in Japan for 17 years, and in my initial years became quite deeply involved
in Zen Buddhism. It was only some time later, after coming to live in
Australia, that I became a Christian.
book I described certain experiences in Buddhism that had left me
disillusioned, and I wrote:
I had been taught that
Buddhism regarded human existence in general as meaningless. But I still
regarded individual human beings as precious, and was startled at what
seemed to me a lack of love in the religion.
Roth has done
something very dangerous: he has missed the point and then preached on it. I
don't know who taught him that "Buddhism regarded human existence in general
as meaningless," but this is not only inaccurate but wrong. If only it were
merely inaccurate. The Buddha taught that all life is precious, and that
human life is especially so. Countless lifetimes of karma must ripen for us
to attain this human existence; our existence is so meaningful that we must
practice immediately and with all the intensity of our beings to attain the
and liberate countless beings vast as space. Nothing meaningless there.
I say? Clearly I was wrong in what I wrote, and I shouldnít have expressed
it like that. I think I was trying to make a point about Buddhist teachings
on life and suffering. But that certainly wasnít the way it came out.
excuse, but I will say that I had little interest in doctrine during my
fairly brief (but intense) experience with Zen Buddhism. It was the
spiritual buzz that attracted me, which probably explains why I soon drifted
was the 1970s, and I was practicing Zen in Japan with a lot of other
Westerners who were Ė like me, at that time Ė deeply cynical about life. I
think many of us probably believed that it was Zen Buddhist doctrine that
life was meaningless, even if our teachers never actually said so.
also note that Iíve received various comments from Western Buddhists, over
several years, about what I wrote, but none has ever raised these points
late to change whatís in the book. Fortunately (!?), it sold very poorly.
And I can add this commentary to the end of the online version.
see that Andi is a graduate of Yale.
Iíll take some wry pleasure from my pipe dream that perhaps Iíve just been fisked by the Andi Young at Yale who was a ďself-labeled
sex activistĒ and who appeared in ďthe
first pornographic movie in the schoolís 300-year historyĒ.
November 10th, 2003