The Agony of Being
Connected to Everything
in the Universe [what?]

by Andrew Boyd [who?]
jan '02 • w.w.norton

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DATE: April 11, 2002
RE: "Killing the Buddha"

The church has recently found itself at the center of controversy over our weekly ritual of Killing the Buddha:

  • Founding church documents have been subpoenaed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Religious Icons.
  • The watchdog group, whatdidthebuddhadotoyouanyhow.com, has begun a hate mail campaign.
  • In the national media we have been charged with everything from iconoclasm to unnecessary roughness.

In light of these accusations, the church has decided to issue a formal statement addressing our critics and their charges.

While the ritual smashing of a cheap porcelain figurine into tiny little bits with the wrong end of a broom may seem wrong-headed, even deviant, it should be noted that the Killing of the Buddha has a long and respected tradition in Buddhist literature and practice.

There is an age-old Zen story in which, a monk, after years on his cushion, has what he believes is a breakthrough: an experience of nirvana, the Buddhamind, the big pay-off. Reporting the experience to his master, however, he is informed that what he has experienced is par for the course, nothing special, maybe even damaging to his pursuit. And then he is given dismaying advice: If you meet the Buddha, he is told, kill him. [source]

This Zen parable reminds us that enlightenment, when it arrives or fails to arrive, is not always what one expects or what one has been wishing for. This notion has informed Zen practice for centuries. By Killing the Buddha we re-dedicate ourselves to this uncertain and open-ended quest.

The church also disputes the charge that the degree of symbolic violence is excessive. Given that the underlying meanings that the act is meant to evoke include oblivion and ego-annihilation, not to mention the eventual heat-death of the entire Universe, we believe that our symbolic choices are quite measured and prudent.

[cc: killingthebuddha.com]