The Dalai Lama as a blank slate for inspiration porn

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Tenzin Gyatso 03

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of the Dalai Lama. For starters, he is the leader of a theocracy where leaders have brutally oppressed the population. This reality, and that of him being a leader of a religion that’s just like any other sometimes peeks through the gentle facade. Then there’s his homophobic, sex-negative and sexist attitudes (see a previous post). Though he may have improved, the point is that he still does not deserve his happy-go-lucky image. What pisses me off most is how so many people who should know better (atheists, humanists, feminists) often still fawn over someone who’s not much different to the Pope.

Screenshot from Facebook saying 19 Friends Like Dalai Lama

As if that wasn’t enough though, there’s all the feel-good, The Secret-style inspiration porn. Because you can be all you want to be, shitty state of the world be damned! Here are a few quotes that seem to be genuinely from the 14th Dalai Lama (based on a quick scan of WikiQuote). Excuse the image memeness but the nature of the pictures is as much a part of the bullshit as the words:

When you think everything is someone else's fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realise that everything springs only from oneself, you will learn both peace and joy.

I’m sure my grandfather would have been overwhelmed with both peace AND joy upon finding out that his liver cancer sprang only from himself. I mean really, we should stop blaming other people, because that would mean the world’s not fair. This is of course an insidious part of newage philosophy that here I believe happens to overlap with Buddhist theology quite a bit.

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change

This quote is included to show that people are literally fawning over the Dalai Lama for the radical stance that he’d like facts to inform his worldview. This is the bar that spiritual and religious leaders must somehow clear.

There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.

Think what would happen to your irony meter if you heard the pope say this. It’s true that the world of organised Tibetan Buddhism is a bit less opulent than the Catholic Church; still our irony meters should at the very least melt or compact into a black hole. I also bring to your attention that the Tibetan Buddhist canon contains 3626 texts in 224 volumes in just one of the major section. IMO, the idea of simplicity seems to be the outward face the Dalai Lama presents to the non-Buddhist world.

The very purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticise others. Rather, we must criticise ourselves. How much am I doing about my anger? About my attachment, about my hatred, about my pride, my jealousy? These are the things we must check in daily life.

Sure, it would be nice if that’s how religions behaved generally, but most don’t. In fact, you can make a case that an exclusive focus on your own conduct is a bit too non-judgemental — it’s a very individualistic and toothless approach to changing the world. Either way, if I were a member of any other religion I’d be pretty pissed that the Dalai Lama is presuming to tell me what my religion’s supposed to be about. I might even see it as Buddhist supremacy dressed in the cloak of being non-judgemental.

The next two memes are unverified and could well be fakes. Note the similarity to the more reliable quotes above.

Do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace.

Once again, you have it all wrong, dear victim. If your inner peace has been shattered by violence or oppression, you just weren’t positive enough. You take the responsibility for suffering with a smile — and if you can’t, you’ll just have to cop to the karmic blame.

'There is *nothing I can't live without*. I learned this attitude when I was a child.' The quote is over a large housing project presumably in the US with a laughing African American boy aged about 7 running towards the camera.

This one’s even better. If you’re poor, you should still be happy! Even happier than people who get 3 square meals a day! Because I was happy as a child. Isn’t that boy so happy despite being so deprived? #notracistnotracistnotracist. For more on this, see this old post.

The following two are confirmed as fake, both part of standard email chains. But again, it’s interesting that the Dalai Lama is such a stand-in for generic deepity-filled bullshit folksy wisdom.

The Dalai Lama, when asked about what surprised him most about humanity, answer [sic] 'Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.'

Yeah, man doesn’t know how to live! Why doesn’t he just relax and let the international community fundraise his living expenses? Then he can focus on his health. He wouldn’t have to worry about the future, because he can write books about not worrying about the future.

THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE. We have bigger houses, but smaller families; more conveniences but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness; we've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour, we built more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication. We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. These are times of fast food but slow digestion; tall man but short character; steep profits but shallow relationships. It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.

This one deserves a post of its own, but hopefully at least some of the flaws in that wall-o-turds are apparent.

So there you have it. The Dalai Lama somehow combines the polar opposites of the conservative theocrat and the vacuous newer in one person. He’s Deepak Chopra with better soundbytes. And the fake quotes are not much different than the real quotes. And yet people who should be able to see through the crappola treat it like choice perfume. Here endeth the rant.

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