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What Would the Buddha Buy?

Avoid the "shopocalypse" by taking a Zen approach to the holiday season.
What Would the Buddha Buy?

When you and your family gather together this year, don’t get caught up in the fatal frenzy of consumerism. Pledge to celebrate Christmas differently. Revaluate what really matters and replace the plethora of impersonal gifts with something more meaningful: spending time with each other.

This is the first in a series of pieces meant to inspire you to work towards a Buy Nothing Christmas. Send us your epiphanies!


part one

What would the Buddha buy? Not too much, not too little. Picture him with his own reusable grocery bag slung over his shoulder, talking to a shopper about making mindful choices: "Do you really need it?" "Where does it come from?" "How will it affect the environment when you're done?" He might have enjoyed celebrating International Buy Nothing Day on November 29 as a spiritual retreat from frantic holiday shopping (the "shopocalypse," as Reverend Billy calls it).

Recall how the Buddha’s monasteries served as a kind of buffer zone between the ancient traditions of agrarian culture and the fierce competition of the newly emerging market economy. These days engaged Buddhist sanghas play a similar role. They believe that we are again at a turning point – a new Axial Age, an opportunity to turn the Wheel of Dharma. Without pie charts, sustainability statistics or solemn computation of your ecological footprint, Gandhi said it all: "There is enough for human need, not for human greed." And as for greed – sad and sorry, mindless, addicted, grasping greed – the Buddha knows it beckons us with all its tempting lures.

The Buddha’s critique of mindless craving and needless suffering pinpoints the precise moment during which real pleasure becomes abstract desire – the want to want. In our addictive culture of capitalism, it’s the exact same vital acupressure point that our basic market economy capitalizes on. "Don’t get hooked," the Buddha says. Remember the hungry ghost, craving more and more of what can never satisfy.

With Dharma, a marketplace can be seen as an opportunity to practice mindfulness, rather than mindless consumption. Nothing exotic – we do it every day. In each advertisement and at each potential point of purchase is a karmic choice, the opportunity to practice wise compassion for the universal human condition. The bodhisattva shopper vows to consider all beings.

Neither capitalism nor socialism has prevented children from starving in Somalia. We should be trying to base contentment on being, rather than having. Then the question of buying that fourth shirt or that new gizmo on display might be dwarfed by the prospect of creating more space in one’s life by donating your extra stuff. When tempted to bite the hook of despair over seeming scarcity in one’s life or in the world, try practicing generosity instead. It’s harder to be grasping greedily when your arms are extended in giving. Reverend Billy energizes us with this (free) motto: love is a gift economy. Pass it along.

_Gary Gach

60 comments on the article “What Would the Buddha Buy?”

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Gary Gach

f u r t h e r r e a d i n g Mindfulness in the Marketplace http://tinyurl.com/5uupys Hooked!: Buddhist writings on greed, desire, and the urge to consume http://www.buddhistrecovery.org/book_hooked.htm ... as Eleazar wisely points out, above, it's a practice ... ("In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is." - Yogi Berra") .:.

Gary Gach

f u r t h e r r e a d i n g Mindfulness in the Marketplace http://tinyurl.com/5uupys Hooked!: Buddhist writings on greed, desire, and the urge to consume http://www.buddhistrecovery.org/book_hooked.htm ... as Eleazar wisely points out, above, it's a practice ... ("In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is." - Yogi Berra") .:.

I am so wise

Actually, both capitalism and socialism did all right feeding Somalia until the period after the Cold War. When the US and the rest of the West took away its supervisory gaze and let the Somalis take control and depose their leadership did starvation take place as the Somali civil war disrupted the Somali agricultural sector and Western attempts to save the day.

I am so wise

Actually, both capitalism and socialism did all right feeding Somalia until the period after the Cold War. When the US and the rest of the West took away its supervisory gaze and let the Somalis take control and depose their leadership did starvation take place as the Somali civil war disrupted the Somali agricultural sector and Western attempts to save the day.

Shawn Michel de...

