Untitled

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?”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 60

Page 3 of 6

Gary Gach

Somalia. Thank you, and and , Point well taken. Looking within, growing up with the "starving children in India" trope, ("eat your broccoli"), I realize now I've continued that bad faith; mea culpa. [Is this because the reality of poverty in America is not only repressed and projected on to some fictive Other, but is far more cloaked than in other societies (where its visibility makes for the visualizable image)?] I will make sure to revise that in future printed iteration(s) of my text : thank you very much. [Curious too, that when I am not donating time (which is invariably local, f2f), I donate very carefully according to my simple (austere) budget, to be sure my coin does reach needy hands without being eroded by bureaucratic middlemen, wherever the recipient(s) may be. Wherever local ("here") may be. Curious. Is that why I donate more time than money?] And I wonder how divergent we are . I'll plead guilty to using a questionable trope as a headline, E.G., What Would Emma Goldman Buy? What Would Spinoza Buy? etc. It undercuts the essentially noncoercive anti-authoritarian bent which I so respect in the Buddha. [cf. The Kalama Sutra http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalama_Sutta; his last words: "Therefore, be ye lamps unto yourselves, be a refuge to yourselves. Hold fast to Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the truth as a refuge. Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourselves. And those, who shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge, they shall reach the topmost height." But then I can't speak for others. Including 'Murricans: that's millions of people. ( 'Murricans influenced by the Buddha: recently polled as being 1 in 8. ) I can only speak for myself. I can appreciate Mencken's witty neologism "boobocracy" while I am also aware how cynicism (an easy response, and fed into the culture as a meme) can separate me, cut me off, thwart my finer impulses. As the cartoonist Walt Kelly used to say in Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us." That is, every blighted spiritual mis-step and mis-take in economy and ecology is mine too. Grace that the mind that recognizes this in myself and in the world, recognizes mind and world as being no different: thus an intersection referred to in the article, of continual karma choice points, as opportunity for active practice. And mind that recognizes this is larger mind than the mind that bumbles and fumbles its opportunity for light and life on this rare blue planet; being larger, is hopefully less liable to being tugged in any of the less skillful directions of which it is aware it can be tugged off into ... but would anyone read an article entitled "who buys?" ... ? [sounds like the book by stephen levine: who dies?] ... and happy rohatsu, for those of such persuasion, today.

Gary Gach

Somalia. Thank you, and and , Point well taken. Looking within, growing up with the "starving children in India" trope, ("eat your broccoli"), I realize now I've continued that bad faith; mea culpa. [Is this because the reality of poverty in America is not only repressed and projected on to some fictive Other, but is far more cloaked than in other societies (where its visibility makes for the visualizable image)?] I will make sure to revise that in future printed iteration(s) of my text : thank you very much. [Curious too, that when I am not donating time (which is invariably local, f2f), I donate very carefully according to my simple (austere) budget, to be sure my coin does reach needy hands without being eroded by bureaucratic middlemen, wherever the recipient(s) may be. Wherever local ("here") may be. Curious. Is that why I donate more time than money?] And I wonder how divergent we are . I'll plead guilty to using a questionable trope as a headline, E.G., What Would Emma Goldman Buy? What Would Spinoza Buy? etc. It undercuts the essentially noncoercive anti-authoritarian bent which I so respect in the Buddha. [cf. The Kalama Sutra http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalama_Sutta; his last words: "Therefore, be ye lamps unto yourselves, be a refuge to yourselves. Hold fast to Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the truth as a refuge. Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourselves. And those, who shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge, they shall reach the topmost height." But then I can't speak for others. Including 'Murricans: that's millions of people. ( 'Murricans influenced by the Buddha: recently polled as being 1 in 8. ) I can only speak for myself. I can appreciate Mencken's witty neologism "boobocracy" while I am also aware how cynicism (an easy response, and fed into the culture as a meme) can separate me, cut me off, thwart my finer impulses. As the cartoonist Walt Kelly used to say in Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us." That is, every blighted spiritual mis-step and mis-take in economy and ecology is mine too. Grace that the mind that recognizes this in myself and in the world, recognizes mind and world as being no different: thus an intersection referred to in the article, of continual karma choice points, as opportunity for active practice. And mind that recognizes this is larger mind than the mind that bumbles and fumbles its opportunity for light and life on this rare blue planet; being larger, is hopefully less liable to being tugged in any of the less skillful directions of which it is aware it can be tugged off into ... but would anyone read an article entitled "who buys?" ... ? [sounds like the book by stephen levine: who dies?] ... and happy rohatsu, for those of such persuasion, today.

Kevin

I am going to give my family Appreciation letters for Christmas. I am just going to write a list of all the things that I am grateful for that they have done or made possible for me. It is a great, meaningful present that doesn't cost you a cent and may make the recipient realize that real happiness doesn't come from getting a new gadget, but from bonding and appreciation.

Kevin

I am going to give my family Appreciation letters for Christmas. I am just going to write a list of all the things that I am grateful for that they have done or made possible for me. It is a great, meaningful present that doesn't cost you a cent and may make the recipient realize that real happiness doesn't come from getting a new gadget, but from bonding and appreciation.

Anonymous

I'm not spending a cent this Christmas. And I'm not asking my friends or family for anything because I truthfully, honestly, don't *want* anything being sold out there. Like Kevin below, I'm writing appreciative letters, and maybe I'll do some baking or preserving and throw everything into a basket with a bow. Last year I would've popped a forehead vein if my stocking was empty. Funny how things change in one year. I had a mini-epiphany after the Rev. Billy documentary.

Anonymous

I'm not spending a cent this Christmas. And I'm not asking my friends or family for anything because I truthfully, honestly, don't *want* anything being sold out there. Like Kevin below, I'm writing appreciative letters, and maybe I'll do some baking or preserving and throw everything into a basket with a bow. Last year I would've popped a forehead vein if my stocking was empty. Funny how things change in one year. I had a mini-epiphany after the Rev. Billy documentary.

Anonymous

I love the sentiments throughout this thread. Creative suggestions for things to do that require more effort than running around a mall like a headless chicken. I am posting a love story online for my partner at the1moment.com. It requires a bit more effort than just grabbing some fragrance or boxers and will mean much more. The money I save will go to charity.

Anonymous

I love the sentiments throughout this thread. Creative suggestions for things to do that require more effort than running around a mall like a headless chicken. I am posting a love story online for my partner at the1moment.com. It requires a bit more effort than just grabbing some fragrance or boxers and will mean much more. The money I save will go to charity.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.