Monday, February 6, 2017

The Real Buddha Was Not Fat*

Being fat, and I mean really fat, not just muffin-top or pot belly fat, is not good, no matter how charitably you look at it. It's bad for your health (my obese sister has diabetes and recently had a stroke), it limits your ability to get hired, and it makes shopping for everyday clothes a nightmare, don't even think about bathing suits. Climbing stairs is a trial and even simple breathing is harder. You always look bad in pictures. Secretly, and sometimes right out loud and to your face, total strangers and even your friends find you gross. And no matter what the argument, if it's with a thin person you lose, because they have that trump card: calling you fat. Even those fat pride folks hate that word.


I'm on this today because I just read a Facebook stream discussing politics, and the final insult on the descent into lawlessness was someone telling the rudest guy to "lose about 100 pounds and take a shower," inferring that besides his obvious girth he also must be dirty and smelly. This exchange reminded me of something I just did myself.

A friend had suggested I look into a particular Buddhist teacher who was just beginning a month-long series of daily guided meditations online. I jumped at it, since I am always looking for all the help I can get in the peace of mind department, and also because the particular friend is someone I deeply respect who has been "on the path" herself for many years. I signed on.

After listening for a few days, I realized something was nagging at me. The teacher, a woman in her mid-sixties, is obese. I mean really big. Even though she has written books about finding happiness and attaining inner peace and all that good stuff we all seek, somehow she must be spending a good chunk of her time shoving food down her gullet. And not just any food but bad food, since you don't get that big from eating too much spinach and kale. So if she's so damn happy and overflowing with inner peace, what's with that empty void inside her she's trying to fill with Oreos? (Or whatever, they just popped into mind.)

Admittedly my dislike of obesity has not made me popular. But here's why I dislike it so much: Anyone who gets alarmingly fat is avoiding themselves and their problems. That's just laziness with a tad of gluttony thrown in. I had to stop listening to that meditation teacher, whose name I won't mention because I'm not into fat shaming, I'm just into fat avoidance. Ultimately I concluded there was no way she could help me find inner peace since she had obviously never found it herself. She lacks credibility, plain and simple. And that's the worst thing about being fat.

* The Buddha was not fat! According to Christopher Peterson, former professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan: "What seems to be generally agreed is that the original Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, was born in either India or Nepal some 2500 years ago. The son of royalty, he renounced his wealth and position and lived as an ascetic. After six years, enlightenment (aka awakening) occurred, and the Buddha’s realization was that the right path was one that followed neither renunciation nor indulgence. So, he was likely increasingly lean while seeking enlightenment but likely not afterward. There is no reason to think he was ever chubby."

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