Buddhism is Non-Theistic; Buddhists aren’t (“oh, the Karmapa’s sooooo amaaaaazing!”)

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jul 30, 2008
get elephant's newsletter

As a lifelong Buddhist, everywhere I look in Buddhaland, lately—covers of Buddhists magazines, posters for sale, cards, photos in Buddhist gift shops—I see the handsome, wise, young face of the 17th Karmapa staring out at the horizon. Okay, I get it—he’s a powerful, well-trained young man, he embodies the fragile future of Tibetan Buddhism and his previous incarnation, the 16th Karmapa, was a big deal, a powerful teacher who my parents’ teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (a powerful teacher in his own right) was himself genuinely and most humbly devoted to.

But last I checked, Buddhism is non-theistic. That means we don’t go looking outside for salvation. That means we regard the Buddha as—inherently—no different that ourselves. The Buddha himself said, “Look, I don’t have anything to teach, I’m nothing special, I’m just human.” And his early students said, “Please, please, show us the path that you have discovered from suffering to sanity!” And he said, “Oh, alright. Here you go. Meditate in this way. Contemplate compassion…” etc. But when I see my parents’ generation smiling like fools and bowing to the ground, I wonder where the dignity has gone. Talk to the Karmapa, be interesting and interested—that’s devotion. This groveling stuff was, in my experience of his visit to Boulder, boring.

We’re all Kings and Queens of our own lives, as SHAMBHALA: SACRED PATH OF THE WARRIOR details. So sit like a mountain, work with one’s own discursive mind, work for the benefit of others—and we’ll experience a vajra-like humbleness, a humbleness full of dignity and absent of groupie-like idol-worship.

PS: all this non-theistic stuff goes for yoga teachers, too.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


5 Responses to “Buddhism is Non-Theistic; Buddhists aren’t (“oh, the Karmapa’s sooooo amaaaaazing!”)”

  1. […] Now I know her a little bit, though I only rarely see her (recently saw her a little at the Karmapa’s first visit to America). Here she talks about tonglen practice, one of the two or three fundamental […]

  2. tom moylan says:

    I like your take on the idolatrous worshipers.
    Do only good, Avoid doing evil, Train your mind.

    A good boildown. Did you see / hear what the Karmapa taught in Boulder?

  3. […] That said, he often told his students he wouldn’t be around for long, and that we were a non-theistic tradition, and that they’d better learn to run and direct things without him—one of the […]

  4. […] in awhile. I called him the Big Man in the Big Hat. For more on the Karmapa, and his charismatic reincarnation, the eco-responsible 17th Karmapa—who may on some level succeed the Dalai Lama when he passes […]

  5. […] not quite sure why this video has been entitled: The Divine Feminine on youtube, given the non-theistic nature of Buddhism…but it sounds […]