a good buddhist anecdote

In some ways, this site really has nothing to do with Buddhism. But in a more accurate way, it’s got everything to do with Buddhism. I am a series of contradictions. On the one hand, my serious reflections on and information about all things Buddhist are housed at my more “professional site” at buddh-world.org. On the other hand, how can I make the claim that such arbitrary distinctions as “Buddhist” and “not-Buddhist” even exist in the first place?

Listen. There is no more truth in Buddhism than in anything else. But if there is any one thing that I’ve learned these many years of study and practice it’s this: the Buddha wants us to let go our ideas about the way the world’s “supposed to be.” We think the world is supposed to be some way because we have all these discriminative views about it. We categorize. We label. We decide that some things are good and right and fun and worthy of our attention and other things are bad and wrong and pointless and a waste of our time. And we get all bent out of shape when something that’s supposed to be stupid turns out to be pretty cool.

Let go these expectations. Especially about what Buddhism is “supposed to be.”

Here’s my favorite Buddhist anecdote. Ready?

A couple of years ago I went out on a date with a near perfect stranger. She seemed really, intensely, interested in me because she’d found out I was a Buddhist and Buddhism in particular — all things Eastern in general — had recently been sucked into her sphere of interest. So we went out to dinner and I ordered a glass of wine and the chicken. She gave me a funny look over her vegetable stir-fry and diet soda. “I thought Buddhists were vegetarians?” she asked slowly.

“Well, some are. Some aren’t. That’s a complicated story, truth be told. But the school of Buddhism I follow has no dietary restrictions.”

“Hm,” she said thoughtfully, sipping her soda. “And I thought Buddhists weren’t supposed to drink?”

All of a sudden I felt like I was less a date than a bug under a microscope. And if I was a bug under a microscope, I was a pretty pissed off bug because when you’re doing experiments, you’re supposed to be open to the possibility of your hypothesis being proven wrong.

Needless to say, there was no second date.

The point of this random tirade is simply to say that our expectations get us into trouble. Especially our expectations about those who call themselves Buddhists. Or Christians. Or Rosecrucian Aliens from the planet Xenon.

So just listen to the music and watch the beauty of the world unfold.

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