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Thread: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Warning: cynical post follows...

    So today, having nothing pressing to do (it's a holiday here in France), I browsed the web, looking at dharma sites. This is something I don't do often, but I had an urge to see what's new out there. I've always been leery of the supermarket of spirituality, but today's foray through the ether just confirmed my opinions that there's not much of worth out there; or rather that there's so much, that it's just like trying to choose a breakfast cereal.

    First, I posted here asking if there were any good dharma podcasts. I looked myself on iTunes, and found many, including one called Buddhist Geeks, which featured an interview, in one episode, with our fearless leader. I listened to several (half-) episodes, and was pretty shocked by the vapidity of the questions, and the general tone of "let's discuss the latest thing/trend/idea/book". Then I looked at a couple of blogs, web sites of magazines, etc. What strikes me is how much they all try and get people to consume, whereas the dharma generally cures us of consumption.

    In addition, so much of the content of the websites, magazines, etc, is more "personal growth" than dharma. I know that things like love and anger are important, but some of the content I'm seeing seems to focus on "emotions" and other things that one would find in any self-help magazine or website.

    I'm in the book and magazine business myself (I write) so it's no surprise seeing - especially on the magazine web sites - how much link there is between books-as-events and articles/reviews in these magazines. (To be fair, there are only a couple of magazines.) I realize that being a Buddhist publisher is no different from publishing other books - you need to get something New, something that Sells, then move on to the next New Thing. But it is striking, when you think about it, just how much these publishers resemble other book publishers, and how much these magazines depend on books for content, reviews, and, presumably, advertising.

    To be fair, I buy a lot of books (though not many dharma books any more) and I can relate with people wanting to buy them. But the sheer number of dharma books published these days is quite stunning.

    As for the rest, a glance at the Shambala Sun, for example, shows just how much of a supermarket there is. Articles covering the broadest possible range to attract as many people as possible, dealing with different, sometimes conflicting traditions and ideas, that don't fit together in any way. Attributions such as "X is one of the most prominent women teachers of Buddhism", as if that makes a difference. (I'm sure that the Tricycle site, if it weren't broken, would say the same things.)

    Don't get me wrong, this may be good for some, but I find it overwhelming. It is Mara incarnate, but masquerading as righteousness. My day's journey over, I think I'll just go sit and let all of this pass.

    Kirk

    Do forgive me if this is a bit disjointed; I just wanted to say a few things, and I realize, after writing it, that I might have spent a bit more time making it coherent. But real life calls, and it's dinner time. ;-)

  2. #2

    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Read an excellent article once called 'no dollars a day dharma' encouraging people not to buy into the consumerism of Buddhism by using libraries, internet, etc or even just sitting. Unfortunately I was reading it in a magazine I'd just bought . Ironic eh? :lol:

    Have to say though it really made me think and stop taking in those adds for the new this or that, meditation timer, incense holder, stools, gongs... blah blah blah. Nearly all of my 'research' reading for Buddhism and other things is done from the net or swapping/loaning books with friends. Although we do subscribe to a monthly dharma talk CD from a Monk in the OBC over here (10 a year is not really excessive, is it? :? ).

    Last Buddhist thing I bought was a buckwheat filled zafu of a mate for 8, bargain. I even got a buckwheat pillow thrown in :lol:

  3. #3

    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    sitting is good for killing time

  4. #4

    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    To be fair, I buy a lot of books (though not many dharma books any more) and I can relate with people wanting to buy them. But the sheer number of dharma books published these days is quite stunning.

    As for the rest, a glance at the Shambala Sun, for example, shows just how much of a supermarket there is. Articles covering the broadest possible range to attract as many people as possible, dealing with different, sometimes conflicting traditions and ideas, that don't fit together in any way. Attributions such as "X is one of the most prominent women teachers of Buddhism", as if that makes a difference. (I'm sure that the Tricycle site, if it weren't broken, would say the same things.)

    Recently I re-started buying "Buddhist" mags. What got me was a some of the mags were mostly ads for expensive, IMHO, tchotchkes. :shock: This brought back to me why I had actually stopped buying some of the magazines. But. I understand. Writers have to paid. Publication process has to be paid. A margin of profit has to be made. So. My compromise. I usually just tear off the ads section and keep the good stuff. :P

  5. #5

    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    ... tchotchkes
    A lovely Spanish word ... :wink: The mind boggles on how that's pronounced with a Texas accent.

