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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Of Robots and Altars.

We've been in the process of moving over this past month into our first house and the packing has dislodged all our "possessions" from their "right" place and thrown them into a mixed soup of items. As I was dutifully sorting and wrapping up our materialistic karma into the appropriate boxes, I noticed that during the churning maelstrom of the process that my toy, "Robot B-9" from the 1960s, American, science-fiction, t.v. program, titled, "Lost in Space" had found its way to the altar. Anyway, at first glance my conditioned mind saw this clunky, garish, pop-culture refugee, toy as a blight on my otherwise serene, elegant and meticulously designed, altar.

Yet as I questioned this initial reaction from my mind I began to see the cheap, plastic, robot in a different light. I questioned myself, "Why do you see the Buddha differently than the robot?" In a flash my newly focused mind replied, "me." By their nature, the Buddha statue and robot are inanimate objects made unique by their artists yet still of the same nature or essence. It was my mind that was labeling one as "beneficial" and the other as "clutter."

So, just to shake up my habitual mind I've decided to replace the Buddha statue on the altar with the robot for a few days as a kind of koan to contemplate. Religious paraphernalia can be a powerful reminder of what it means to follow the Dharma. However, it can quickly turn to spiritual materialism where we start to think that the items have some sort of power that improves our spirituality; and that without them we're somehow less of a practitioner. Surely the first time I go to bow to Buddha before meditating and instead see that goofy robot I will laugh out loud at my silly mind. Perhaps in a different world in a different part of this universe Buddha takes the form of a robot!! If you find that idea sacrilegious then perhaps you have some of your own spiritual materialism to shed?

---End of Transmission---

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7 comments:

jay said...

I've been casually reading this blog for a while - but i've never read something that strikes me as so fundamentally beautiful before this one

thanks

Sabio Lantz said...

Fantastic ! Love that ! Totally agree. (haven't tried it yet though...)

charmaine said...

Hi James.

i am new here..I love your writing. Very inspiring.

Charmaine

kevin said...

Between picking up an interest in Buddhism and actually beginning serious practice I accumulated quite a bit of religious paraphernalia and these thoughts are very familiar to me as well.

I sometimes find devotional practices fall into the same spiritual materialism category, though. When I see my little statue I alternate between laughing at the ridiculousness of it and shame for placing such emotion on an inanimate object.

thanks for the post.

Shantivadin said...

Brilliant post James! It made me smile and (more importantly) it made me think. Loved it!

They call him James Ure said...

@Jay...Thank-you for your readership and for sharing your thoughts. You are very kind and I'm glad to have brought some beauty to your day. I'm glad you find the blog beneficial. I hope to hear more from you in the future. Bowing...

@Sabio...Thank-you so much!! It just came to me to give it a try, and I think it will be a great tool. I just kept thinking of all the great past Zen teachers who speak of shaking up one's practice from time to time.

@Charmaine...I appreciate your comments and that you enjoy my writings. I try my best to write interesting stuff that others can connect with--it sounds like I did that with this post. I welcome you to the blog and hope to see you again on here. Bowing...

@Kevin...Yeah, objects in the end (even Buddhist objects) are just another attachment. I have found laughter to be a great tool to see the absurdity of clinging.

@Shantivadin...Always glad to stir thought, and if I can help you smile at the same time then even better. I like making people smile. I see smiles as little moments of satori.

mtananda said...

Some robots DO make very good Buddhas... or really good monks or warrior monks at least. Just watch the movies "Bicentennial Man" or "I Robot" and you'll see my meaning :)

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