June 20, 2008
Not long ago, at a Vipassana meditation meeting I attended, a practitioner described to the group a conversation he'd had over dinner with a Zen adherent. As he explained, "We decided that to be a good Buddhist is to be a bad American. Because to be a good American is to be a consumer, while to be a good Buddhist is to see through that consumeristic mindset."
The other people at the sitting agreed or disagreed to various degrees. Their conversation brings up many good questions. Is there a conflict between Buddhist and American values? How are each of those defined? Can one be a good American without being a "consumer?" Can one be a consumer and still be a "good" Buddhist? Is this conflict inherent, or might it change in the future? Is there something about being American that conflicts with Buddhism, or might other countries/cultures experience similar conflicts?
Of course, there's no single answer to any of these questions. But please share your thoughts on the subject, if you wish.