File this under “possibly interesting but not very useful information” :
According to UrbanDictionary, there is a major distinction between an arch-nemesis and your basic run-of-the-mill enemy.
An enemy is someone who may be hostile, someone that you oppose or don’t like, but an arch-nemesis is special : there is a deep and abiding connection there; perhaps it’s someone that used to be your friend, someone who shares similar attributes, interests, or powers.
Think Obi-Won Kenobi and Darth Vadar.
Professor Xavier and Magneto.
Cut from the same cloth, but with opposing ideologies.
I say this is possibly interesting, but not very useful…
Unless of course you have an arch-nemesis.
Which I do. INTERNET BUDDHA.
You’ve probably seen Internet Buddha casually gracing your Facebook feed, Pinterest boards and other corners of the internet.
Internet Buddha says things like:
And other pithy platitudes that
A) the historical Buddha never said, and
B) aren’t even an accurate portrayal of Buddhist philosophy.
Much of what Internet Buddha says seems nice enough - little "feel good" nuggets - but is actually a total misrepresentation of what 10% of the world’s population believes and practices - which is at best lazy, and at worst dangerous.
In the political world we call this type of thing propaganda. Not cool. Deeply offensive.
Hence, Arch-nemesis status.
So you’ll imagine my surprise last week when I was scrolling through Instagram (as one does) and I came across my beloved nemesis on the feed of a highly respected NYC yoga studio that has multiple locations across the country.
“What you think, you become.
What you feel, you attract.
What you imagine, you create.”
To be honest, I’ve only been studying Buddhism actively for about a decade, and still consider myself a beginner baby tadpole in my practice. There is so much I don’t know, and I’m absolutely not an expert.
But “What you feel you attract?”
Internet Buddha, please.
So I sat with the rising heat in my belly, cracked my knuckles over my keyboard, and responded as graciously as I could.
“Hi! I’m like 99% sure the Buddha never said this, as lovely as the sentiment is.”
I waited for a response, and within a few hours the post was deleted by the studio.
Thank you, bless you, moving on.
EXCEPT, that the next time I opened Instagram, the same quote had been posted by another yoga network in NYC.
It was like a game of Instagram whack-a-mole.
Deleted one place, popping up another.
INTERNET BUDDHA STRIKES AGAIN. *insert righteous fist-shaking*
I took another deep breath and responded as kindly and directly as I could.
"Hi. I’m genuinely perplexed how this keeps circulating attributed to the Buddha.
'What you feel you attract' is not even a Buddhist view - In the age of fake news and alternate facts we actually have a responsibility to be discerning about these things.
The Buddha did not say this. Let's do better."
Which, to be clear, is the real thorn in my side here — Even if it seems harmless, in the age of ‘alternative facts’ we don’t have the luxury of being lazy about what information we propagate as the “truth”. Especially if you consider yourself a teacher— or a spiritual community— and there is a large audience that’s counting on you to do your homework.
As above, so below.
It’s a matter of personal responsibility.
Which is why, several hours later, when the exact same post showed up on the feed of a large meditation organization that hosts weekly gatherings and a meditation teacher training in New York…
I. Nearly. Lost. My. Damn. Mind.
I took a deep breath, felt the searing heat of righteous frustration in my chest and looked my arch-nemesis square in the digital eyes, ready to do battle.
And then I stopped.
The Buddha may have never said anything resembling “What you feel you attract”, but what he DID say about our feelings is that they are ours.
In all their glory.
Beautiful, Gnarly, Tender or Neutral, we are the sole owners of our emotions, and it’s our job to tend to them. Regardless of what may have triggered them or who else is implicated in the situation.
This meant my hot and righteous indignation, too.
Just like being careful about our speech online, tending to my inflamed response was a matter of personal responsibility.
So I stepped away from the slippery ledge of reverting into an Internet Troll, and felt all of my hot and alarming feels.
For the sake of my own sanity.
It feels mentally cleaner to identify with what I’m for rather than what I’m against.
However, if I ever meet Internet Buddha in a dark ally at night, I'm totally gonna get him.
I mean her.
I mean it.
This is the trouble of fighting with an internet meme.
And so it is.
On that note : I made you this:
It's a contemplative mediation practice for getting up close and personal with our emotional state, just as it is. No filter.
Just find a comfortable seat, and press play.
Practice begins at the 3 minute 20 second mark.