By Gerald “Strib” Stribling
A guy told me the other day that the book I recently published, Buddhism for Dudes: A Jarhead’s Field Guide to Mindfulness, stood in contrast to many other books about Buddhism “that are written for skinny white wimps like me.”
My feelings were hurt. The only thing keeping me from being a skinny white wimp is that I’m a fat guy. And actually, I’m not entirely white. My wife thinks that I’m a goon and nothing can hurt my feelings.
When you think about it, Buddhism could be seen as only an excuse to change your modus operandi, maybe a way to meet cute hippie chicks. Come on, admit it. It’s cool to be a Buddhist. It means that you have opted into a plane of thought that makes the rest of the world seem uncivilized. And it is. If everybody knew a little Dharma, the world would be a more peaceful place.
I think what my critic meant is that much of contemporary Buddhist literature is intellectual in nature and too dense for people to read. And that my book is neither.
I am relieved to know that even the Buddhist scholars who have read my little book say that I don’t “dumb down” anything. Rather, by using direct language and analogies directed toward sub-egghead males, I have helped more people than ever understand what Buddhism really means.
Buddhism isn’t an excuse to hide from the world, or a reason not to engage in society.
A cautious man has fears. A wimp fears unnecessarily. An engaged Buddhist with a solid practice shouldn’t be afraid of anything. A person with mental fortitude developed through meditation can choose how he feels, and fear is an emotion that a strong person can choose not to feel.
Most emotions are crippling, when you think about it, but fear is especially so. Fear is what keeps people from acting on the empathy they feel toward others. Fear isn’t mindless. The freedom from fear is mindless. It is not an act of mindfulness to run into a burning building to save someone.
The hero’s mantra is always, “I didn’t think. I just did it.”
The everyday heroism every Buddhist faces is taking responsibility to do the right thing, since Buddhist wisdom takes away the ambiguity of knowing what the right thing to do is. Buddhism is not a religion; Buddhism is a code of ethics. You show strength of mind every time you don’t steal a co-worker’s apple juice from the break room fridge.
Courage isn’t the absence of fear, courage is the emotional wherewithal to deal with fear. Sure, there are people around who don’t have to deal with fear because they don’t feel it. Or if they do, they mistake it for a pleasant adrenaline rush.
There are Buddhists like that. The ranks of our military personnel and veterans and police force are peppered with men and women who study Dharma and meditate—not a lot of them, but enough of them to extinguish the notion that Buddhist philosophy and the duty to protect and serve others are not mutually exclusive. The measure of altruism it takes to join the Peace Corps is also a measure of a volunteer’s courage. Some of the aforementioned Buddhist intelligentsia would argue the point.
But we all know what wimps they can be.
Editor: Dana Gornall
He wrote Buddhism for Dudes as a not-so-subtle, basic examination of the essence of Buddhist philosophy. It’s short and funny and to the point. “Way too much Buddhist information is too complicated to wade through, and some of it is fairyland voodoo, full of metaphysical improbabilities. Buddhism isn’t a religion, it’s a way to live a happy life. This is not hard stuff to understand.”
Stribling writes a blog called Buddhism for Tough Guys. “There are lots of tough guy Buddhists out there willing to take a bullet for anybody. One of their mottoes is ‘Just because I am a person who loves peace doesn’t mean that I have forgotten how to be violent’.” He once broke up an assault with a little kitchen broom. “It’s my best story,” he says.