Tuesday, October 12, 2010

...But I Was Gonna Say That!

I'm not being lazy, just giving everyone a chance to read this! Really! If you came here from HoustonBelief.com, stick around and check out the archives.  Otherwise, thanks for reading and check out the other contributors for Bayou Buddhists 

Rather than continue with Part 2 of what I started last week, (I'll get to that next week, honest!)  I'd like to address an interesting phenomena I've observed around the internet in regards to blogs about Buddhism, especially those personal blogs by practitioners.

Last week's post was a little embarrassing for me since, as I noted at the bottom, I read almost the same content in Brad Warner's Sex, Sin, and Zen just days after writing it.  This has happened to me a couple of times. I'll write something, browse through the blogs I follow and hey, I just wrote that, too!  (ahem, DukkhaGirl) Or I'll have an idea in mind, procrastinate by reading some other blogs and see my idea right in front of me.  I know it's not just me though, as I've seen others complain about the same thing happening to them.

So what's the deal?  Has our practice tapped us into some mystical universal mind that feeds us ideas?  Somehow, I really doubt it.

A lot of you may have heard the idea of living a Buddhist life as being a path.  That it's about the journey and not the destination.  Well, I haven't seen anything contrary to that so I, personally, am going to assume it's true.

We've all embarked on a personal journey for the truth, the ultimate nature of reality, nirvana, our original selves, whatever. (like I said it's about the journey, not the destination)  We've all picked a direction and started walking. 

Even our teachers and their teachings are considered no more than fingers pointing us in the right direction.  No one can walk the walk for us, we have to do it for ourselves.

While we've all chosen our own path, no matter what we call it, if it's the Buddha's Way or the Dharma that's pointing us, the destination is the same.

Yes, our journeys are unique, but quite often the terrain is similar.  Our teachers are way ahead of us and their experience provides them with somewhat of a road map to help us when we get stuck.  It can be surprising how accurate this road map can be sometimes.

It reminds me of rock climbing.  Our teachers have not only their own experiences to reflect upon, but all the help they've given others and all the help they've recieved as a guide.  Just as each spiritual journey is unique, each person has to approach the wall differently because their bodies are different, limb length varies as does flexibility and strength.  We climb up behind them and sometimes we get stuck.  Sure we could find a good spot to grab onto on our own, the first person to climb up had to, but having a guide tell us what to do next makes it quicker and more enjoyable.  They can't climb for us, but they can help.
So what does this have to do with borderline plagiarism? Well it's just a coincidence.  We're each just walking along, making observations.  Sometimes when we look up, we notice someone else is right there along side us dealing with the same issues or we see signs they've been here already.

They may be dealing with or have dealt with the same issues, but their unique path has given them a different perspective on things.  If we're open to it, we can see this as an opportunity to explore our situation a little better rather than get upset about how common our "original" ideas now seem.

We all bring our own experiences to the table.  Although we write about the same things, the way it's expressed not only tells us about the subject matter but it also tells us a little about who's writing it.  In a sense the author and the expression are no different from each other.  We put ourselves down in writing so that those that follow may benefit.

This doesn't just apply to a spiritual journey, though.  It can apply to anything.  An engineer might not approach a problem from the same perspective as a politician, but if they're both open to each other's views, they can combine their efforts to solve a problem.

All of this reminds me of one of the four Bodhisatva Vows.  I know we're not supposed to have favorites, but this one happens to be mine: "Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them."

This refers to the fact that truth can be found in any situation. We vow to learn from every experience and not dismiss anything as invalid.  My first experience with this concept is the idea that no book is so terrible we can't learn something from it.  (which has to do with censorship and book burning, but that's a whole other can of worms)  No matter how long we live and how much we see, there will still always be something to learn.

So the next time you read, or hear, or just plain experience something with which you either agree or disagree, ask yourself what you can learn from it.  Not just about the subject matter or the author, but what does it tell you about yourself?


  1. Kevin,

    Nicely said. People come up with similar ideas independent of each other all the time and write about them. I wouldn't say it's close to plagiarism unless you're stealing someone's words or someone's totally unique idea. Writing about similar experiences on the path is not -- and it's bound to happen when you have a bunch of people writing about their journey on a particular path. Each one of us has our own words and our own unique voice, even when we are writing about the same topics.

  2. The "plagiarism" remark was a sarcastic exaggeration. There hasn't really been any "new" ideas in Buddhism for a very, very long time. Just different takes on the same theme.

    I usually start writing a comment about someone's post and realize if I keep going it's going to get too long so I might as well just write my own and link back to the original. (which seems to be what a lot of people do)

    Thanks for the comment.