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The Buddha and Suze Orman There are surprising parallels, says Zen teacher John TarranT, between the noble truths of Buddhism and money guru Suze Orman’s advice on getting real financially. Both use the truth of suffering to wake us up from our delusions. arT By kaTherine STreeTer Suze orman teaching the T o n i g h T i ’ m waT c h i n g first noble truth of Buddhism on cnBc. Suze orman, if you don’t know, is a financial advisor, and she is very popular in this season of facing realities. now that the zeroes in mutual fund accounts have whooshed away as fast as you can say “credit default swaps,” we are in a moment of waking from a dream. wak- ing from a dream is the theme of the meditation path, so this crash offers promise as well as shock. when i first met Buddhism, i thought of the fundamentals as boring and obvious, but paying your mortgage seems boring and obvious too, so maybe we can find some excitement ph oTo By ma Rc Royce in the basics. There’s nothing more fundamental in the J o h n Ta r r a n T, r o s h i is director of the Pacific Zen insti- tute. he has a Ph.D. in psychology and teaches at Duke integrative Medicine at Duke University Medical school. he is the author of Bring me the Rhinoceros and The Light inside the Dark. 36 S HAMBHALA S UN MAY 2009 S HAMBHALA S UN MAY 2009 37 Buddhist recipe for freeing the mind than the four noble truths. spirit by shopping. Please don’t make sacrifices.” This is not Suze They are Buddha’s diagnosis of the human condition followed orman’s way. Suze as a TV personality seems generally loveable by his treatment plan. here is the first truth: and high-spirited and I, like many others, have happily ignored This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is her recommendations for years. I enjoy her, though; she gives me suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what the impression of a dreamer who became practical and wants to is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suf- share the benefits of her discovery with others. This is what in fering; not to get what you want is suffering. Buddhism is called the bodhisattva path—in which your motive is to help everyone to wake up. once Upon a Time here is how Suze preaches the first noble truth. If you are Suze asks the man who wants a Maserati, The Buddha’s story is about what to do when you find out that the someone who used the equity in your house as an aTM machine, “You are going to mortgage your house for world is not as you have been told. The Buddha was raised in a palace she points out that this is in itself a matter of suffering. Sooner that was like Disneyland or the Truman Show. The hero of the Tru- or later you will have to pay that adjustable rate mortgage. or a car you don’t even need?” This is the noble man show grew up and lived inside a television show built around perhaps foreclosure has already occurred. There is a salutary truth of the origin of suffering: craving. him. In the palace where the Buddha grew up, suffering and pain sternness in her expression (I’m not offering Suze as a source of were concealed from him. as in the Truman Show, the hero was the financial advice, something I’m not qualified even to consider; last to know about the conspiracy. The sights that were hidden from I’m commenting on the way she is filling a necessary role in our a change of heart is possible. You might find you don’t need every- the Buddha involved any encounters with sickness, old age, death, or culture as we wake out of a dream). thing you think you need. It might be good not to get the Maserati, any person who was on a spiritual path. This is a level of informa- If you took out one of those loans for which the mortgage because grasping is itself a kind of suffering that continues even tion management that would have made Kim Jong-il very happy, broker said, “no need to fill in your income, I’ll do that for you,” after you have the car. and if you are not distracted by the car and and in such circumstances it is natural for questions to arise. then her show is for you. She offers a mixture of discipline, ca- how to pay for it, you might set off after freedom. Eventually the Buddha began going absent without leave from tharsis, and hope. a certain amount of regret usually attends a This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the the palace. he had the help of his charioteer, the equivalent of a self-examination, but Suze is not interested in blame, she focuses remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, limo driver today, a person who might be able to arrange a vari- on where to go from here—very like the Buddha when he es- the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it. ety of experiences for you. During these unauthorized trips, the caped from the palace. Most people appreciate money because it’s useful. Yet there gods came in disguise and took on the forms of those forbidden now