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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

Fuck the Dalai Lama

Updated: Apr 8

(...For more reasons than just the video where he asked a boy to suck his tongue.)


The damages of isolationist religion.


I’m focusing on Buddhism because if you asked ten people on the street which of the world’s religions is least offensive, nine would say Buddhism. In fact, it seems positively benign when compared to the scandals plaguing the others. 


Despite Buddhism’s nonviolence, it has one thing in common with the rest of our religions: encouraging isolationism as a solution to withstand the world’s pressure.


What good is a moral leader if they only achieve their morality by sequestering themselves from society? What possible benefit can the world glean when people isolate themselves in antiseptic homogenous communities? If you can’t be a good person when surrounded by normal imperfect people, you aren’t a good person at all. 


What good is a moral leader if they only achieve their morality by sequestering themselves from society?

I used to find the idea of isolation so tempting, mainly because it is tempting. I wanted nothing more than to escape into the mountains and restrict my daily to-do list to meditating, contemplating, and eating. How easy moral perfection would be in those surroundings! How attainable. 


I bet we all could be morally perfect in a vacuum, but achieving theoretical moral perfection isn’t why we’re here. We’re here to improve ourselves even as we’re stuck wading through the muck. This is the astounding beauty of the world! As normal people, we are constantly improving and becoming more morally aware, even in the face of the world’s ever-increasing complexity. 


I bet we all could be morally perfect in a vacuum.

All of our religions advocate this type of isolationism, so let’s take a look at a selection. 


We're all familiar with Christianity's monks and nuns, as well as the thousands of children suffering the aftermath of their abuse. Without sparing a shred of sympathy for the institution, I am morbidly fascinated by how completely Christianity perfected psychological torture when developing its rules for monks and nuns. 


They deny themselves both physical urges and companionship. This combination denies the most basic building blocks of what it means to be human, and they’re doing it to themselves, so there’s no healing to be found. 


We are intensely social creatures, social enough for prolonged isolation to cause psychosis; solitary confinement is widely recognized as torture. We have bodies for a reason! Think of the wonders and joy, the intimacy and wisdom, our bodies inspire. With physical and social connections removed, you’ve run out of ingredients for a human soul.  


With physical and social connections removed, you’ve run out of ingredients for a human soul. 

Moving on to Judaism. The state of Israel currently supports a huge and growing chunk of its population in a perpetual state of welfare because they devote themselves entirely to studying the Torah. Known as the Haredim, the fastest-growing segment of the Israeli population pays no taxes, is exempt from military service, and is entirely supported by the state. 


Supporters of the practice believe these people are the reason Israel is so successful; they secure God’s blessings, enabling Israel’s prosperity.



I’ll let go of the giant question of how anyone could think Israel is blessed by God, given everything it does and experiences. Instead, I’ll focus on the assumption being taken for granted by supporters. 


Why in the world would God want so many people to spend their entire lives doing nothing but studying the Torah? It’s preposterous. The whole point of God giving us life is for us to live, learn, and eventually surpass the wisdom contained in the Torah through our human morality. To learn enough, we have to make mistakes and try new things! If we spend so much time learning this book and taking it at face value, we’ll never get anywhere. 


Why in the world would God want so many people to spend their entire lives doing nothing but studying the Torah?

Religion is meant to be a tool to help create a moral life and society. For it to accomplish its goal, the vast majority of people need to spend most of their time doing things other than religion. This is the perpetual difference between theory and application; we only need a handful of theorists in the world, but we need a whole lot of do-ers (says the part-time theorist 🙃.) 


Now to circle back to Buddhism. Devotees of Buddhism (monks and lamas) share the same issues as Christian monks or Jewish Haredim. Except Buddhism is fascinating in that it advocates light isolationism as its primary solution. Life is suffering, they say - detachment is the answer. 


NO!!! The answer lies in creating a version of life without arbitrary suffering!


NO!!! The answer lies in creating a version of life without arbitrary suffering! 

Personal suffering is different because sometimes suffering can lead to growth. Personal suffering is not as much our primary problem as is the needless suffering baked into the DNA of our political structures. Bureaucracy, for example, or the overwhelming fear of being unable to afford food. This type of suffering is more mechanical cruelty than a catalyst for growth. 


We have the ability to change it; the possibilities for a new world exist. But each time someone detaches themselves from this world to achieve personal satisfaction or morality, they move us further away from achieving a new world. 


Each time someone detaches themselves from this world to achieve personal satisfaction or morality, they move us further away from achieving a new world.

We need all hands on deck immersed in this struggle, which means we don’t get to escape to the mountains and live off the land. We don’t get to look away. It doesn’t mean we should allow ourselves to be overcome with anger, but neither should we distance ourselves from it. 


Let’s find the middle ground, where we immerse ourselves in this life with the strength to still find joy. Speaking of joy, you can’t have joy if you’re detached. You can be satisfied, but you’ll never dunk yourself in the beauty of life’s currents. 


People will object and say Buddhism can be helpful in limited quantities, because many people need to find a way to reduce being overwhelmed by life’s stresses and suffering. Yes - it is useful, but it’ll only ever get us halfway. It’ll staunch the bleeding, but can’t deliver a fully embodied and immersed life.


The experience of life should be tangible, tactile. There’s a reason we have the saying, “Grab life by the balls”! A life well lived feels like you’re grabbing it, squeezing your fingers around it, and pulling it closer.


A life well lived feels like you’re grabbing it, squeezing your fingers around it, and pulling it closer.

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