May 30, 2007

Zen and the Art of Celebrity Prison Stays

Sometimes the Dharma has a habit of popping up in the last place you’d expect. A perfect example is the bags Paris Hilton is packing for her upcoming 45-day prison stay on a drunk-driving charge. Along with the Bible, infamous heiress and socialite Hilton was photographed holding a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now,” which, while not explicitly Buddhist, essentially reframes Buddhist teaching on suffering in terminology even a Hilton could understand. Tolle’s book will teach the famous blonde that her suffering arises from attachment to her own mind and her concept of ego, and that freedom from needless pain arises from mindfulness and from being fully present in the moment—a concept familiar to most Buddhists as the Four Noble Truths. After a police officer pulled her over on February 27 driving 70 MPH in a 35 MPH zone with her headlights off at night—on a suspended license earned from a previous no-contest plea to another DWI charge—a judge sentenced her to 45 days of imprisonment for violation of her probation.

While no one can be sure whether Paris will take Tolle’s message to heart, or whether it will be helpful for her as she serves roughly half of her sentence (the original 45 days were cut to 23 after Hilton did the justice system the courtesy of showing up for her court appearances, exhibiting “good behavior”) in a “special-needs housing unit” at Lynwood, California’s Century Regional Detention Center, one thing is for sure: as the Tathagathagarbha Sutra tells us, the Buddha mind is alive within everyone, even the most seemingly superficial of people. Since the Guardian beat us to it, I will refrain from making a crack about Paris already being halfway along the path of “no-mind.”

-Evan Sholle, Editorial Assistant

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