Eating Popcorn With A Spoon

19 September 2005

Homeless in New York

For some reason, I don't know why, today I searched for the phrase "homeless buddhist". I came across an article titled The Nights of the Shanties. It takes about three sentences before I realize they author just doesn't get it. Here is a great sample:

These inhabitants, I learned later, are known as the Mole People. In retrospect, I can see why some folks wonder if the homeless are human, because beings like this don't fit the definition. This is not a condescending thing to say; on the contrary, it's quite accurate. I, too, have had to ask myself if these people are human, especially the Mole People.

I wasted a good long time reading the essay that has nothing to do with buddhism. Or maybe it does. The founder, Siddhartha Gautama, was a rich guy who decided to leave his home and settle in with a the lower caste. I picture Bill Gates deciding to leave Microsoft and live in the ghetto. So, a couple thousand years ago, people listened to what Mr. Gautama had to say, (surprise surprise), and Buddhism was founded. I can't speak for other areas of the world, but in America, at present, I get the distict feeling that buddhism is something that the rich and or well educated pursue. There is no longer that sense of crossing the divide between rich and poor. There is no big step needed to leave your nice suburban home. You just fork over some big bucks to attend medition classes with your socio-econimic peers, and you read old books on the topic of suffering and truth. And the essay quoted above gives you some insight into how the son of a doctor views the world of homelessness. The author is one of those who has some knowledge of buddhism:

The longer I stayed in the shelter system, the more I began to consider homelessness from a spiritual perspective, wondering what its message might be for the rest of us. I sought answers in the scriptures of all the great traditions--the texts of ancient Egypt, Judaism, Christi-anity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
Buddhist monks are exhorted not to stay anywhere long and to beg for their food each day. But it is one thing to choose homelessness, as Jesus and the Buddha did, and quite another to have homelessness thrust upon you.

But lots of good the knowledge does. He doesn't think the homeless should be classified as human. Interesting.


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