddha's teaching yet she wants to comment upon some negative view she is conjuring.

  16. randolphr says:

    Yes, she is providing commentary.

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