The real crisis today isn't the one on Wall Street, but the one taking place in the average American soul. This is a spiritual crisis first and foremost; and until people recognize that, they're doomed to repeat it--and to suffer for it. Try as you might, you can't fill the yawning void within your spirit with crap. Want to emulate the Buddha? Then you've already lost. Need to quote Gandhi? Then you've got your head up your ass. Want to walk in Jesus' footsteps? Then you're too weak to walk your own path. All are signs of compromised spirits, limp-noodle souls too afraid to think for themselves, to do the right thing not because someone else did it, or told you to do it, but because it's what their hearts told them to do. But the problem is, the vast majority of 'Murkans are herd animals, and wouldn't know an authentic prompting of it bit them on their spreading butts. So they'll go on emulating this dead guy, and quoting that dead dude, and kissing the mouldering robes of a third, and nothing actual gets done, nothing real is changed. And so the world keeps burning. But hey--got a good Buddha quote to salve the landfill of your corrupted soul? Those always help--for a while.

Shawn Michel de...

The real crisis today isn't the one on Wall Street, but the one taking place in the average American soul. This is a spiritual crisis first and foremost; and until people recognize that, they're doomed to repeat it--and to suffer for it. Try as you might, you can't fill the yawning void within your spirit with crap. Want to emulate the Buddha? Then you've already lost. Need to quote Gandhi? Then you've got your head up your ass. Want to walk in Jesus' footsteps? Then you're too weak to walk your own path. All are signs of compromised spirits, limp-noodle souls too afraid to think for themselves, to do the right thing not because someone else did it, or told you to do it, but because it's what their hearts told them to do. But the problem is, the vast majority of 'Murkans are herd animals, and wouldn't know an authentic prompting of it bit them on their spreading butts. So they'll go on emulating this dead guy, and quoting that dead dude, and kissing the mouldering robes of a third, and nothing actual gets done, nothing real is changed. And so the world keeps burning. But hey--got a good Buddha quote to salve the landfill of your corrupted soul? Those always help--for a while.

Anonymous

Dear Shawn, It's been several weeks since you pulled the plug on a community that didn't meet your specifications. It was your baby--that is to say, you authored it into existence, and therefore you felt that you had the right to kill it. I disagree, and further, I have a thing that needs saying: If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, and let the real chefs continue merrily on. Let's take a quick look at what you decided was out of the control of your hands, Shawn: over a thousand uploaded photos taken by members of the community. Some 200+ blog entries, some of which contained original poetry written by members. Video and audio materials. Challenging, thought-provoking discourse and commentary. Real connections made through the ethers among community members that are now missed due to your temporal fit of personal pique. And now a word on that oh-so-human activity-- control has long been an illusion of the ego. Judgemental behavior is an outflow of the human need to control. Ego run rampant does damage daily in millions of arenas; why, then, need you duplicate just that sort of power play when and where it is unwarranted? Why not leave that stuff to the people you heap such scorn upon regularly... that is, those you perceive to be beneath your intellectual capabilities? *using sleeve to shine the mirror and hold it up higher* If you feel you know me well enough through my posts to assume I am a poser, nothing more than a hunk of shit, garbage-filled and false, then you may be right. If you assume I am goodness, justice, loyalty and truth personified, you may also be right. I am everything, and I am nothing. It matters not to me what you think of me; on any given day, at any moment, you are both wrong and right, and I do not give a rat's ass about your personal opinion of me. I am more amused than anything else that you have assumed the worst about me by default of not being one of the recipients of your golden message to the three you felt most worthy, and wish to say to you that you are the poorer for your judgemental assumptions. What I do care about is that you have killed something that challenged you as perhaps no other experience in your life up until now has managed to do. Where you see worthlessness and bullshitting, I see growth and potential. Where you see a failed community, I see thought patterns murdered in order to attempt to silence them. Why? Because you ultimately decided that you were too afraid to take up the challenges we posted for you. A little kick up the ass now and again is mightily useful. I asked you to take the step to walk your talk, and the next day, you pulled the rug out from under our feet. I've got a little secret to share with you, Shawn: the same lessons will appear until you learn from them and move on. Stop blaming everyone else for your lack of personal responsibility and get your act together. Excuses really, really suck, and the consequences from what you fail to learn will continue to hound you. What are you really hiding from? Yourself, perhaps? I've honored your request to leave you alone and NOT attempt to contact you; such peevishness really does not become you, and cements your position most firmly amongst the asshats of this world. Therefore, I am left with only the realm of a blog posting in which to address and resolve my end of this matter. You cannot unmake what you have created, but you can certainly change it, and I hope you will choose to do so. I leave the door open for any further communication you might wish to share with me, and I wish you precisely the lessons you most need to learn in order to evolve. ~Amber