Suze has a segment in which the metaphor is a loan ap- are plenty of unhappy rich people, who are trying to buy their sights: someone old, someone sick, a corpse, and a pilgrim—the plication. People call in because they want to buy a trinket but own personal Truman Show. So awakening is even more useful pilgrim being a person who meditates and offers a different pos- in the current, changed economy, have qualms about their own than money. Waking up is a different way of understanding in sibility for how to live. The forbidden sights taught the Buddha judgment. She tells them whether she will allow them to spend which all the meanings change. To wake up is to notice what is that reality was different from the dream he had been raised in. a their own money. Today the trinket in question is a Maserati— really going on and what we really want. discovery that we have been misinformed is always the first step $85K. Think of a low-end Ferrari, but still very cool, and wicked delight here and there, craving existence, craving nonexistence. in awakening and is something like a joke. Meditation and jokes fast. “So,” she says to the caller, “you need a useless and expensive The camera zooms in on Suze’s face and her teeth are bared and Meanwhile, in India both have a banana-peel effect; they turn you upside down. car.” (Tell us what you really think, Suze.) “and your wife doesn’t her cheeks are rounded like a temple guardian’s. a stamp appears at Under the influence of the gods in disguise, the Buddha tried Sallie: Daddy, Daaddy, Pilar says there’s no Santa Claus, tell like this idea, am I right?” an angle on a screen just as it would on a loan application. “Denied!” hard to escape from the delusions of the Truman Show he grew me it’s not true! “She told me to call you. We agreed that we would follow your she snarls, gleefully. “here,” she says, “I’ll say it again, Denied!” and up in. he tried to escape physically, by leaving home in the dead Father: Well, yes Sallie, it is true. We made up the Santa Claus advice.” again the camera focuses on her lips and bulging cheeks and the of night, and mentally, by meditating. The problem at first was story to explain the presents we give you. Santa is imaginary— So Suze is not just teaching the truth of suffering; she is moving stamp reappears. The camera pans back, she smiles for the new mo- that wherever he went, he took his delusions with him. Medita- you know, like the Easter Bunny. on to the second noble truth, the cause of suffering: grasping, aver- ment, and on we go: “ruth, in Cincinnati. What’s up, girlfriend?” tion can be just as full of wanting and greed as life at a palace. Sallie: What! There’s no Easter Bunny!!?? sion, ignoring cause and effect. Thinking that a Maserati will make Suze believes in giving you information, and in encouraging So after pushing this path to its logical end, which in Buddha’s The first step in waking up was to see through the dream and for you happy is greed. regretting the loss of value of your house is you to get information. In her world you earn what you get; ac- case turned out to be exhaustion and near starvation, he stopped this step the fact of suffering was the important clue. The Buddha aversion. Suze teaches by reason, as the Buddha did: “Well,” she cording to her bio she started out as a waitress and lived for a everything. he stopped doing and started noticing. noticing is found this realization to be so important that he called it the first says to the caller, “show me the money. how are you going to pay while in a bus. now that we don’t have lots of money, our dream the beginning of the end of suffering. noble truth. In the Zen view, this tragic discovery, in which you for this thing?” If a woman is on the line she calls her “Girlfriend,” world has become a form of suffering that makes no sense. People But the story needs another emissary from the heavens, and notice the pain of being human, is the beginning of freedom. It is a which perhaps makes the medicine go down a little easier. want someone to explain that these are new times, more sober she arrives, as a milkmaid, in the nick of time. her name is Su- tragedy that is happening in a dream. If you notice that the walls of The man who wants a Maserati tells how much income he has and perhaps more understandable. Suze is not dispensing fi- jata and she is one of the Buddhist heroines. The milkmaid has a your prison are confining, you might look for a way out, a way of (a lot), and expenses, also a lot. he confesses that he is going to nancial advice, she is dispensing reason. In this way her show dream in which she is instructed to milk many cows and feed the waking up. or as Gregory Bateson said, “all learning is aversive.” put half the price of the car against the house. This is the high helps to redefine what kindness can be. This is one of the roles milk to half that number and to milk them, and feed the milk to moment for Suze. “You are going to mortgage your house