A Buddhist take on an American ritual - Macleans.ca

A Buddhist take on an American ritual

Tiger Woods changes the script


The “public grovel” is as American as apple pie, but it normally operates with the Christian language that derives from its evangelical roots—the revival and the altar call. You confess you are a sinner. You repent of your sins. You turn to Christ to make yourself new. From President Grover Cleveland, who likely fathered a child out of wedlock, to Ted Haggard, who resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals after allegations that he had sex with a male prostitute, U.S. politicians and preachers have bowed and scraped in Christian idioms. Jimmy Carter spoke of “adultery in my heart.” Jimmy Swaggart spoke of “my sin” and “my Savior.” In January Brit Hume, channeling his inner evangelist on Fox News Sunday, urged Woods to “turn to the Christian faith.” “He’s said to be a Buddhist,” Hume said. “I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.” Woods in effect told Hume Friday thanks but no thanks. Part of Woods’ carefully prepared statement followed the time-honored formula. He apologized, not just to his wife and children but also to his family and friends, his business partners, his fans, and the staff and sponsors of his foundation. “I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.” But this was not your garden-variety confession. Though Woods spoke of religion, he did not mention Jesus or the Bible, sin or redemption. He gave a Buddhist mea culpa instead, turning not to Christian theologies of sin but to Buddhist teachings about craving. Whereas Christianity seeks to solve the problem of sin, Buddhism seeks to solve the problem of suffering. Buddhists observe that suffering arises from a 12-fold chain of interlocking causes and effects. Among these causes is craving. We crave this woman or that car because we think that getting her or it will make us happy. But this craving only ties us into an unending cycle of misery, because even if we get what we want there is always something more to crave—another woman or another man, a faster car or a bigger house. Woods said, “Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security.” When Woods said he “stopped living by the core values” he was “taught to believe in,” he was referring not to Christian values but to the Thai Buddhist values instilled in him by his mother, who was in the room with her son in Florida in a show of support. When he vowed to change his life, it wasn’t to turn to Christianity but to return to Buddhism. He actively practiced Buddhism from childhood, he said, but “drifted away from it in recent years,” forgetting its crucial observation that craving is overcome not by self-indulgence but by self-control. Buddhism “teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint,” he said. “Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.”

USA Today

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