June 28, 2010


What is Dudeism?

According to dudeism.com, a website dedicated to deploying the wisdom of The Dude (Jeff Bridges) from the comedy The Big Lebowski, Dudeism is a religion with the following creed:

The idea is this: Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy, man. Stop worrying so much whether you’ll make it into the finals. Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others – that is to say, abide.

In short, Dudeism is not Buddhism.

However, dudeism.com does list the Buddha as one of the “Great Dudes in History”—along with Snoopy, Gandhi, and Jerry Garcia—citing the fact that “he bailed on his birthright and taught that you should go with the flow.”

Also, if you Google “Buddhism and The Big Lebowski” a ton of stuff comes up comparing The Dude to various Zen masters or the Buddha himself. 

One of the more substantial essays on this topic can be found here at mythicthinking.org. The author writes:

Understanding the distinction between true Buddhism and Western, modified Buddhism is essential for understanding the Dude. Alan Watts describes a phenomenon called Beat Zen as the Buddhism of Western counterculture that is designed to allow people to take it easy and to justify lazy behavior (Watts, Beat 24). In other words, Beat Zen is used as a justification to screw around. Watts’ criticism of this lies in the fact that it alters the doctrinal message of Buddhism enough that it barely resembles traditional Buddhism.

Though I wouldn’t agree with the distinction he makes between “true” Buddhism and “Western, modified” Buddhism, I still think his point is valid. While there is something of The Dude’s patience and humor to be found in Buddhism, it would be a stretch to call him enlightened.

As for Bridges himself, who people always like to assume is the same person as his character in The Big Lebowski, be sure to check out his Tricycle interview with Katy Butler in the upcoming August issue of the magazine. When Butler asks whether he considers himself a Buddhist, Bridges offers what sounds like a deeply Dudeist reply: “A Buddhistly bent guy sounds kind of right.” Right on, man. However, to have this be the only thing you take away from the interview, and to ignore his personal dedication and reflection, is to sell both Bridges and Buddhism short.

If you're into this sort of silliness, also check out the entertaining Dudespaper—A Lifestyle Magazine for the Deeply Casual.

To watch the Tricycle Web Exclusive Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman: A Conversation, click here.

Image: Dude-vinci, from dudeism.com

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Coyote@Acme's picture

RevGM - et al - Namaste :-)

gwen's picture

Ya see what happens Larry

Ya see what happens Larry

The Dudely Lama's picture

ha ha. lovers' spat. that's a good way to put it. thanks revgms. that's the way the whole durn human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself. down through the ages, across the sands of time...

RevGMS's picture

Naw man, I love this.

I think this whole episode is fantastic, c'mon an open debate between Dudeism and Buddhism in western media, this is something we all hope for. It beats the other types of religious disharmony out there. i have been lurking in the background, hoping for the day Tricycle and the Dudespaper begin their friendship, I see many good things that will come from such a friendship.
It is good to talk and debate, but at the end of the day I am reminded of my Lao Tzu, the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao. I call myself a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Dudeist and a human, but I know those labels are not me, I am the formless nature of the universe that they seek to describe.
Yup, this little lovers spat makes me incredibly happy.

Jackncoke's picture

brilliant discussion!

The dude, (and dudeism ofc) will be viewed by many different people who will all take it in their own way, so regardless of what religious street it officially goes down, each road has its own individual and meaningful destination that we can use to help enlighten ourselves. Ultimately tho, its all about kicking back and enjoying the days we have down here on earth, which is something that everyone should try to abide by.

c.c.keiser's picture

You guys are going to Love my next addition to The Little Lebowski fan fiction story on the Dudeist forum.

I call it The Duddha.

Sure hope you Buddhist dudes can take a joke!

The Dudely Lama's picture

@Val - Despite having founded the religion, I'm far from a perfect Dudeist. I aspire to move towards greater dudeliness. I'm not the Dude - I'm just one of his biggest fans. Some might say the same about St. Paul and Jesus. Perhaps I'm like the Harry Dean Stanton version which appeared in the Last Temptation of Christ. Anyway, I'm trying.

