October 27: The Buddha Is No Help At All

It's doctrinally correct if the bottle's recycled, right?

It is true that America in general, and Los Angeles in particular, is accused of vulgarizing the delicate tenets of Buddhism;

And it is true that when the hearer is ready, the Word is understood;

So I stand doubly condemned for not getting today's reading from the Buddhist writings:
“The question is not rightly put,” said The Blessed One. “O priest, to say: ‘What is karma? and what is it has karma?’ and to say: ‘Karma is one thing, but it is another thing which has karma,’ is to say the same thing in different ways. If, O priest, the dogma obtain that the soul and the body are identical, then there is no religious life; or if, O priest, the dogma obtain that the soul is one thing and the body another, then also there is no religious life. Both these extremes, O priest, have been avoided by The Tathagata, and it is a middle doctrine he teaches: ‘On ignorance depends karma.’
Maybe it's because when I hear "the question is not rightly put," I think of lawyers, and I didn't think Buddhism was that lawyer-friendly (one hardly hears of lawyer/Buddhists, but I'm sure there must be some). But I just don't get it at all.

Here, let's try another passage, maybe it'll seem less like something you're supposed to know on a test:
To give them here in full, however, meritorious karma consists of the eight meritorious thoughts which belong to the realm of sensual pleasure and show themselves in alms-giving, keeping the precepts, etc., and of the five meritorious thoughts which belong to the realm of form and show themselves in ecstatic meditation,—making thirteen thoughts; demeritorious karma consists of the twelve demeritorious thoughts which show themselves in the taking of life, etc.; and karma leading to immovability consists of the four meritorious thoughts which belong to the realm of formlessness and show themselves in ecstatic meditation. Accordingly these three karmas consist of twenty-nine thoughts.
Twenty-nine thoughts? What is this, a Cosmo cover line? See, we Westerners think religious precepts should only be dispensed in groups of ten.

Buddhism is too hard. But at least if I get good at it, I'll be doing better, right?
“O priests, the ignorant, uninstructed man performs meritorious karma, demeritorious karma, and karma leading to immovability. But whenever, O priests, he abandons his ignorance and acquires wisdom, he through the fading out of ignorance and the coming into being of wisdom does not even perform meritorious karma.”
Now that's just plain bad marketing. You won't catch Rick Warren making mistakes like that.

UPDATE: Typo fixed. ("tenents" for "tenets." Perhaps I should have chosen "tenants" because religious beliefs often prove a temporary shelter, not permanent housing.)