26 December 2010

In Defense of the Fasting Buddha

I get the point of the Middle Way, though I deeply wish another expression had been found that didn't lead us immediately to geometry class or Goldilocks.  It's no one's fault, particularly.  Get this.  I was about to say something like "There are times when half-measures won't work" until I realized that there, too, was another mathematical analogy cropping up!  It really is hard avoiding the ruler, the compass and the calculator when the Middle Way is being discussed.

Here's my problem:  there are some things that I realize I cannot do at all without getting totally caught up in them.  That's the nature of addictive tendencies.  It doesn't matter what the addiction is, either.  It's just the nature of the beast that what is for someone else a "take it now, leave it later" proposition is for the addict a "take it now and take it again and again and again" kind of thing.  The addict has to drop it entirely if there's to be any hope of sanity.  In this case, the extreme position is the only tenable one, and my guess is that no one, not even the most vociferous preacher of the Middle Way, will disagree.

A member recently donated a lot of Buddhist figures to the center, and among those figures were a few "Fasting Buddha" figures.  They're stored away now, and there's some head scratching about what to do with them besides store them.  As one of the teachers here said, "The figure represents the wrong path."

If it were up to me, I think I'd set one out, replete with altar cloth and offerings.  Why?  There's something comforting in the serene face and knowing smile of the skin-and-bones Buddha-to-be.  It's good to be reminded that the categorical denial of certain things in my life needn't be a cause for a dour look and a grumpy attitude.  It may be precisely the path I need to be on toward my own Buddhahood.  I might feel like shit at times, and I might feel so poured out that I might as well be skin-and-bones, but somewhere deep down there is also the certainty that in this way my suffering will find an end.  How could that possibly be the wrong path?

No comments:

Post a Comment