However what you wrote underscores the fact that there are several mistakes people often make about the Dude:

1) He was a burnout - The Dude may have been a bit spacey at times, and he may have misquoted Cicero and forgotten that his door opened outwards, but he's a brilliant lateral thinker. He's also well-read (note Being and Nothingness in his book collection) and highly perceptive. In short, the Dude is a variety of intellectual, not the pompous variety. Personally, I hope I don't come across as too pompous. I try to be humorous, self-deprecating and arch as much as possible. But yes, sometimes I'm a bit Walter. Sorry about that.

2) The Dude was dude all the time - in fact the dude loses his cool often throughout the movie. What makes him inspirational is not that he's unperturbable (he isn't), but that he quickly returns to his center after flying off the handle. This is the principal objective of vipassana meditation, isn't it? Even the best meditators get distracted, but what separates the beginner from the adept is the speed with which he/she returns to the state of samahdi.

Rev. Ed C's picture

Well Christ was certainly not a Christian, he was a Jew. Buddha was a Buddhist, by way of the fact that he saught enlightmentment and became a Buddha, hence why he got his name. I mean, sure, he didn't follow the same rules and what-not that people do today, but he wrote the book based on his own discovery, so to speak. In the same way The Dude IS a Dudeist, because he follows the way of the Dude, just like Buddha is a Buddhist by default. And, despite the fact that JC was a Jew, Christians are Jews that follow the ways of Christ, so you can also consider him to be a Christ-abiding Jew, like all Christians technically are(ish).

The issue is a bit hazy, but the end result is still that you can draw parallels between Dudeism and Buddhism, and even more with Taoism, it's neither. It's not an offshoot or a form of any other religion, but it does nod to and lend from both and more as well as a lot of original thinking that has a mostly eastern-bent. We often say Dudeism is a form of Taoism, but we never say it IS Taoism, or you might as well call it Taoism, or Dude Tao, or somesuch.

Parallels, yes. Full associantion, no.

We are who we are, dudes :)

val's picture

dudeism may not be buddhism, but it sounds exactly like beat zen ;) but dudely you intellectualize far more than the dude would. you sound more like walter. maybe in the same way that buddha was not a buddhist, the dude is not a dudeist?

The Dudely Lama's picture

uhh. brain is worse off than i realized. scratch reply 28. it was early in thailand and i hadn't yet had my street coffee strained through a sock.

The Dudely Lama's picture

oops, "I thought it was clear that the author wasn’t taking us seriously, and operated from the premise that Dudeism is a poor simalcrum of Buddhism, one which misses the point of what Buddhism is." I mean misses the point of what Dudeism is. Damn brain.

The Dudely Lama's picture

a bit goofy, i mean. damn fingers!

The Dudely Lama's picture

@Erik: that's just, like, your opinion, man. I thought it was clear that the author wasn't taking us seriously, and operated from the premise that Dudeism is a poor simalcrum of Buddhism, one which misses the point of what Buddhism is. Why else compare us with Alan Watts' pejorative take on "beat Zen"?.

I could have blown it off, but that wouldn't have been as fun as to poke at Buddhism's own weaknesses and tendencies towards silliness. Snowfinch's response may be true, but it doesn't mirror the way people actually behave in the real world when espousing Buddhism.

Of course, I certainly can't fault Sam for his initial take on Dudeism. We intentionally come off a big goofy at first innerduction.

Perhaps my response was a bit "caustic" as you say, but calling people out is not undude. Perhaps you should watch the movie again. The Dude calls people out all the time, but he does so with no malice and is very quick to forgive. I'm fond of Sam and we're pals now.

Many people find attractive in Dudeism the fact that we're full of love and friendship but we enjoy a heated exchange now and then - provided the exchangers can hug at the end and say "f**k it, dude, let's go bowling."

It's hard to maintain an edifice of sainthood all the time. It can also be boring and intellectually (not to mention comedically) stultifying. Dudeism can be crunchy on the outside but has a rich saintly center.

Owen's picture

Off topic but...

