Consensus Buddhism, Mindful Mayo and Soy Latte

I did a little digging into the buddhist blog world over the weekend and found some interesting stuff. Seems to me the level of discourse and buddha-self-reflection is on the increase in the cyberwhirl. So I added some links to my blog roll on the right sidebar.

Amongst it all, the Buddhist Geeks interview with David Chapman about Consensus Buddhism stood out. Chapman sees the contemporary dharma scene in the US as having come to consensus about the following principles as essential across tradition:

1) inclusivity 2) individualism 3) egalitarianism 4) niceness and 5) mindfulness.

Good stuff, right? Well, each becomes problematic when generalized to the point of excluding other points of view. I agree with Chapman across the board. One of the freshest Buddhist critiques since Wilber’s Boomeritus harangue.

I’ll just touch a couple of the five elements here to give you a taste. Chapman compares Consensus Buddhism’s mindfulness to mayonaisse:

I was shopping at a holistic supermarket a few weeks ago and I saw this product they have called mindful mayonnaise. And you know the word mindfulness has been smeared out so far that it could mean anything. It’s just anything you like. You say, “Oh yes, that’s mindful.” If you don’t like, you’d say, “You’re not being mindful there.” Mayonnaise is a good metaphor for this approach to Buddhism. It’s sort of homogenous bland and beige.

Okay, you might say, but what’s wrong with “niceness.” Chapman says,

Consensus Buddhism has got an excessive emphasis on emotional safety. It’s very non-confrontational, unconditionally supportive, peaceful and this is certainly appropriate for children of a certain age and maybe for people who have somehow been severely emotionally hurt. But I find it sort of repulsive and ridiculous as an approach for grown ups.

That’s one of his more strongly made points.

Most interesting for me is the power his idea has to explain the sparsity of young people and multi-ethnics in the American dharma scene.

Consensus Buddhism was a creative solution to the problems of mostly white, middle class, well-educated hippies who came of age in the 60’s, you see. Consensus Buddhism was formulated and maintained by that cohort for that cohort. Chapman thinks the psychic-dike they created (maintained largely by group think) now has some holes in it. Thank Buddha.

As one of the just-a-little-bit younger people at various teacher meetings over the years, I’ve seen the generational nature of Consensus Buddhism and long looked forward to its demise. One aspect that I’d add to his list is emotional catharsis – don’t leave a meeting without one, seems to be the doctrine.

Consensus Buddhism is like going to a coffee shop and finding only soy latte on a menu guarded by greying, group-thinking dharma police.  Time to try the shop down the street.

In a post-modern, global era, we need many Buddhisms. Let the ten thousand flowers bloom.

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