Anonymous

Dear Shawn, It's been several weeks since you pulled the plug on a community that didn't meet your specifications. It was your baby--that is to say, you authored it into existence, and therefore you felt that you had the right to kill it. I disagree, and further, I have a thing that needs saying: If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, and let the real chefs continue merrily on. Let's take a quick look at what you decided was out of the control of your hands, Shawn: over a thousand uploaded photos taken by members of the community. Some 200+ blog entries, some of which contained original poetry written by members. Video and audio materials. Challenging, thought-provoking discourse and commentary. Real connections made through the ethers among community members that are now missed due to your temporal fit of personal pique. And now a word on that oh-so-human activity-- control has long been an illusion of the ego. Judgemental behavior is an outflow of the human need to control. Ego run rampant does damage daily in millions of arenas; why, then, need you duplicate just that sort of power play when and where it is unwarranted? Why not leave that stuff to the people you heap such scorn upon regularly... that is, those you perceive to be beneath your intellectual capabilities? *using sleeve to shine the mirror and hold it up higher* If you feel you know me well enough through my posts to assume I am a poser, nothing more than a hunk of shit, garbage-filled and false, then you may be right. If you assume I am goodness, justice, loyalty and truth personified, you may also be right. I am everything, and I am nothing. It matters not to me what you think of me; on any given day, at any moment, you are both wrong and right, and I do not give a rat's ass about your personal opinion of me. I am more amused than anything else that you have assumed the worst about me by default of not being one of the recipients of your golden message to the three you felt most worthy, and wish to say to you that you are the poorer for your judgemental assumptions. What I do care about is that you have killed something that challenged you as perhaps no other experience in your life up until now has managed to do. Where you see worthlessness and bullshitting, I see growth and potential. Where you see a failed community, I see thought patterns murdered in order to attempt to silence them. Why? Because you ultimately decided that you were too afraid to take up the challenges we posted for you. A little kick up the ass now and again is mightily useful. I asked you to take the step to walk your talk, and the next day, you pulled the rug out from under our feet. I've got a little secret to share with you, Shawn: the same lessons will appear until you learn from them and move on. Stop blaming everyone else for your lack of personal responsibility and get your act together. Excuses really, really suck, and the consequences from what you fail to learn will continue to hound you. What are you really hiding from? Yourself, perhaps? I've honored your request to leave you alone and NOT attempt to contact you; such peevishness really does not become you, and cements your position most firmly amongst the asshats of this world. Therefore, I am left with only the realm of a blog posting in which to address and resolve my end of this matter. You cannot unmake what you have created, but you can certainly change it, and I hope you will choose to do so. I leave the door open for any further communication you might wish to share with me, and I wish you precisely the lessons you most need to learn in order to evolve. ~Amber

Anonymous

Why must we continually supervise the rest of the world (say, Somalia) when we don't supervise ourselves? There is much hunger in the USA today. People are losing their homes to living on the street. Shelters for the homeless are overflowing, foodbanks are running out of food because of demand from people laid off their jobs. Get REAL! Donate to your local food bank and homeless shelters.

Anonymous

Why must we continually supervise the rest of the world (say, Somalia) when we don't supervise ourselves? There is much hunger in the USA today. People are losing their homes to living on the street. Shelters for the homeless are overflowing, foodbanks are running out of food because of demand from people laid off their jobs. Get REAL! Donate to your local food bank and homeless shelters.

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