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Hipster Buddhist: Revisiting the Refuge Vow

by Patrick Groneman
(follow Patrick on Twitter)

In contemplating taking the Bodhisattva Vow at IDP in a week and a half, I took the time to look back to a blog post I wrote in 2010, just after taking the Refuge Vow.  

For those who are unfamiliar with the refuge vow, it is a vow and ceremony where one formally declares to the community his or her intention to "take refuge" in the guidance of (but not blind obedience to) the teacher, teachings and community of practitioners, as an aid to awakening.   

The Bodhisattva Vow takes this a step further.  In it, one vows to attain awakening not just for personal liberation, but for the sake of all sentient beings, and some versions even state that one will remain in the realm of suffering and confusion, teaching and helping those who suffer until all other beings have reached liberation.   Acharya Eric Spiegel gives a nice intro to both vows in this talk on the IDP Podcast.

Re-reading my post from 2010 was great way for me to see just how much has changed in my approach to practicing Buddhism and Meditation since taking the refuge vow.  Taking it was quite the opposite of what I thought it might be going into it.

The post no longer exists on IDP's old beliefnet site (some posts remain, some are mysteriously unpublished.)  So I've pasted it below. 

I hope this can be a support and helps some folks with their own contemplation of their paths of what it means to both be and not be "Buddhist".


Hipsters are like...so 2000's, I'm totally a Buddhist now

by Patrick Groneman

"I'm terrified of being figured out.  I don't want any person, corporation or euphemism to have control over my identity.  I experience unending input from the most awesomely sublime multi-media sensory experiences, made by focus groups who determine what I should be like and who know how to hook me.  A long time ago I wanted go-gurt and G.I. Joes, now I want hiking boots and to live on a farm."

These echoes are the roots of my hipsterdom.  A young adult search for authenticity and truth, not able to share my innermost self, for fear of it being co-opted.  Though I knew I was a hipster, I shared the non-identification tendency of the clan..."I'm not a hipster, but all my friends are."
The funny part of being a hipster in search of the truth is that I spent a lot of energy rejecting experience in the world.  The cocoon was a safer place for my creativity, there, no one would take it from me...and it just might turn into a butterfly at some point in a distant future, but it was better safe, originally "Mine" with a capital "M".

Breathe in.
Let it go.
for a walk.

Eventually my innermost self was being co-opted without my direct involvement...

All of my friends and acquaintances from art school were getting jobs and spreading our incubated research of style with the world.   The line between what I thought I was creating and what I was
seeing all around me ceased to exist, which necessitated a different approach.   Maybe I could see my influences now stretching back to a dinosaur?  Or a lake on fire near a bush?   Somewhere in the past I was born of a million brothers and sisters and we danced while we slept and danced while the sun was beating on our backs, only to get lost again
in our cocoons.

One day someone will write a history of this time and see how predictable it all was.   "Well of course they started meditating, Barack Obama was their president, and the shores were receding...they couldn't fake it forever."   Now the doors are opening and other doors are disappearing altogether...dissolving into vector drawings of the night sky.   Such a calculated beauty.

I told myself and my friends and the accomplished Buddhist master that I would take refuge in the Buddha.  I would forsake my originality and risk turning into a label.  The risk it seems, after only a week, has paid off a hundred fold.  Not in blissful states or energetic bodies, but in the self-liquidation of the label itself --- "BUDDHIST" became a smile on my face, a pulse in my skin.  

I might read magazines that offer me buckwheat zafus and bamboo screens...and eat tons of Tibetan food, but that fear of becoming that which I was being sold, of having my identity absorbed by Deceptacons, is transforming into feeling a connection with a distant friend who wants me to share in their love dance.

A tired hand will strike a stone obliquely.  
Let me take the chisel and work a while.

Dagme Lungta

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