–J.X. Mason’s Blog Post of 7-5-22
— J.X. Mason is the author of www.ContinuingCreation.org
The Buddha never saw that one day, science and technology would be able to solve much of the suffering he saw all around him. Instead, he put forward Buddhism — a program of mental and emotional detachment from suffering.
In contrast to the pessimism (“suffering is everywhere!”) of original Buddhism, American philosophers in the 1850’s such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau, gave us a more positive and practical form of philosophy or spirituality called Transcendentalism. (For more about this, see our Essay, Forerunners to Our Path and Practice.) These writers advocated meditation not as a way to escape living by merging into an abstraction called “Nirvana,” but rather as a way to rest and reset the mind; a way to renew one’s spirit to live more happily and creatively in the real world. A wonderful example of their positive attitude are the opening lines of Whitman’s famous poem, Song of the Open Road, from Whitman’s 1965 volume, Leaves of Grass:
“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)”
Could we say that Whitman was a man who had reached his own personal Nirvana, and was now stepping back into the world as a Bodhisattva, a teacher of others on The Open Road? I think a modern-day Buddhist could say that, but original Buddhism had little playfulness; it carried no “delicious burdens.” It was a program of strict discipline and meditation aimed at withdrawal from the pain of suffering.
Like Buddhism, American Transcendentalism does not assume a God, but while Buddhism is pessimistic about life, Transcendentalism is optimistic about it. Today’s Unitarian Universalism draws a great deal from American Transcendentalism. And so does The Practice of Continuing Creation.
— J.X. Mason. “Look For Me on the Web!“