It Happened to Me

I don’t want to kill the Buddha, just this one Buddhist

If you meet the Buddha, the saying goes, kill him.

(Want an explanation of this saying? Check out the sidebar at

Big City Buddhism — the new-agey North American variant of Tibetan Buddhism — is the equivalent of Born-Again Christianity in the deep south, which in turn is like that low-rise jeans/thong underwear combo: fashionable, but stupid. Big City Buddhists are slightly more annoying because it’s currently the hip religion. Even Chinese hipsters are getting into it, which I suppose is sort of like the “wigger” phenomenon in North American suburbs.

My own philosophy for religions and ethical systems is pretty much the same as my philosophy for time-management systems, exercise regimes, diets and standards for computer programming:

  • Pick the one that’s right for you.
  • Stick to it like glue.

(Come to think of it, that’s an approach that could be considered Buddhist.)

Last night, while doing a little “cafe coding” at Tequila Bookworm — yes, the cafe where Worst Date Ever started and where I met the New Girl — some guy struck up a conversation with me because he noticed that I was reading a copy of Tricycle, a magazine that calls itself “The Buddhist Review”. It’s a good read; I especially like the interviews with people of all faiths where they talk about how their belief systems intersect with Buddhism (it reinforces my belief that our commonalities as human beings far outshine our differences).

We got into a conversation and at some point, I referred to Buddhism as a religion. I forget that this tends to annoy pedants and newbies and especially the pedantic newbies.

“Buddhism is not really a religion per se, it’s just that our limited Western understanding paints it as such,” he said, with a rehearsed cadence-free delivery of a half-awake Catholic reciting the Apostle’s Creed on autopilot at too-early-considering-the-night-before Sunday Mass.

“Except for the bit where it has gods, monks, spirituality, reincarnation, a Golden Rule, codes of conduct, and some kind of cosmic scorekeeping system.” i replied. “You’re like some bald guy saying ‘It’s not a toupee, it’s a hair replacement system‘.”

If your brain is loaded with blanks, I always say, do not shoot your mouth off.

“You just say that because you don’t understand the Asian mindset,” he retorted. He was a pasty caucasian, whose skin I could’ve used for testing the white balance on my digital camera. I, other the other hand…well, I think this photo will explain my incredulity at his remark.

I stared at him long and hard for a moment, seeing if the penny would drop.

“You’re Asian?” he asked weakly. “I thought you were Hawaiian.”

I’ve been getting mistaken for that lately.

“Oh…it’s just that…”

Oh shit, here it comes, I thought.

He then said those four stupid words. Those four words that drive me bonkers. You probably have guessed what they are already:

“…you speak good English.”

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH. I hate that line more than anything. It’s crypto-racist binary bullshit, with only two possible pigeonholes for my existence: either I’m some bucktoothed fresh-off-the-boat coolie or I’m an Asian Uncle Tom, a banana — yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Even close friends of mine have pulled this crap on me. It’s a game I’m not allowed to win, and for that reason, I refuse to play.

Once we got that little issue straightened out, I left him with the URL for a recent article by Patrick French, in which he throws a little metaphorical cream pie at the Dalai Lama’s face. After all, it was my turn to annoy him.

(The article originally appeared in the New York Times, just in case you thought it was merely the obscure writings of a crank with a website and a grudge.)

I really should stop hanging out at Tequila Bookworm. The place is a moonbat magnet.

7 replies on “I don’t want to kill the Buddha, just this one Buddhist”

Hey Joey,

Is Tequila Bookworm giving you any compensation for all the advertising you do for them? A Google search for “Tequila Bookworm” lists you three times in the first 10 hits. Seems like they owe you something by now. Come to think of it, if all your regular readers started coming in and saying “Joey sent me”, the waitress from “Worst Date Ever” would probably snap and you’d have your bar back.

We are ready to put our evil to work for the common good.

Leaving aside the latter half, which shows endless depths of stupidity, I think you’re a little hard on the guy. Followers of nonwestern worldviews of all stripes are often find themselves categorized according to the Christian view of what ‘religion’ means, which usually involves something about One Way, One Truth, and One Light, priced to sell every Sunday. Such categorization has been known to cause kneejerk defensiveness. (I can go on about this at length, but I’ll stop there.)

As I mentioned at the beginning of the entry, I consider Big City Buddhists and Born-Again Christians to be two sides of the same annoying coin.

Up until he said “You don’t understand the Asian mindset”, I was just gently tweaking him. The meaning of the word “religion”, being a theoretical contruct rather than something you can point to, can be debated ad nauseam between any two people with different enough perspectives and life experiences. I’m not knocking his understanding of Buddhism; I’m knocking his pedantry. He seemed more interested in scoring debating points over semantics rather than trying to communicate.

I bear no ill will towards the guy, and our little chat ended quite nicely, with “see you rounds” and a handshake. It’s just that the blog entry ended before the conversation did.

The Waitress hasn’t worked there in quite some time. I’ll tell the story of what happened to everybody from Worst Date Ever next week.

As they said in “A Fish Called Wanda”:

The central message of Buddhism is not “every man for himself”!

Being one of those pasty types (though I did officially get entered as a Buddist in the Navy because you had to have a religion listed in your personnel file) I was called an “egg” in the train station in Guangzhou by a woman from Singapore. White on the outside, yellow on the inside.

As someone else said over dinner in Hong Kong, “it doesn’t matter if you can speak or read Cantonese in Hong Kong, if you can use chop sticks, everything will work out.”

I’m glad I’m not the only Filipino who people say looks Hawaiian, but I at least have the fortunate coincidence of actually being born in Hawaii (to a Filipina and a guy from Jersey). But, since I’m only half, racial terms like bananna don’t affect me as much.

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