If You Meet the Buddha on the Road

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. -Andre Gide

The San Francisco Bay area has a lot of teachers. A wide variety of traditions spawn these transmitters of wisdom - buddhist, hindu, new age, tantric, christian, jewish, islamic, gaian, feminist, eco, gecko, whacko and other. With several invitations to local events this past week, I have once again encountered a cross-section of these teachers. Invariably I am struck by the same observation when I attend such a gathering, a reflection I first had over twenty years ago which seems to be as accurate today as it was then.

Nearly every lama, priest, rinpoche, tulku, mahatama, guru, maharishi, mawlawi, mullah, rebbe, goddess and just plain teacher I have encountered over lo these many years has devotees. I have no problem with the teachers, my issue is with the followers. OK, so maybe I have some issue with some of the teachers, but they can teach, push, hawk, sell or prostelytize any position, scripture, devotion, gospel or worldview they like. As someone once said: "It's nearly a free country."

No my gripe, complaint, distain is not with the guru but with the devotee. The slavish devotion, which in many eastern traditions is referred to as Bhakti -- that I have a problem with. I simply have a full body revulsion listening to any presentation where when the speaker enters the room, half of the audience falls on the floor in worship. What brilliance has this person offered up that prompts someone to extremes of adulation?

"He's a man, he's just a man and I've had so many men before in very many ways. He's just one more." lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar.

The title of this post is incomplete, the full title of the book by Sheldon Kopp is: If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!

True teachers, in my view, tend to admonish their listeners away from disciple-hood; they advocate a free and questioning approach to their teachings, not a prostrate worship of someone who is just another seeker with some insight to share. But clearly there is some wide spread need to bow and scrape to a slightly more enlightening being than oneself, which is why I suppose I stop to pet every cat that crosses the path of my journey.