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Lions Roar : March 2006
E--< E--< o ÇQ ÇQ ::r: E--< ...... >-< ÇQ l? Z ...... p::: Q Killing the Buddha "Kill the Buddha:' says the old koan. "Kill Buddhism:' says SAM HARRIS, author of The End ofPaith, who argues that Buddhism's philosophy, insight, and practices would benefit more people if they were not presented as a religion. THE NINTH-CENTURY Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." Like much of Zen teaching, this seems too cute by half, but it makes a valuable point: to turn the Buddha into a religious fetish is to miss the essence of what he taught. In considering what Bud- dhism can offer the world in the twenty- first century, I propose that we take Lin Chi's admonishment rather seriously. As stu- dents of the Buddha, we should dispense with Buddhism. This is not to say that Buddhism has nothing to offer the world. One could surely argue that the Buddhist tradition, taken as a whole, represents the richest source of contemplative wisdom that any civilization has produced. In a world that has long been terrorized by fratricidal sky-god religions, the ascen- dance of Buddhism would surely be a welcome development. But this will not happen. There is no reason whatsoever to think that Buddhism can successfully compete with the relentless evangelizing of Christianity and Islam. Nor should it try to. The wisdom of the Buddha is currently trapped within the reli- gion of Buddhism. Even in the West, where scientists and Buddhist contemplatives now collaborate in studying the effects of medita- tion on the brain, Buddhism remains an utterly parochial concern. While it may be true enough to say (as many Buddhist practitioners SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2006 73