    Tchotchke (originally from Yiddish ???????? tshatshke [often spelled in a variety of other ways (such as tshotshke, tshatshke, tchatchke, chachke, or chochke) because there is no standardized transliteration] trinket), ultimately from a Slavic word for "toys" (Polish: cacka, Russian: ?????) are trinkets, small toys, knickknacks, baubles, or kitsch.
    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Hey Kirk,

    Actually, I heard horror stories from people that tried to choose youghurt in a supermarket in France. :lol:
    I can totally relate to the problem of too much choice: the local baker has too many delicious looking pastries, it is IMPOSSIBLE to resist once one is there. :lol:

    I grew up without any choice as to what to read: the Communist party censors decided what I should read and make no mistake, religious books or books on spirituaity were not on the list. So having too much to choose from when it comes to books, well, is not a problem for me really. When the choice came in the form of a loaf of bread or a book by Nietzsche (for some time the price was the same) often I chose the latter and drank tea for dinner (while reading Nitzsche :-) , not that I attach any value to choosing one over another. I guess that showed what I was more hungry for. :wink:

    Sometimes I am not able to resist the temptation to buy those books. Sometimes instead of living the dharma I spend time surfing about it. But that is hardly the publishers or the advertisers problem, rather something within me. I think of the publishers as being there to respond to the demand just as bakers do.

    Gassho,

    Irina


    PS Actually, I found TreeLeaf thanks to the interview Buddhist Geeks did with Jundo so yeah, I am glad they exist and appreciate those guys for doing the show that sometimes I wish had more depth to it but one can leave a feedback on every episode at the forum and this is one way to say what one thinks and maybe influence the show.

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    Sometimes I am not able to resist the temptation to buy those books. Sometimes instead of living the dharma I spend time surfing about it. But that is hardly the publishers or the advertisers problem, rather something within me. I think of the publishers as being there to respond to the demand just as bakers do.
    Yes, I agree, and that's part of the problem. For people who should be helping us eschew attachment, they're doing a pretty good job of cultivating it. Whether through books or tchotchkes, they're enticing us. While it's our problem, not theirs, I'd like to see these magazines and web sites practice what they preach. (Though I'm not stupid; I know it won't happen.)

    Kirk

  8. #8

    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Kirk,

    I think I understand what you mean. Yet, those "books and sites" is not a homogenous group, right? There's so much behind, so many people and ideas. And how do we run a really cool quality Buddhist publication without those ads? Would that work in todays world? :roll: By the way, Buddhist Geekls have been taken over by poersonallifemedia.com "due to financial hardshop". :roll:

    I don't think anyone is responsible for helping me handle the attachment. Those people just do what they do: write, publish, advertise. Buddhism meets the market forces of the West and here's the result: lots of literature, podcasts, websites and opportunities for us to have access to all this information and on the other side lots of "tchotchke". We also have a chance to see all this and hopefully to choose wisely. This too is practice.

    Gassho,

    Irina

    PS: I actually heard IMHO two great episodes on the Buddhist Geeks (with the artist Robert Spellman and abbot of the Zen Mountain Monastary Daido Roshi).

  9. #9

    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    ... tchotchkes
    A lovely Spanish word ... :wink: The mind boggles on how that's pronounced with a Texas accent.
    When one has had a Jewish ex-g/f, certain things stick around.... :mrgreen: :wink:

    and we pronounce it "chacharas." :P

  10. #10

    Re: Browsing in the supermarket of the dharma

    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    I don't think anyone is responsible for helping me handle the attachment. Those people just do what they do: write, publish, advertise. Buddhism meets the market forces of the West and here's the result: lots of literature, podcasts, websites and opportunities for us to have access to all this information and on the other side lots of "tchotchke". We also have a chance to see all this and hopefully to choose wisely. This too is practice.
    But shouldn't Buddhist institutions or outlets be more concerned about other matters than whether to be conduits to adds reg a $200 meditation timer or $10 incense blessed by G-d knows which monk in a Californian monastery? I understand that they in are in the publishing bidness, but isn't that really crossing into consumerism? I was born and raised in Mexico so seeing that always reminds me of the Catholic faithful who believe having a 14k gold cross is far better than living a Christian life. I don't know all those tchotchkes they just make.....brrrr. Anywho. I learned to stay away from that side of the mag. :mrgreen:

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