for a of a goddess in disguise—an encounter with her makes suffering half that number and so on. She takes the rich milk and mixes Back to What’s on TV car you don’t even need?” comprehensible, which is why we seek such an encounter. it with rice and carries it in a golden bowl into the forest. This after September 11, President Bush went on television and said, This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is craving after teaching that suffering exists and comes from ignoring is as far as her dream instructions have taken her, so it is an act essentially, “You can fight terrorism and show your patriotic that leads to rebirth, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking cause and effect, Suze begins to teach the third noble truth—that of trust when she walks into the woods with the bowl of milk. 38 S HAMBHALA S UN MAY 2009 S HAMBHALA S UN MAY 2009 39 There she meets the Buddha, who is so much skin and bone that with lifting the fruit to her mouth become active. When we see tion, “how can I wake up from the dream I am having in the he seems to be giving off a faint light, and she thinks at first that someone who is worried, we feel it. So the empathy is there, it is night?” naturally drifts into, “how can I help others wake up he is a tree spirit. She hands him the bowl, saying, “May this milk fundamental to consciousness and it takes no time to cross from from their dreams?” Suze orman, a messenger in disguise, is do- give you as much pleasure to drink as it gave me to make.” he one being to another. The Greeks called thought “winged” and ing her bit, asking, “What can I do to be of service?” drinks, goes on to meditate through the night, and is fully en- imagination is even faster. The thought, “What will happen to The Buddha’s big discovery was that most of what happens to lightened when grace comes with the dawn. he declares that he little me?” blocks our feeling for each other. “how will I help?” us happens in the mind and that you can change your mind in has lived in the house of suffering but now he sees the builder opens the possibility of gifts, of gods in disguise, of freedom. no time. You just step out of the dream and in one motion you and has broken the roof beams of that house. Mentoring is also basic to being a mammal, it’s something in leave the Truman Show. Then it’s a new world, full of the bright- Sujata’s gift changes the world—she breaks us out of the dream our genes, and the bodhisattva path depends on this. The ques- ness of what is real. ♦ we have been living. “May you take as much pleasure in drink- ing this gift as I took in making it.” She is not just handing out food, she is giving a blessing and a welcome into a larger, more generous, less selfish way. This milk rice she brings is a child’s food, comfort food, something innocent and delightful. Sujata Wisdom for Difficult Times indicates that it’s good to find out what you really want. If you Worry, groundlessness, loss—great Buddhist teachers show us how to work with our mind when things get tough. follow Sujata you’ll do what you love. This is the fourth noble truth. The Buddha described this path is a kind of testing and also a kind of T h I n G S Fa l l I n G a Pa r T as we open to what is actually happening in any given moment, in very specific terms, but you can also see it as a simple question healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome whatever it is or might be, rather than running away from it, and response: how can we live in the world and care for ourselves the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. we become increasingly aware of our lives as one small part of and one another? not through craving what isn’t here, but through They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together a vast fabric made of an evanescent, fleeting, shimmering pat- noticing that when craving drops away, kindness and joy appear. and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from tern of turnings. letting go of the futile battle to control, we can This is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for find ourselves rewoven into the pattern of wholeness, into the suffering: it is the noble eightfold path. relief, for misery, for joy. PEMa ChöDrön immensity of life, always happening, always here, whether we’re aware of it or not. Sharon SalZBErG If you want to deny or avoid something and have a picnic or You can see the Buddhist path as a simple question and response: how can we live in vacation instead, you may feel some short-term relief, but the realizing that the confusion and chaos in your mind have no the world and care for ourselves and one another? not through craving what isn’t there, problem will remain. So instead of doing that, if you penetrate origin, no cessation, and nowhere to dwell is the best protection. into the suffering or the tragedy and see its nature with some “how am I going to earn my living after this?” or “What is the but through