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

Via elephant journal
on Oct 27, 2010
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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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101 Responses to “I like your Buddha. I do not like your Buddhists. They are so unlike your Buddha. ~ Marissa Faye”

  1. candicegarrett says:

    dude. This was good reads. But I don't envy the thundering crowd of unpleasant comments you are sure to get by putting yourself out there so bravely.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Well, as a Dharma Brat myself, I'd say you'll actually find a lot of agreement with this article among our community. There are a lot of self-styled "Buddhists." But Buddhism is not a lifestyle, though it's often said to be. It's thought to be a "lifestyle" because it doesn't quite seem to be a "religion," on the other hand, either. Hell, Buddhists don't believe in God, or any "external" idol-worship.

    And that's where I would actually say you're on the right track, but slightly too quick to judge. Buddhists aren't holy people. They're fucked up, just like you and I and everyone else. They're human. But…they/we have a tool: meditation. Helps us reconnect with the present moment, and get a bit outside of our own incessant whirlpools of self-concern. That, and some great teachings that really connect with the heart and gut, is all we "have."

    Chogyam Trungpa, and I highly recommend his writings—talked a lot about "losing heart" as being the beginning, not the end, of the spiritual path. When our ideas about Buddhism and Buddhists stop being idealistic, as yours were at first, and start being confusing and contradictory…that's the time to stop searching for something that isn't there, and sit your butt on the meditation cushion and get to work. It's a wonderful path that I'm personally grateful for. It directs me to direct myself to the good of others, and helps me to be halfway-sane day in and out.

    BTW, it seems like much of the above is talking about self-styled, faux Buddhists. Buddhists I know are kinda boring, family types, we're far from imperfect, and we love to look down on yoga. And no Dharma Brat would eveeerrr get an Om tat. That said, I gotta wrap this comment up—gotta go on my biweekly outdoorsy hike to Chautauqua.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Thumbs up, Miss Garrett! Loved your blog today, it's a hit with our readers: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/10/10-diy-hal

  4. natashag says:

    I think there's a lot to be said for this type of behavior across all religions. Growing up in the Bible Belt of Colorado, I met a lot of people who honestly tried to follow their Christian faith to the best of their ability. Yet we always get those who tattoo the cross, thump their Bibles and get caught in embarrassing acts contradicting the very words they claim to follow. Every religion has it's issues, but I think you were brave to speak up about your disillusionment with a faith you held in high regard… especially since those people read ele.

  5. Randall Smith says:

    yeah, what Gandhi said. careful not to make generalizations though. we're all doing the "best" we can.

  6. Randall Smith says:

    and another thing- since when is Buddhism a religion?

  7. Don says:

    You're making an incorrect assumption, like most people do. Just because you "follow" a religion, whether it be Christian or Buddhist, that has really nothing to do with some kind of magic pill that is going to make you act "better". In fact, followers of any religion, from my own experience will act no better or worse than those that follow no religion. So the problem is really with you and your incorrect assumption, not with the weak character of humans walking on this earth.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks for your generalized, anonymous criticism…but can you be more specific, no need to name names…but the above doesn't contribute to this discussion as much as you could do.

  9. Joanne says:

    Yes, I get that vibe from a number of authors here.

  10. candicegarrett says:

    looks into her crystal ball and sees that this is going to be a blockbuster post, with encouraging and disparaging comments alike.

    I think Marissa is candid and honest about her experience, questions and opinions. It takes some huevos to put it out there so publicly, in such a buddhist community. Rather than attack her, I think she has good points, about all religions in general.

  11. Varvara says:

    Well it happens … almost every community has people whose actions doesn't match the theory
    What shall we do ? Throw them away ??? Burn them ??? Send them to outer space to get rid of them ??? ha ha ha

  12. Amy Cronise-Mead says:

    Thank you for this response….

  13. Padma Kadag says:

    Please tell me, or us, your idea of what a buddhist is. Try to not point at individuals who all of us might not know as examples of acceptable Buddhists. Please tell us in your own words what it is to be an acceptable Buddhist. How brave are you? You have now recieved accolades for your disdain for fake buddhists. Please tell us now the foundation and the origin of this disdain. Tell us what it is like to be a Buddha.

