Report by Little Jim Ladd (our countrywide reporter of the nation’s underbelly)
I recently visited Chipping Sodbury to witness what is a disturbing trend sweeping in to certain factions of English Buddhism. Apparently, in their parlous state of receiving short-shrift from a charity-fatigued nation of secular Christians, the factions are feeling compelled to seek sponsorship.
Some organisations have already procured monies from a national gambling chain and it is this event that critics cite as the reason for their sects now holding alms-bowl wresting competitions.
In this ugly, ritualistic, somewhat self-ironic way, these sects are celebrating their traditions whilst revising their principles. The ensuing spectacle I saw, is, to the outsider, supposed to be entertainment, but, to this humble reporter, it remains a most unedifying sight: two bald-headed, robed, would-be acetic philosophers struggling to wrest a bling-adorned alms bowl from one another in amongst kinetic advertising constitutes just a very sad event.
Han “the mind” Sunksolow won the competition I was obliged to witness. However, his prize was an ‘All You Can Eat’ voucher, redeemable at a national fast-food outlet of the sponsor’s choice.
There was one moment of blissful controversy when an elder ‘competitor’ threw up his alms and cried, “we’ve lost our identity and dignity, and all for spread-betting.” This wise elder was promptly and ceremoniously escorted out of the Stalker-Crisp Temple and permanently exiled.
I caught up with the exile and spoke to him about his views but cannot reveal his name for fear of reprisal: his name for the purposes of the interview is Monk.
I asked Monk what he felt was wrong with the way things are going for his religion.
“Well, Jim, without faith in the goodness of people, we are nothing but empty material vessels. Sponsorship, especially to gambling corporations is giving up on what we believe in. Taking on advertising and commerce we are condemning ourselves to the lowest realm of renewal, and this in an already flawed realm of humanity. We’ll certainly never achieve Nirvana with this cavalier attitude to our Karmic responsibilities. We’ll never free ourselves from the eternal reincarnation into the various states of being that we have no control over, so it is imperative we get it right in the human realm, so we don’t have to come back. This is not getting it right and when we do come back as stone or insects or soulless politicos, we’ll only have ourselves to blame for not having faith in the Buddhist teachings.”
At that he wished me every hope for the future and said he will meditate on the idea that we should never meet again in this realm. I wished him the same good karma.
I tried to get an interview with current members of the sect but they all declined, saying that they couldn’t fit me in as they had too many meetings to attend with their sponsors and new alms dealers. I asked about the future but they would only say that the odds weren’t good.