noticing that when craving drops away, kindness and joy appear. perspective, your mental attitude will improve, and you will have best way to sharpen my personality so that I will be visible in the a real chance of resolving the problem. world?” or “how I hate my problems!” all of those schemes and Buddhism is based in reality. When we lose what we thought we “When a friend lost more than half his money with the as- T h E Da l a I l a M a thoughts and ideas are empty! If you look behind their backs, it had, our panic asks, “What will happen to little me?” and any answer sistance of the fraudulent Mr. Madoff, he said, oh well, it might is like looking at a mask. You realize that you are just authoring to that question is likely to be overwhelming and shadowed. It be interesting. I might have to think about working differently. We should find the truth in this world, through our difficulties, absurd, nonexistent things. That is the best protection for cut- is human to panic out of habit, without asking ourselves what is Equanimity isn’t indifference, or denial; it’s an orientation to re- through our suffering. This is the basic teaching of Buddhism. ting confusion. C h ö G Ya M T r U n G Pa r I n P o C h E really going on and what our true, deep reaction is. But the gods ality, the ability to turn quickly. What is real is more interesting Pleasure is not different from difficulty. Good is not different from in disguise show that sudden change can happen in a positive di- than what might have been.” bad. Bad is good; good is bad. S h U n rY U S U Z U K I ro S h I none of the antidotes to stress—numbing ourselves, running rection. The path out of suffering is closely related to accuracy, to In the story of the Buddha, there is a progression of insight. away, the various therapies—will ever really get to the root of it. noticing what really is, as opposed to what we first thought. To ask First we realize that what happens to others will happen to us. We need to seriously investigate whether people who have fame, We actually hold on to our stress. It is a way of holding on to our for our true, deep reaction is to step beyond the gods and into our and that loss and dying and so on must be a part of being hu- power, and wealth are happy and whether those who have noth- positions, our beliefs, our sense of being right—our self. In that own, handmade lives. It is like drinking the milk and rice. here’s an man. The next step of the realization is that what is happening ing are always unhappy. When we look into this, we see that hap- tightness and rigidity, the body cannot deal with it and the mind example from a woman who notices a change of heart that came to others is happening to us. We can move from being worried piness is not based on objects but on one’s mental state cannot deal with it. We suffer because we will not let go. unasked for, just by paying better attention to what is really going about ourselves to being concerned about others. Kindness ap- ChoKYI nYIMa rInPoChE J o h n Da I D o lo o r I , ro S h I on, as opposed to what she thought must be going on: pears even more suddenly than money disappears. “I have a fundamental underlying happiness even though many Empathy is a feature of the product we call consciousness, like an old man watching children at play, we need to see through Fearlessness is a simple gesture of accepting whatever there is. things, some of them hard, have been happening—difficulties in something as fundamental as loss. Instead of asking, “Why is our own seriousness. no matter how seriously the children go This is what’s happening in this moment. It can’t be other than my family, breaking up with my partner, money. It’s been quite there so much sorrow?” we might ask, “Why is there so much about their games, the old man is amused and never for a mo- this. This is what it is, and that truth is always soothing. a year. Within that, even the word “happiness” does not convey kindness?” and it doesn’t take time to develop empathy, since it ment takes them to be real. We can watch our own thoughts and S Y lV I a B o o r S T E I n it. happiness suggests an emotion and what I have is more like a is already here. We just have to notice it. Empathy is natural— emotions in the same way. Without taking them so seriously, we Sources: When Things Fall Apart; Worlds in Harmony; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind; fundamental state. Every day is a good day. Something victorious we naturally enter the minds of others. When a chimp watches can see them as children at play and give them lots of space. The Union of Mahamudra & Dzogchen; It’s Up to You; Faith; Training the Mind; about that; the rafters breaking open. another chimp eat a banana, the neurons in her brain associated D Z I G a r Ko n G T r U l r I n P o C h E Mountain Record of Zen Talks; Fear and Fearlessness: What the Buddhists Teach. 40 S HAMBHALA S UN MAY 2009 S HAMBHALA S UN MAY 2009 41
"The Buddha and Suze Orman"