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  • Written by  Jerome Stone
  • // Thursday, 19 April 2012 04:54
Jerome Stone

The Buddha Walks Into A Bar

There’s a standard American joke that goes, “A man walks into a bar…” and proceeds to have a short story ending with a punch-line. To get this post started right, I’ll finish the joke:

A guy walks into a bar looking frustrated. The bartender asks, "What's the matter?

The guy replies, "Well I've got these two horses and I can't tell them apart. I don't know if I'm mixing up riding times or even feeding them the right foods."

The bartender suggests, "Why don't you try shaving the tail of one of the horses?"

The guy says, "That sounds like a good idea, I think I'll try it."

A few months later, he returns to the bar in worse condition. "I shaved the tail of one of the horses, but it grew back and I can't tell them apart again!"

The bartender says, "Why don't you try shaving the mane?"

A few months later the guy is back. "I shaved the mane of one of the horses, but it grew back!"

The bartender yells, "Just measure the damn horses. Perhaps one is slightly taller that the other one!" The guy storms out of the bar.

The next day, the guy runs into the bar. "It worked, it worked!" he exclaims. "I measured the horses, and the black one is two inches taller than the white one!"

Okay, so that was a bad “A man walks into a bar..” joke, but the new book by author Lodro Rinzler, “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar” isn’t a joke and doesn’t have a punch-line.  It’s probably unlike other books that you’ve read about Buddhism, meditation and compassion...unless you've read some of the late Chogyam Trungpa's works, in which case you're ahead of the crowd. And even then, what author Lodro Rinzler has to say is new, fresh and definitely unique.

The book is written to appeal to a “younger crowd,” the under-30 folks who are either exploring their spiritual side, are interested in Buddhism, or both. The book brings some key Buddhist concepts into a delightful discussion on how you can integrate the teachings of the Buddha (specifically in the Vajrayana tradition of Tibet) into your daily life. With chapter titles such as, "Laugh at the Display of Your Mind," "How to Apply Discipline, Even When Your Head Gets Cut Off," and "Singing A Vajra Song (in the Shower)," the author weaves teachings and concepts found within Buddhism into how to live your daily life based on a compassionate and open heart and mind without giving up the spice and zest of it all.

Lodro approaches the Tibetan allegory for our “natural energy” or human soul, windhorse (Tib. rlung ta), in the four chapters titled, “Manifesting Qualities of the Tiger,” “Manifesting Qualities of the Snow Lion,” “The Fearless Flight of the Garuda,” and “The Authenticity of the Dragon.” Here he takes on the task of bringing traditional Tibetan Buddhist iconography and mythology, related to the four “dignities” of the windhorse, into the discussion on how to work with one’s energies and one’s mind in the daily affairs of one’s life. It’s a unique way of approaching a complex subject although its more subtle meaning may be lost to some of his readers.

The notable quality of this book is the author’s sincere desire to convey the wisdom of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings in a no-nonsense and accessible manner. He doesn’t withhold or pull punches in his discussions about how to integrate meditation and compassion into such activities as sex, drinking and work. Rather than admonishing his readers to live the ascetic life, he seems to encourage his readers to continue with their lives, but to apply the logic of reflection and contemplation to all activities.

To give you an idea of how this book approaches its subject, here's an excerpt from the book in the chapter titled, “Bringing a Spacious Mind to Subtle Acts”:

You can be a “good” Buddhist and still go out on a Saturday night. The important thing is not to check your meditative mind when you check your coat, but to maintain it wherever you go. By maintaining an open mind, you can see reality more clearly and know how to act in a good and decent manner.

If you go out with friends to a pub, notice how long you are able to remain free of concepts. You might immediately start checking people out, From there, you give in to the three basic reactions: “She’s hot. I want her”[attachment]; “She’s dumb, get her away from me”[aversion]; or “I can’t tell if that’s a ring on her finger so I’m going to ignore her.”[ignorance]

While non-Buddhists may glaze-over at times when the concepts drift into the meat of the Vajrayana tradition, there's enough of an ecumenical approach to entertain you if you have even the slightest interest in how to apply Buddhist sensibilities to life's joys and sorrows, successes and foibles.

Even though this book is touted as a guide for a "new generation," there are those of us in the oldie-but-moldy crowd who appreciate a fresh approach to an age-old wisdom tradition.  Check out this video trailer with the author (he's in a bar):


Lodro Rinzler is a meditation practitioner and teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. Over the last decade he has taught numerous workshops at meditation centers and college campuses across the US. His column, What Would Sid Do?, appears regularly in the Huffington Post and the Interdependence Project. He writes from his apartment in New York City.