Are We Post-Buddhist?

Many of us on the mystical path are post- something. Post-Christian perhaps. Post-Materialist maybe. Post-religion. Or at least we’d sort of awkwardly sympathise with those who are.

And that’s just it. In the same way that Europe’s Christian churches have emptied out since the 1960’s, traditions new to Europe’s culture – wisdom traditions from the far East – aren’t sticking either. At least not in my experience. They’re forming and dissipating at a similar rate; I think one could argue that much.

Here in Oxford there are several schools for different dharmic traditions. Tibetans (two kinds), Zen, Ch’an, MBCBT… you name it. And a small flock attend each, coming and going with the seasons; sometimes migrating between groups. Sometimes not.

It’s a transient city, so a lot of the group transience is about that. But some of it isn’t.

In a sense, Buddha himself would be post-Buddhist. Buddha himself is said to have proclaimed, ‘if you meet Buddha on the road, kill him’. To be “Buddhist” or indeed any “ist” or “ian” is to identify with a thought formation which is already not the thing that it points towards. Hence some Buddhists shy away from calling themselves ‘Buddhists’ or religious at all.

It doesn’t matter much of course. The Way is the Way. It is always what It is, and would be so with or without humans around.

I’m just curious about whether it’s possible to take the essence of the dharma and take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in a way that’s true to dharma’s apparently-tough love yet authentically X. Authentically British (if you’re British, which many of you reading this are not, but replace X with anywhere).

People have already of course. Thich Nhat Hanh. Western Buddhist Order.

But it would’t just have to be sensible¬†the culture of X to stick. It would also have to be sensible to the culture of Post-X; the way we share, live, express ourselves now as individuated high-technological citizens of the world who care little for creed, flag, book, state, hierarchy, but a lot for humanity and increasingly our world.

It’s a question that has many a missionary baffled; I should know. I was a Christian missionary for a while. But I don’t come at this as a missionary wanting to promote Buddhism to the world.

I come at this question because I wonder where my people are and what to do to find them.

Thousands of enlightened souls across the world feeling at sea and connecting with one another through brief social media memes, blog posts, webinars and retreats.

Of course the answer is staring me in the face. My people are nowhere because my people are every people. They are even the tall grasses blowing in tonight’s harsh wind. The wind. Tonight. The blowing.




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