  14. Linda-Sama says:

    I'm Buddhist but not because I do yoga, wear trendy clothes, have an OM tattoo, or am a dharma brat (far from it on the last one)….and I loved your post.

  15. Katie says:

    I think you missed the point. What I got from this article wasn't that belonging to a religion automatically confers perfection on a person. It sounded to me like she was talking more about the *attitude* of the self-styled Buddhists she was encountering, who talked the talk with great superiority, but seemed to have no idea how to walk the walk.

  16. AngelaRaines says:

    Marissa, this made me laugh so much! While we certainly don't strive to be this way, many "Buddhists" fit this bill. Especially in Boulder.

  17. timful says:

    Yes, it seems to be all about attitude. I re-read the article to see exactly what misbehaviors the buddhists were guilty of and I could not find much outside the normal range of human imperfection. I think it is always risky to get too worked about what we imagine is going on inside other people's heads. I have made terrible mistakes that way.

  18. YesuDas says:

    Incidentally, that "fucked up like you and I and everyone else"–Original Sin, some of us call it! 🙂

    Good stuff, Marissa!

  19. Yuri says:

    An interesting thing about the title and the post. A Hindoo can say this about Christians, a Christian can say this about Buddhists, an atheist and a cultural explorer can say this about followers of any religion, but if a Buddhist says that he does not like some other people for any reason at all – he is not really a Buddhist or at least not yet a true Buddhist. Overcoming passionate desires and aversions, likes and dislikes, silly prejudices and delusions and replacing them with generosity, kindness and wisdom is not an easy thing and doesn't happen overnight – it may take years but this is an important part of the Path. And it needs good Teachers and receptive disciples. Buddha said that neither saffron robes nor reciting sacred texts makes one the receiver of blessings of the holy life.

  20. diana says:

    Well good heavens. Aren't we all doing the best we can? If I already behaved like Christ, or Buddha, I guess I could stop practicing. And by practicing, I mean learning to see myself in all my imperfect glory so that I can be of use to others.

  21. jeremymeyers says:

    Sorry,did you just quote yourself at the top of your article to prove your own point?

  22. Cooch says:

    Well written, Lilith. I agree completely. Further, it seems that the act of publicly analyzing the incomplete picture of others' personal journeys is either without a clear purpose or decidedly lacking in wisdom. That is to say, I don't see the point.

  23. rachel says:

    sounds like your roommate could have benefited from some compassion…

  24. Ben Ralston says:

    Love it Marissa.

    I could take out all Buddha and Buddhist related words from your article and replace them with Yoga and Yogic, and it would describe exactly how I feel about yoga in the west now.

    The only thing is, it’s very funny! From an article about Neal Pollack: …”His observation that the North American yoga scene is “an absurd culture.” He notes that the intersection of east and west is a source of endless comedy…”

    High comedy when you really look at it with a little detachment.

    With love,


  25. Blake says:

    People suck who suck at acting like what we think Buddhists should act like!

  26. Lindsey says:

    This is awesome, Marissa! Thank you for sharing so truthfully.

  27. Paul says:

    A scarier thought to me, is that all of these people might repress all of these expressions of behavior that iare somehow Un-Buddhist, while secretly loathing each other and the world and hating themselves for these emotions. Being a good Buddhist often kills the Buddha.

  28. Catherine says:

    I thought the whole point of any religion is that we approach it as imperfect beings and spend our lifetimes in practice in order to refine our behavior and the life of others. Who can say what part of that path a person may be on? We have all been that jerk at some point somewhere, and you realize and change, whether in this life or the next. Give them growing room for their imperfections and love them for it, as they are exactly where they should be.

  29. candicegarrett says:

    Isn't that usually how someone chooses a title for their own piece?

  30. rheilbrunn says:

    buddhism is still in it's infancy in the west. as we define it, IT defines us. it is obvious to me, that it is already turning liight on to our humanity. accepting that humanity allows us to continue and nurture our development and that of others in relation to us.