When I saw a clip of Mr. Bridges speaking after receiving an academy award recently, I was struck by his genuineness and big generosity of spirit. A palpable reaching out to humans from a very human being, who appears to know about the tender heart of sadness, and expresses connection between like minded beings. A kind of blessing ~ sharing his happy moment with others in a most meaningful way. For me, he bridged [ ;-) ] the gap between real ordinary life, and my illusions of fame.

I feel a lot of appreciation for him, have faith in his heart, and support his charitable endeavours. may they be successful.

snowfinch's picture

"Usually people put emphasis on some particular position or on some particular understanding of Buddhism, and they they think, "This is Buddhism!" But we cannot compare our way with the practices people normally understand. Our teaching cannot be compared to other teachings of Buddhism. This is why we should have a teacher who does not attach to any particular understanding of Buddhism. The original teaching of Buddhism includes all the various schools. As Buddhists, our traditional effort should be like Buddha's: we should not attach to any particular school or doctrine. But usually, if we have no teacher, and if we take pride in our own understanding, we will lose the original characteristic of Buddha's teaching, which includes all the various teachings.
"Because Buddha was the founder of the teaching, people usually tentatively called his teaching "Buddhism", but actually Buddhism is not some particular teaching. Buddhism is just Truth, which includes various truths in it. We are not Zen Buddhists; we are just Buddhists. If we understand this point, we are truly Buddhists.
"Buddha's teaching is everywhere. Today it is raining. This is Buddha's teaching."
(From 'Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind' by Shunryu Suzuki)

c.c.keiser's picture

Dear Alan: I am not a Buddhist.
Never claimed to be. Quite the contrary. I have gone out of my way to state I am not a Buddhist.
IMHO the biggest problem with any organized religion is that it is organized.
Once we start organizing we create a hierarchy and begin to exclude.
I am very thankful to be excluded!

Please...do no harm.


Eric's picture

@the Dudely Lama,
I find your your defensive and caustic (original) reaction to be very UN-DUDELIKE. I didn't read the article as saying anything negative about Dudeism or to be accusing the Dude of being 'less than' for not being a Buddhist. I took it as (I think) it was intended - a fun, irreverent look at the question 'does dudeism=buddhism?
btw @others: I find some of you too to be very UN-BUDDHISTLIKE -
when others treat me badly,
with abuse, slander, and the like,
I will practice taking all loss,
and offer the victory to them.

The Dudely Lama's picture

not that there's anything implicitly undude about being rich and famous, of course.

The Dudely Lama's picture

I couldn't agree more. He may be rich and famous but by many accounts, he's very Dude-at-heart.

Ariel's picture

Just as an aside, I reckon Jeff Bridges has a great heart.

The Dudely Lama's picture

@alan - Oh, i see, you didn't mean "friends" was an element of Buddhism. You were just being friendly. Sort of.

Anyway, "friends" is an important part of Dudeism. I'm not sure where Buddhism stands on that. Some might say that the Mahayana revere it as a concept and the Theravada don't, but I'm not so sure.

The Dudely Lama's picture

@alan - Can you clarify your position? Are you saying that Dudeism is pathetic nonsense? Or that this article is pathetic nonsense? Either way I think you're wide of the mark and not contributing anything to the conversation other than fumes.

I get the feeling that you're calling Dudeism pathetic nonsense. If that's true, then you haven't done your homework. Appropriate attention, friends and heedfulness is what Dudeism's all about. Sloppy thinking? Limber thinking, maybe. But not sloppy. And "lazy" doesn't necessarily mean indolent or self-indulgent, at least not the way we understand it. Laziness in Dudeism is just a simplified way of referring to Wu Wei.

Also, what cckeiser meant was that the IMPORTANT part of every religion is "do no harm." He's perfectly entitled to that opinion. It's one he shares with Aldous Huxley, by the way.

And for the last time, Dudeism is not Buddhism. It might share some aspects of the Buddha's teachings, but it is not meant to be congruent.

Then again, some might say that the Buddha's teachings aren't even congruent with Buddhism.

To paraphrase Walter Sobchak: Who's the sloppy thinker here?

Rev Pachucojuan's picture

At least it's an ethos...

