Before Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment he was a confused twenty and thirty-something looking to learn how to live a spiritual life. Each time in this column we look at what it might be like if a fictional Siddhartha was on his spiritual journey today. How would he combine Buddhism and dating? How would he handle stress in the workplace? What Would Sid Do is devoted to taking an honest look at what we as meditators face in the modern world.
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As a young Buddhist, I know that engaging in activities that push us over the edge into crazy town, such as getting drunk, one night stands, expensive shopping, drugs and so on, lead to confusion and recklessness. At the same time these activities are fun to do with friends and give us some sort of social relevance. Is there any way to still be a true Buddhist practitioner and be able to "travel to crazy town"? --F.V.
First off, I feel the need to state that Crazytown is one of the greatest things that swept the nation during the '90s, and their "Butterfly" is a favorite karaoke song of mine.
However, you are asking for Buddhist advice, not song recs. The story of the historical Buddha, our friend Siddhartha, is one which begins with him surrounded by all the elements of his generation's version of crazy town. There were dancing girls, alcohol a-flowing and basically anything he wanted he could have at any time.
However, Sid outgrew that level of mindless indulgence. Once he realized the suffering that existed in the world, he struck out on a path to find freedom. Unfortunately, that path led him into a state where he was mistreating his body, starving himself, and going through rigorous ascetic practices.
The point here is that Sid realized that in order to truly wake up to reality as it is, he had to find a middle way in between these extremes of over-indulgence and beating himself up. You too have to find your own middle way where you are applying mindfulness but still engaging your life in a way that you feel good about. No one can find that middle way for you; it's a path of self-discovery.
Thankfully, this sort of message has been the bread and butter for the majority of What Would Sid Do's two and a half year long journey so here are some further references:
- Drinking: Right Drinking
- Sex: A piece on how to have a compassionate one-night stand
- Drugs: A piece on drug use and Buddhism
- Shopping: A post on Shambhala SunSpace entitled "How to Buy Nice Clothes"
Post Script: If you too love Crazytown and/or karaoke may I recommend Harvey Dangerfield's "Flagpole Sitta?" It's my latest fav.
Lodro Rinzler is the author of The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation. Have a question for this column? Click here and send it over!