Those Wacky JuBus

dalai lama and richard gereHere’s an interesting profile from the LA Times on the JuBus, those folks born Jewish who find comfort in the practice of Zen Buddhism.

I live in the land of the JuBus (for the next month, anyway) and have come to know this peculiar breed of Jews intimately. Even my Jungian Jewish therapist, with his admonitions that much of my mishegoss is self-created, used to be a Buddhist priest. I’m so used to hearing yiddishisms in yoga class that they don’t even sound out of place anymore (“Oy, it’s my turn to shlep all the meditation cushions to Spirit Rock tonight!”)

The popularity of JuBuism is evident in bestselling books like “The Jew In the Lotus” and David M. Bader’s“Zen Judaism” and “Haikus for Jews”, but even more so in the numbers: 30 percent of converts to Buddhists were raised Jewish.

The JuBus are purely an American — and dare I say Californian? — creation, and since so many Jews are raised in secular environments, I can see how the simplicity of Buddhism can be attractive. So many claim that they’re “peace with paradox” of being both, but is this really possible? (I ask this purely out of detached curiousity; I can barely get a handle on one set of beliefs, the last thing I need is another spiritual path. Even though I just love those maroon robes — so fancy!)

The article quotes the Dalai Lama: “If there is a problem and there is nothing you can do about it, there’s no use worrying. If there is something that can be done, there’s no use worrying. And with that understanding can come contentment, even joy.”

Funny, my Zen Jungian therapist with the very Jewish last name says the same thing.

Hand-wringing, insomniac Jewish mother koan: If there is no worrying, the mind will collapse.

3 thoughts on “Those Wacky JuBus

  1. I can make no claims for Buddhism, but many zen concepts are compatible with Judaism. Serenity and not trying to force a change in the environment are two concepts that come to mind.

    I leave it up to those who actually understand Buddhism to determine if there is “worship of” or “service to” the various statues involved.

  2. I take your Jewish mother koan and raise you a haiku:

    If there is no self
    Who is it who feels guilty
    when my mother calls

    (© rj roth)

    But seriously, folks, sometimes the way so much white-washed American Judaism is dished out just doesn’t do it. For a lot of people it’s based on bagels and Yiddish, or made up new-agey DIY Judaism (yeah I’m in California too — can you tell?) I go crazy looking for a temple that is Hebrew-speaking, authentic, and yet equalitarian. (Note to self: must check out local big Sephardic temple.)

    As a former specialist in Japanese culture/language I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at a younger time fascinated by the Zen active practice of inner peace as opposed to the American Judaism-as-defined-by-bagels, tired old yiddish jokes and struggle. Not wild about the new-age nigun-infused alternatives either. Personally, and I’m only speakng for myself of course, my years living in Israel was where I felt *real* Judaism and it had nothing to do with practice.

    It’s important also to distinguish practices. Zen is not Sokagakkai. Most Buddhist sects do not act at ALL like Christian missionary groups. What’s ridiculous is not asking why the formula of Temple Beth Big Bucks doesn’t work anymore.

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