Dudeism is not Buddhism, it never claimed to be. With all due respect, I would not have joined it if it was. Who knows, perhaps I'm biased? As a photojournalist that covered the bloody end of a civil war in Sri Lanka, I came away with a much different view of Buddhism than what is espoused here.

alan's picture

Actually, that is not true. If your idea of Buddhism is that casual you're doing yourself a disservice.
Appropriate attention, friends. Heedfulness. They are rightly pointed out as essential.
Sloppy thinking and lazy lifestyles are in no way compatible with the Buddha's teachings.

c.c.keiser's picture

What Dudeism and Buddhism have in common is the very same thing all religions and social philosophies have at their very core; Do No Harm.

Everything else is just dogma.

The Dudely Lama's picture

No harm intended, man. I didn't mean for my rebuttal to sound as if I was taking umbrage especially. Just wanted to set the record straight. Dudeism revels in the silly but is indeed a serious and heartfelt worldview. Just wanted to make sure people knew that. Thanks for giving us a shout out.

Looking forward to seeing you article on JB. We'll no doubt promote it at the Dudespaper.

Catch you further on down the trail.

James Shaheen's picture

Dear Sam & Dudely Lama,

Is this really happening?

And DL: Sam's not the editor so this isn't his fault. I take full responsibility and will abide with this for a while.


Sam Mowe's picture

Dudely Lama!

Please do forgive me for not taking Dudeism very seriously (although, isn't that kind of the idea?), but I assure you that I meant "silly" only as a compliment. I dig your style, man, and that's why I put it on our blog. We’re featuring Jeff Bridges in the next issue of Tricycle so I thought it would be fun to highlight Dudeism as it appears to be inspired by Bridge’s Dude character in The Big Lebowski. Thanks for the history lesson and best of luck abiding.


Relax, man's picture

"....designed to allow people to take it easy and to justify lazy behavior"

He says that like it's a bad thing.

The Dudely Lama's picture

@Michael. Obviously you're not a golfer. Were you listening to the Dudely Lama's rebuttal? Dudeism is NOT Buddhism. Was never intended to be. Dudeism is Dudeism. So that's what you call it.

Michael's picture

There's taking Buddhism too seriously, then there's not taking it seriously enough....methinks this article lands smack dab in the middle, right where things should. Thanks for this!

Les Sirius's picture

@alan (and myself of course),

Chill dude ;-)
Slip into your bathrobe man.

Rev. Sensei Jim Evans's picture

Zen Buddhism is much more Taoism than evan most American Zen people care to admit. In his scholarly book " The Tao of Zen" Ray Grigg describes the historic connection/development of Zen more as a product of Chinese Taoism than even Buddhism itself. Alan Watts mentioned this on numerous occasions in his teachings. Dudeism looks to be a direct eclectic branch of the current American
Zen tradition as it releases the totally ("Totally Dude!") unnecessary trappings of Japanese culture.

alan's picture

That is just totally pathetic nonsense.
What a sad state of affairs, if this represents the best thought western Buddhists can muster.

Walter Sobchak's picture

You're out of your element, sammy!

Rev. Ed C's picture

What I've always said about the parallel between Dudeism and Buddhism is kind of in the name, if you think about it.

A Buddha is an enlightened one, via the Sanskrit. Siddharta Guatama, aka THE Buddha is actually one out countless enlightened souls that have graced this earth, but he is the most famous. The symbolism of the Laughing Buddha, for instance, has nothing to do with 'The Buddha', who was an Indian prince, but is more to do with the Chinese strain of Buddhism.

Ergo, although Buddhism can be taken as the teachings of Buddha, I've never taken it as so, as you can't really be taught the enlightenment that Siddharta found by himself, although many disagree. I see the name Buddhism to be that you are striving to become a Buddha yourself, which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism, over as many lifetimes as it takes.

So, what does Buddhism have to do with Dudeism? Buddhist strive to reach the ultimate state of enlightenment in the universe and set themselves free from the cycle of suffering, that is, to become Buddhas. We Dudeists seek to break ourselves out of the cycle of stress and misery here on earth in this life, that is, to become Dudes.

