Strictly Ballroom

As I brooded about my many limitations, mental and physical, on a very grey Friday morning in Berlin, it occurred to me that many of the potholes in the the modern world’s version of the Buddhist path have opened up because too many educated modern people expect their spiritual path to ‘fit into’ (as Khyentse Rinpoche might say) and accomodate fully their personal limitations. So, if a new, evangelical buddhist in America can’t fathom the idea of reincarnation, he or she will do everything in their power to persuade as many people as possible that reincarnation is part of an old corrupt version of Buddhism that has virtually no place in the modern world—ignoring the laws of cause and effect entirely. Similarly, if a recognized authentic Buddhist master doesn’t conform to someone’s idea of saintliness, that master will be lampooned and derided for being a fake or unethical, and the person whose spiritual ideal has been disappointed will then do their best to bring the master down. This is how samsara operates, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the spiritual teachings or a spiritual outlook.

Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom illustrated this kind of mentality beautifully, albeit in reverse. It’s still the best of his movies by far, and tells the story of a young Australian ballroom dancer who longs to include innovative new dance steps in his routine, but faces implacable opposition from Australia’s ballroom dancing officialdom. Their view is, if you can’t dance a step you can’t teach it, therefore anything that’s beyond the ability of the established teaching body must be stamped out. In the case of Buddhism, the new, self-styled Buddhist teachers are the ones denying the full scope of Buddha’s teachings because they can’t understand it, can’t teach it, therefore denounce what they don’t get.

What will happen to Buddhadharma if new students accept that Buddha’s profound, limitless teachings should be quickly and easily assimilated into their own narrow minds? Rather than dwelling on such horrors, I think I’ll take Sogyal Rinpoche’s excellent advice and distract my mind with a clip (the climactic end bit) from that wonderfully OTT movie. Or maybe I’ll just take the rest of the morning off and watch the whole deliciously flouncy confection…

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6 thoughts on “Strictly Ballroom

  1. I watched Strictly Ballroom literally dozens of times when I first discovered it! At the moment, being in a conservative Theravadin country, I can totally appreciate where you’re coming from with this. Elements in power fear precisely that which sets the spirit free.

  2. Ah, that’s one of my favourite movies. How wonderful to be given an entirely new way of appreciating it. Many thanks

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