"We are all capable of becoming fundamentalists…"

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IMG_4499, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

Note: cross-posted from my soloblog

Tonite I watched an interview of housewife-turned-Buddhist-nun Pema Chodron with some friends. Chodron spoke about many common Buddhist concepts, with her own unique spin on the issues of pain and suffering and the goal to be ‘fully awake.’

For me, the most provocative quotation from the program was this one:

“We are all capable of becoming fundamentalists because we get addicted to other people’s wrongness.”

She spoke at length about how this addiction, or ‘getting hooked’ as she calls it, sets off a chain reaction of suffering. By removing ourselves from the addictive cycle we can have more peace and compassion.

I love that idea. I am certainly guilty of being addicted to other people’s wrongness just as I am guilty of being addicted to my own rightness. I recognize that this is a very rigid way to live, but it is so human…sigh.

What I really want…to see the divine in each person I meet and not to feel anger and self-righteousness when someone believes differently than I do. So I will keep trying….

Note: the picture above is of some Buddhist carvings on the “Flying Mountain” at the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, China. The day I visited the temple nearly two years ago it was rainy and cold, the ground so slippery underfoot that it was difficult to walk around the temple and monastery. Yet there were still dozens of worshipers lighting huge bundles of incense outside of the temple and saying their prayers. I was impressed by the devotion of the adherents. That day I also felt very homesick for my family back in the states. At the foot of the Buddha I said prayers for their continued safety and felt great comfort.


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com

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5 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I too was very struck by that line in the interview. It actually freaked me out a little, since I certainly have decided that there’s a right way to think about certain things and a wrong way.

    Those things I take a stand on are actually pretty few – I revel in the grayness of most issues. But I still hate to think of myself as a fundamentalist in any sense.

    Perhaps the key word is addicted…?

  2. Caroline says:

    I was also going to say that I really like that part when Pema distinguishes between pain and suffering. Pain is the natural consequence of something bad that happens to you. But suffering, according to Pema, is when you wallow in the pain and keep spinning your wheels on the hurt.

    It made me reflect about the suffering I feel sometimes. Is it unnecessary? And is it always a totally negative thing to suffer? Can suffering spur us to great action? Just some thoughts that crossed my mind as we watched.

  3. Todd Wood says:

    Now, Christians who believe in fundamentals of scripture, have addictions for doing so?

    Well, I think I do probably drink too much Mountain Dew.

  4. jana says:


    Perhaps my post wasn’t clear on this, in which case you might want to listen to the interview. Those who have beliefs in scripture wouldn’t necessarily be fundamentalists (in the way Chodron is defining this term) unless their interpretation of scripture leads them to become obsessed with the wrongness of others. Meaning, that this obsession eclipses other facets of their lives.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    I love this picture, Jana–it makes me feel like I’m in Hangzhou.

    This is a great quote, probably because it makes me uncomfortable. I often find myself fighting that addiction. Thanks for the link!

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