That's the prime parallel, as I see it. But hey, that's just like, y'know, my opinion, man :)

Sebastien's picture

Thank you Sam, and Dudely Lama, for a remarkably gentle follow up. Now to wash my dishes and do my laundry.

The Dudely Lama's picture

Howdy, I'm the founder of Dudeism.

Perhaps you've been too distracted by the Dudeism/Buddhism pun? Funny, but no Jews have accused us of imperfectly aping Judaism, which also sounds a lot like "Dudeism."

You're correct - Dudeism is not Buddhism. Although, I'd venture to say that despite what you guys tend to write about at Tricycle, Buddhism is not Buddhism. I live in Thailand most of the year, and have studied a lot of Buddhism and done several temple retreats here. Ich bin no expert, but I think I'm more well-versed than the average bear.

This is why I find nothing more hilarious than a Western Buddhist being smug and supercilious in defending their particular brand of Buddhism. Seems to be a rather common occurrence. When Thai Buddhists do that, it's for political reasons. When Westerners do, it's for egotistical ones. Ergo, irony.

You've got the wrong religion, man. Dudeism is a descendant not of Buddhism, but of Taoism, and by proxy, Zen Buddhism to some degree. As you know, Zen Buddhism was heavily influenced by Taoism. Some say that it's actually more Taoism than Buddhism. I guess it depends if you're taking your cues from Basho or Thich Naht Hanh or D.T. Suzuki or what-have-you. Or, perhaps, new agey advertisers with deep pockets and ideas that stray far from the Dhammapada (and some might say) into lunacy. Do you accuse them of being unBuddhistic too?

I'd venture so far as to say that almost all Westerners (including Watts) follow Zen Buddhism, or otherwise, a form of Buddhism so well-purged of its Vedic influences that it is unrecognizable from Buddhism as it's practiced by adherents in Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Laos. I'd also venture to say that most of them adhere to the watered down version of "Beat Zen" that Watts poked fun of. And that probably includes the majority of Tricycle's readers. No harm intended - being an orthodox adherent to a 2500 year old tradition is hard work. Sounds exhausting. That's why we're not Buddhists. Then again, as is the case with Jesus (not The Jesus), Buddha wasn't a Buddhist either. We like to think he was more of a Dudeist. But that's just, like, our opinion, man.

(Look - now I'm being smug about what Buddhism is. Oh well. Forgive me if I contradict myself, Walt Whitman-style.)

On the other hand, Taoism (the original, uncompromised first draft), is easy to follow and has maintained its purity of thought (at least the original lineage has - see Holmes Welch's "The Parting of the Way").

Of course, Taoism was designed to be immune to bickering. That's because it wasn't meant to make pronouncements about metaphysics or rebirth or provide a strict moral code with 256 precepts and the systematic denigration of women (as in Buddhism). Taoism was and is merely a fundamental principle which is difficult to describe and can only be alluded to (Zen capitalized heavily on this Taoist idea). In short, it's a semi-written poem which aims to capture the poetry of life so that it can be lived harmoniously by those who try to understand its verses implicitly.

All Dudeism aims to do is to show that this Taoist tradition has existed in one form or another in all civilizations, usually in the shadow of more bombastic, superstitious and insincerely humble traditions like Christianity, Islam, and even Buddhism. We call this tradition Dudeism because it reached its current apotheosis in the character of The Dude in The Big Lebowski.

There have been Dudeist Buddhists, of course and despite what you imply, I believe Alan Watts probably fell into that camp, however imperfectly. Did you find unBuddhistic in Alan Watts his infidelity and severe alcoholism? His tendency to blather incomprehensibly on camera and take himself too seriously? Does that preclude him from the hallowed peak of Mount Meru?

If so, that's cool. We'll take him.

Anyone interested in learning more about Dudeism should visit the above links. It may be silly, but not in the way that the author implies. There's a lot of lighthearted but sincere content and inspiration there. If you can get over the fact that our icon (mascot?) is a fictional character, you'll dig our style. Then again, the Buddha and other religious prime movers have become highly fictionalized too and you don't see anyone crying "over the line!" in regards to that.