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In an attempt to write something slightly lighter than my diary yesterday, but also in an attempt to get in touch a little with some of my less threatening anger (!), I thought I'd make a diary post today about some of the things which regularly wind me up in my every day life.  

One of those things centers on Buddhism.   Or should I say the misconceptions other people have about Buddhism!  Now I'm sure many of you will want to say that, as a Buddhist, I really should be more accepting, less confrontational and far more tolerant of these things but, contrary to popular myth-information - Buddhists are allowed to get angry at times!

I've lost count of the times I've heard someone say that something bad has happened to them and then follow it up with "it must be that I have bad kamma".   NO!  You do not HAVE kamma, you DO kamma!!  Truly, not very Buddhist of me I know, but I really do get frustrated!  

Kamma is the action, vipaka is the result.  In other words, you DO kamma (good things) and you get "Vipaka" (the result of your actions).  Really simple... or so you'd think!  But, apparently not!  And each time I point this out to someone, they shrug and say "oh well, you know what I mean?" as if the word itself really makes no difference!  

And so it goes on.  I'm not sure why Buddhism seems to have quite so many misconceptions based around it but, if feels to me at any rate, as if it does.  And so let me dispel a few of them here and now!

Firstly, let's deal with the big one ... Buddha is NOT that smiling, fat guy!  Honestly, he's really not!  Buddha is a rather thin and serious guy.  His name is Siddhartha Gautama.  The fat chappy is Hotei, sometimes known as "the laughing buddha"

Here is Hotei :

Uploaded with

and here is Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) :

Uploaded with

See?  They really are quite different.  I've been into so many shops that sell statues ostensibly of 'Buddha' and discovered that they are, in fact, selling statues of Hotei.  This is obviously not Hotei's fault but I really am tempted to start calling him The Great Pretender!   Even worse, I have found pictures of Hotei in school Religious Studies textbooks, yet again claiming that he is Buddha!  

The Hotei/Buddha thing reminds me of a time I once went into a card shop to see if they had any Wesak cards.   Wesak being the Buddhist New Year or Buddha's birthday as some prefer to call it.   No, they didn't have any, oh well.   But, no wait, the assistant called me back having rummaged in some draws and flourished a large card in her hand.  I took it from her and looked at it.  It was a Christmas card with a picture of Jesus in his crib on the front.   I pointed out that this appeared to be a Christmas card and had the words "Happy Christmas" written inside and she waived that aside and said (seriously, I kid you not, she really did say this!) "couldn't you just cross out the word Christmas and put the other thing?" (she'd forgotten the name Wesak by this point obviously).  I truly didn't know whether to laugh or cry!   I managed to persuade her that this really wasn't a suitable card and I left, with her no doubt feeling that I must be the world's most unreasonable Buddhist!

I've had much the same said to me when I've pointed out that a shop is proudly displaying the happy fat chappy in their window instead of Buddha.  The most common response is "does it really matter?"   I guess not, no.  But, in another way, yes!  Of course it matters!

It kind of reminds me of that very un-pc Christian joke of the person who goes into a shop to buy a silver cross and the shop assistant says "did you want a plain one or the one with the little man on?"!  

Another thing which non-Buddhists seem to know about Buddhism is that "Buddhists don't kill spiders".  Now, this one is true but I challenge you to ask any non-Buddhist who says this to explain why!  (And I also challenge you to find a real, live Buddhist who has NEVER killed a spider - um, I have, my bad!)

Buddhists believe in sentience.  This means that we ascribe the same level of 'being' to any living, thinking thing.   Different traditions of Buddhism argue with each other about what constitutes a "sentient" being.  Some Mahayanans believe that any living thing is sentient therefore they would see a tree or a plant as being sentient.  Theravadins (like myself), would tend towards a different interpretation.   We look for the "thinking" or, if you like, "cognition" of the being.  If a dog is angry, he displays that.  If a cat has done something wrong, they look guilty (I mean, mine does anyway!) and that would imply that they have thought processes and some degree of cognition.  An amoeba does not.  Neither does a tree - but, as I say, that's one of those debated subjects.  Anyway, therefore Buddhists believe that you give the same amount of consideration and compassion to ANY sentient being.   You would not kill  a human, so you do not kill a spider.   If you see what I mean.  But, as I said, being terrified of spiders myself, I will admit that on occasion I have dispatched them along to the next stage of their journey!

I'm never really sure why Buddhism seems to lend itself to quite so many of these misconceptions.  Perhaps it  happens with every religion/system of belief, I'm not sure?

There really are many more misconceptions about Buddhism and I may well add to this diary as and when I remember others but, for the moment, I'll stick with the above.  And, if this judgemental and unforgiving diary makes me the world's most unreasonable Buddhist, then so be it!

I think one final thing which always intrigues me, is the idea that Buddhists have no sense of humor and, honestly, people have said this one to me a lot.   Now, admittedly, I have a rather dodgy sense of humor at the best of times and maybe my particular line in Buddhist jokes just aren't particularly amusing but I would really like to dispel this idea.  So, here are a few Buddhist jokes for ya...

Why don't Buddhists vacuum in the corners?
Because they have no attachments.

Why don't Buddhists like blues music?
Because they have no soul.

How many Zen masters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A tree in a golden forest.

And, to end, my favorite one...

Two Buddhist monks are taking a novice monk out for meditation.  They walk a fair way and then come to a stream.  They explain to the novice that they are going to walk across the stream.  The novice protests and says it is too deep and he will fall in.  The monks disagree and tell him that if he is a true Buddhist, and truly wants to commit himself to Buddhism, then his faith alone will carry him across.   The two monks cross first and the novice watches them in amazement as they glide across the stream to the other side.   He thinks to himself "ok, this is alright, I can do this, I'm a committed Buddhist" and he attempts to cross.  On his first step, he falls in up to his neck in water and has to wade back out.    The monks shout across to him and say he'll have to go back to the monastery to change into dry clothes and so off he goes.   Once he's gone, the older of the two monks says to the younger "I feel a bit bad now, we really should have told him where the stones were"...

Have a good day everyone!

Originally posted to Maia Newley on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 02:41 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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