It’s hard for me to keep quiet when people who call themselves journalists veer into the realm of overly judgmental commentary. So I’ve been stewing over the comments Brit Hume recently made about Tiger Woods and Buddhism, looking for a way to write about it that wasn’t just a rant. Even my friend Jodifur was nicely egging me on to pen something on this. I tweeted a bit, and got a response from the one person in the blogosphere who is perfectly suited for this topic – Momma Zen. She graciously agreed on very short notice to take on this topic for Mothers of Intention. Momma Zen, I owe you one!
When I first heard that Fox-TV’s Brit Hume had admonished Tiger Woods to forswear Buddhism in favor of Christianity to redeem himself, I laughed. I laughed hard, and soon it became the kind of laughter that is indistinguishable from tears. In this one arrogant assertion we see the blind egotism that, again and again, is at the root of all pain and suffering, all insanity, all war.
There is no question Woods needs redemption, and I’m certain that he knows it full well. He is alone in a hell of his making, although the collateral damage, as always, is vast and cruel. It’s intriguing that Hume didn’t dare suggest a more obvious and practical fix: that the fallen superstar renounce the “game of kings,” or his obscene and incalculable wealth, or his drug play, sexual predations or any other of his self-serving addictions. Like most of us, Hume and Woods share the universal religion: self- service. Namely, that whatever I think and whatever I do, whatever I like and whatever I say, is right. Your problem is that you don’t agree with me. No matter who or what we claim to worship, at the heart of the matter, most of us worship ourselves even more.
To many of us, faith is little more than a box we check on a questionnaire. Buddhism? Check. Christianity? Check. It’s clear that Woods doesn’t practice the selfless compassion that is at the heart of Buddhism. It’s equally clear that Hume doesn’t practice the selfless compassion that is at the heart of Christianity. Sadly, I call the situation fair and balanced.
Both of them are equally eligible for redemption. Atonement starts with apology: the simple act of seeking forgiveness for the harm caused by one’s own selfish ignorance. Atonement is central to all great religions and all religions are great. They teach us to transcend the false supremacy of one’s own ego. No matter what faith we profess to have, our own persistent self-righteousness gives us the occasion to atone many, many times a day. Forgiveness, in a sense, is easy. I would imagine, though, that the next step in Buddhism would be equally difficult for either of them: to forget oneself.
I’ll leave that to them, and work on my own practice.
Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen Buddhist priest and the author of Momma Zen and the forthcoming Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life. She blogs regularly at Cheerio Road and Shambhala SunSpace.