  31. ARCreated says:

    no, she used a quote from her article as the title of the piece…

  32. ARCreated says:

    LOL…Ben I was thinking the exact same thing!!!!

  33. ARCreated says:

    bottom line — I guess all religionsl, philosophies and lifestyles have those that don't represent them in a completely endearing way. Christians have quran burning fundamentalists; muslims have suicide bombers, yogis have sex fiend gurus, tea partiers have doctor killing fanatics, I guess if the worst the buddhists can throw at us is meat eating, non-evironmentally concious, vodka drinking, materialists —- well maybe they ARE doing better than everyone else 🙂

  34. ARCreated says:

    If practice of the Path does not lead to greater love and compassion, don't blame the Path, look at the practice of the Path and one's own motivation for it!!!

    Yep I say the same thing about yoga 😉

  35. sitar says:

    News Flash: Buddhist are people just like everyone else.

    You heard it here first.

  36. Padma Kadag says:

    of course it is used to build self esteem. Without ego there is no need for practice. That is why it is called practice. Self esteem is a trap of course. but confidence in the path is necessary too. We should not be so harsh on Buddhists and their way of showing devotion. Anyone that sees any value at any level of Buddhism is better for it.

  37. First "Anonymously" says:

    Sure, but having Emptiness as the core concept is what makes Buddhism different from other religions. There is more need for humility when you have no external God.

  38. 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

  39. integralhack says:

    What I find remarkable is that there are relatively few defensive or critical remarks from EJ Buddhists in reaction to this article and most took it with a sense of humor. Seems there are some cool Buddhists after all!

    Thanks for the entertaining article!

  40. 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.

  41. locker51 says:

    So, being a soto zen practitioner the last couple of decades(which, doesn't mean anything), I've moved from "advanced practices" back to the first realizations and find them to be sufficient. Language, as usual seems to be a problem. I find myself first, embarrassed, then satisfied with the inherent dualism. What was the point of this post?

  42. filbertdesenex says:

    Yeah, that's special, of course. But it's only compelling if you're talking to other buddhist people. There's a reason middle class Shambhala people are so well known in Boulder as being self-absorbed, overly judgmental, and precious –they are.

    Perhaps they want to tell themselves they are doing the "best they can" when they mistreat others, and perhaps other buddhists will make sense of that, but for everyone else in Boulder, they're just assholes.

  43. filbertdesenex says:

    Yet they are only interested in that fact when they fuck up. Otherwise, they're very special indeed.

  44. filbertdesenex says:

    It's called reaction formation, and it's not that impressive really.

  45. integralhack says:

    Mr. Desenex, I would refrain from trying to apply psychoanalytical theory to people you really don't know personally or even online. It's not smart or compassionate.

  46. First "Anonymously" says:

    locker 51,
    I was writing about some students' attitudes towards others who have not yet done more advanced practices as they have, and those same students' self-satisfaction at having done them, and then thinking that they have somehow obtained something special, or wondering why they haven't, the development of more pride instead of more humility, no increase in compassion/patience/flexibility: and I'm stating that those are the indicators of successful practice (not some intellectual notions of realization which can be more easily deceiving), not the best results for American Buddhism, and I don't care here about other Buddhism.

  47. First "Anonymously" says:

    Typical pseudo-intellectual to throw out some defense mechanism, filbert, Freud would turn in his grave.

  48. filbertdesenex says:

    Could you possibly be less articulate?

  49. filbertdesenex says:

    It wasn't an application of psychoanalytic theory, it was sarcasm. And I hardly think you're in a position to determine what is "smart" or "compassionate." Philistine indeed.

  50. filbertdesenex says:

    Congrats on being Azn. You might note that she's talking about Boulder buddhists. There are no actual hipsters in Boulder; there are a lot of people trying to be hipsters, but they're ultimately too out of touch to really pull that off, and end up just copying shit hipsters did 5 years ago. You might note that this is far more pathetic than actually being a hipster.