10 Weird Facts About Buddhism
By Noah Cicero
In Western culture we love to hate or point out all the weird things about Christianity, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher have made life-long careers pointing out the contradictions and absurdities of Christianity. But being from the west, we usually don’t pick on Buddhism. Over the years I’ve read a bunch of books on Buddhism and found several weird beliefs they hold. Buddhism goes way beyond just having a ‘zen feeling’ The Dalai Lama looking old and cute, or the fat Buddai statues at Chinese Restaurants.
I want to say, I do not hate Buddhism, I have found reading Buddhist scriptures very helpful, but here are some weird things I found.
1. The fat Buddhist guy at every Chinese Restaurant that people put money on is not the original Buddha (Siddharta Gautama), his name is Buddai. Buddai was a weird zen monk that lived in China in the 900s. He carried a stick with a bag on it and was in general pretty weird. The Chinese Buddhists, not all Buddhists, thought he had reached enlightenment. Buddai is famous for saying, ”What is the meaning of Zen?” Budai drops his bag. “How does one realize Zen?” he continues. Budai then takes up his bag and continues on his way.” I assume that means getting a Linkdin account and filling it full of your great accomplishments and checking @connect on twitter 20 times a day.
2. The Dalai Lama is not the pope of Buddhists, only Tibetans love him. Tibet previous to Chinese Communism had a super weird political system. In the west we argue about democracy vs. dictatorship vs. aristocracy. But in Tibet, the story was completely different. In the 1500s Mongols made a Tibetan monk president, and then instead of having elections or doing a bloodline thing, they decided to find the reincarnated version of the last president. A monk that has magical powers from not eating meat has a mystical dream, then tells the head monks where to look for the reincarnated version of the last president. The current Dalai Lama is the 14th reincarnated version of this president. And that is how Tibet picked all of its religious leaders for the last 500 years. It would be like if we tried to find the reincarnated versions of the original people who wrote the constitution?
3. In the Western world we all know about the Borgia pope or Pope Alexander 6, and how he had mistresses and his two legendary children Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia, he has two TV shows depicting his absurd life. The Dalai Lamas also have one named Tsangyang Gyatso the 6th Dalai Lama. They didn’t find Tsangyang Gyatso until he was 15-years-old because of strange circumstances. Usually they would find a reincarnated person before they were five, and raise them completely in the monastery. Tsangyang Gyatso was promoted to Dalai Lama but never became a monk, he would instead get drunk, sing, write poetry and make love to women in town. This is pretty bad, considering a Buddhist monk is not even allowed to touch a woman.
4. There are two different types of Buddhism, there is Mahayana and Theravada. Theravada are the original teachings of the original Buddha. Buddha gave long speeches to a group of people called the Arhats. The Arhats are the original disciples of Buddha, they had all reached enlightenment and were basically perfect beings. They wrote down what the Buddha said, and put them into books that no westerner can pronounce. Theravada Buddhists commonly live in Southeast Asia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos etc. They believe that people reach enlightenment over many lifetimes, and it takes eons to reach nirvana.
Mahayana Buddhists live in Tibet, China, Korea and Japan, they do not follow the original teachings, they believe that the Buddha went to outer space and spoke to angels called Devas, Buddha taught them a secret teaching. Then the Devas somehow told monks this secret teaching, then the monks wrote it down, I think, it is very confusing to me.
Mahayana Buddhism basically believes that everyone alive possesses the ability to get enlightenment at anytime. That even Miley Cyrus or Glenn Beck can give up their material constraints and reach enlightenment in this lifetime. A Theravada Buddhist would say that Miley Cyrus and Glenn Beck were probably crickets in their last life, and will have many lifetimes to go before reaching enlightenment.
They also believe that once you have reached enlightenment you become a Bodhisattva, and you keep being reincarnated over and over again helping others reach enlightenment. While Theravada believes, you get enlightened, you reach nirvana and boom you are done.
Zen is a limb of Mahayana Buddhism, Zen is a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism that developed in eastern China. Zen in terms of Christianity would be snake handlers. It is miles away from the original message of the Buddha. But I still think zen is pretty cool.
5. Amitabha Buddha: Amitabha Buddhism is the belief that there was once a Buddha named Amitabha, no one knows if this Buddha lived on earth or in a parallel universe. But if you pray to to Amitabha Buddha and repeat the name of Amitabha over and over again, you can go to a place called the Pure Land, which is a parallel universe where you can practice Buddhism in perfect harmony learning from ancient Buddhist masters.
6. Jatakas: There is a large amount of literature on the original Buddha’s previous lives. In the books he appears as a deer, elephant, and monkey. Supposedly the Buddha told his disciples about his past lives, and they wrote them down. They resemble cute little folktales with talking animals and mythical feats, super fun to read.
7. You know how Jesus is supposed to come back and save all of us from our own selfishness and stupidity, or take Republicans to heaven (depending on who you ask). Buddhism has a super hero that will save us all named Maitreya. Maitreya is not the original Buddha, he is another person that currently lives in Tushita Heaven. Tushita is in a parallel universe where the Devas/angels live and study Buddhism. After the Dharma has completely disappeared from the earth, and everyone has totally become Ayn Rand fans, Maitreya will return and teach the Dharma again. Still very confused about this one.
8. Hand clapping Buddhist Koans. Koans are from Zen Buddhism, Koans are short stories about absurd things. Like asking someone to hear one hand clapping, or about a fox that ponders the meaning of free will. You are supposed to read one Koan for an entire year over and over again, and think about nothing but that Koan, until suddenly you have a break, realize that everything is nothing and nothing is everything, and the delusion of reality becomes internalized, or something. And then you have reached enlightenment.
9. To become a monk you must not have any of these ailments: leprosy, goitre, boils, scabs, itch, psoriasis (which excludes me from reaching enlightenment) pulmonary consumption, epilepsy, jaundice, elephantiasis, scrotal hernia, spasmodic cholera, asthma, bloody abscess, rheumatism, swelling of the glands, blood disease, liver disease, hemorrhoids, bone disease, etc etc etc.
10. Sexuality in Buddhism: In general in Buddhism it is better to be born a man, they believe it is easier to reach enlightenment via being male. A woman can reach enlightenment but there can never be a female Buddha. There has never been a female Dalai Lama, and in the Jatakas Buddha was rarely ever a female, even when he was an animal, he was a male.
Concerning homosexuality I could never find mention of it, but in “A History of Zen Buddhism” by Heinrich Dumoulin there is mention of male Zen monks practicing homosexaulity in the Japanese monasteries.
Before the Chinese Communists took over Tibet they practiced Polyandry where one woman would have multiple husbands, usually all brothers.
Buddhists hate porn: almost every country with a Buddhist tradition has made porn illegal, examples include China, South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. If you think bible thumpers are bad with porn, they don’t have anything on a Buddhist.