Farewell to the Buddhist Rat Race

It is ironic that so many of the people who seek an alternative to the frantic competitiveness of North American secular life turn to Buddhist teachers only to find themselves overwhelmed by the even more frantic and demanding rat race of North American religious life. No one can seek shelter in a North American Dharma centre for very long without being reminded, sometimes none too gently, that there is no such thing as free refuge.

—Richard P. Hayes (Dh. Dayamati), “Farewell to the Raft” and “Perils of a Raft Dodger” from Land of No Buddha: Reflections of a Skeptical Buddhist (1998, Windhorse Publications).

Book review: http://www.unm.edu/~rhayes/lonb.html

Richard P. Hayes started out in Toronto under a strict zazen practice with the Korean Zen Lotus Society. He became disillusioned with institutional Buddhism (don’t we all?), left that community and moved to Montreal, where he taught Buddhist Studies at McGill University. He calls himself “a Socratic Buddhist.” For six years he practiced meditation on his own, without a sangha. For three years, he experimented with an unaffiliated ‘meditation only’ group, with mixed results, explained in the “Perils” chapter. Since then he has joined Triratna Buddhist Community and was ordained in the order. Richard continues to be a member of Triratna today as well as a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers).

Land of No Buddha is Richard’s exploration of the disillusionment with institutional Buddhism, resulting (happily) in the discovery of what actually does work for him. His description of the “rat race” of institutional Buddhism—the competitiveness, chauvanism, exclusivity, crass materialism, and power-driven hierarchy, summarized above—says in one paragraph what I have been trying to say in a half-dozen posts on the subject.

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