Care Bear Dharma

The Care Bear’s are a 1980’s franchise aimed at children to represent the power of positive emotions. Magical and whimsical beings, the Care Bears’ ultimate weapon is the “Care Bear Stare” (a.k.a. “Belly Magic”), in which the Bears stand together and radiate light from their respective tummy symbols. These combine to form a ray of love and good cheer which could bring care and joy into the target’s heart. Western Buddhism exists almost entirely on the actions and intentions of the Care Bear Dharma philosophy. Western Buddhists think they can have the same effect as Care Bears by repeating word incantations like metta and happiness as enchantments to bind evil from causing them and others harm. The workshops and books of these Care Bears reveal how happy they are with themselves and what they are doing in the world. But Buddhism has nothing to do with being happy with conditioned things. The happiness to be found in Buddhism is from renouncing all causes of suffering until nothing is left in the mind to perturbe the virtues to be had from living a purified life (see Khuddakavatthu-vibhaṅga).

Often overlooked by Care Bears is the proper gratitude to the causes of their spiritual practice having a home to be practiced in. For example, Mahayana Buddhists don’t acknowledge that the origin of the previous decades that led to the flowering of Tibetan Buddhism around the world is mainly due to the humanitarian generosity of Christian countries that allowed persecuted Lama’s residency. Sure, some Western students would and have traveled to India and other places and take novice ordination but there would been a serious stumbling block without the actual Lama’s themselves to setup spiritual headquarters in Western societies. Westerners love to sell things and one of the things they sell is emotional coddling in easy to digest formats. Attend this workshop and become happy. Buy this book and let go of anger. Hear this talk, give up your grief with ‘the power of now.’ Although emotional healing may have an important part to play in Buddhist effervesce, such a result is more of a side effect of renunciation and is not related to the path itself. Buddhism is more likely to be found under a tree alone by yourself in a forest than in a meditation retreat. But the Care Bears won’t tell you that. Instead they will tell you everything you want to hear, for a price. Just like the Hallmarks cards Care Bears originally were sold for. They won’t tell you to give up everything who you are and everything that you own to make a robe out of garbage and meditate on the cremation of human remains until you come to a true understanding of your ultimate nature. But Buddha would.

Buddha expects his teaching to be difficult and in fact called it the Discipline (Rattana Sutta). What are colloquially called “warm fuzzies” is exactly what Buddha was not aiming for his followers to achieve. How can we set a course away from Care Bear power and towards the path? One can start by refraining from identifying oneself with the kamma of others, refraining from judgement on the kamma of others, holding the beliefs, thoughts, and actions of others to be the ultimate truth or ultimate good or ultimate evil. Relaxing the mind to point awareness inwards is a standard refrain on how to begin Buddhist practice but the mind, minds eye, and the sensation of feelings are not to be trusted. Western Buddhists in particular would be well advised to heed the advice on Dhamma from Venerable Bhikkhu’s who have become senior members of the Order through their diligence, merit, and compassion to others (above and beyond the discipline of lay teachers as laid out in the Dasa Sikkhapada). Another practice we encourage in 969 is learning the Pali words of the Buddha himself to grow spiritually. Learning to read and speak Pali is a blessing like a lotus we are very fortunate to have many resources available to us in the present day. Through constant repetition, discipline, and practice is the goals of Buddhism achieved. This tradition has been going on for over 2,500 years for the good reason that the results it claims to deliver on actually work when applied without error (Patisambhidamagga).

We owe it to ourselves and to our descendants to revere, share, and yes, take refuge, in the glorious light of the teachings of the Conqueror of Samsara.  We should refrain supporting partial Dharmas, and the emotional blackmail that stems from products like Care Bear Dharma that exist to manipulate emotions for financial gain and hinder the public further away from Nibbana. Especially when they describe themselves as Buddhists.

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