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Commentary: Some of My Best Friends Are JuBus

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First off I must note that I am agnostic, athiest, totally irreligious — the 20th century man. The 21st seems to be relegated to wars and hatreds by one or another religious group; especially the Moslem fundamentalists with their insane jihads and the born again Christians with their evangelism and authoritarianism. I must say religion is not of great interest except that I am often incensed by the savage proclamations of the religious right in our own country.

That said, I will report on a fascinating phenomenon that is taking place in Judaism in the West. It is the movement of Jews to a melding of Judaism and Buddhism. Strange bedfellows these.

I assume this is a Western action of over-educated people looking for more meaning, more meditation and a new relationship to the control of one’s own body, mind and destiny (or destinies).

This is not, I gather, orange robed Hare Krishnas chanting in airports, “Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna (American Airlines flight 105 is now departing) Hare Krishna, Krishna (Please put some dollars in the pot) Hare Krishna…”

These are people seriously looking for something new and satisfying for their spiritual needs.

The blogger, Terry Mattingly wrote at On Religion

“It was a logical question for the Dalai Lama to ask his Jewish visitors, yet it caught them completely off guard.
Poet Rodger Kamenetz has pondered his question for a decade: “Can you tell me the secret of Jewish spiritual survival in exile?”
“Notice that the Dalai Lama asked about spiritual survival, not cultural survival,” said Kamenetz, author of “The Jew in the Lotus,” a classic travelogue of uncharted terrain between two spiritual traditions. “What he was really asking was, ‘How do you survive spiritually until you can return to your homeland?’ “

He ends his post that postulates that so many Americans are seeking so much with the need for so little work that,

“It may take 300 years for a true Buddhism to come to America,” said Kamenetz. “In the meantime, you’re going to continue to see all of these hybrid forms. People are taking pieces of this faith and combining it with pieces of that faith…
“This is all so, so American.”

Fifty years ago some Jews began to find Buddhism. Allen Ginsberg was one and wrote the lines, “Born in this world/ you got to suffer/ everything changes/ you got no soul.” Later on there were enough Jews embracing the Eastern religion to consider the “Oy Vey School of Meditation”. Now, it would appear, JuBus are the largest group of converts in the West.

This was from The Spectator some months ago.

There is an interesting site (if you are interested) about a Colorado retreat for yoga and Buddhism with a catering to JuBus at Shambhala Mountain. Unfortunately, after 25 years of living in Woodstock, New York where there were two Buddhist monasteries; it merely reminds me of bored New Yorkers and Yuppy fads. I once shot an ordination of a Japanese monk and tried to be very serious and respectful. He looked at me and said, after the ceremonyy, “Ah so, Nikon camera. Very good.” An astute leader who didn’t seem ready to lead me to the next level of existence.

The Daily Camera from the Shambhala Center says,

“Jews are six to eight times more likely to become Buddhists
It seems an unlikely mix: a lotus and a l’chayim, a prayer wheel and a prayer shawl. But many people with Jewish backgrounds find the distinct traditions and practices of Judaism and Buddhism are complementary.
Many of these JuBus, or BuJus, as people who are born Jewish and practice Buddhism are sometimes called, say that while their Jewish heritage is rich, it lacks deep spiritual meaning— and they find that other part of themselves in teachings and practices from the East.”

The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix pans the whole idea at Jewish Buddhism when it says, “Make up your minds.”

My first notice of this phenomenon other than the New Yorkers I paid little attention to in Woodstock came from my Hasidic cousin who lives in Jerusalem and sent me an article on the new JuBu movement. He and I never agree on religion but I respect his deep feelings and his intelligence. This may have been a last ditch effort to bring me back into the fold — any part of it no matter how far from the mainstream or from his orthodoxy. Sadly, there is not hope for me. I decided at an early age that religion was a bore and only oneself, the earth, flowers and the arts meant anything. Now that I have died once after a heart attack and discovered how fine it was where I was; the fear of death exists no longer. Organized religions lost me long ago.

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