Many Disinfo readers have probably seen Hermetic.com. Maybe you even got your first taste of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare or Hakim Bey there. What you might not know is that the site’s founder, Al Jigong Billings has given up the site to focus on what he calls “Open Source Buddhism.” In this interview Billings talks about what Open Source Buddhism is, how it differs from other contemporary Buddhist and mindfulness movements and how he gravitated from Neopaganism to Buddhism.
Klint Finley: I know readers can check out your blog post explaining what you mean by “Open Source Buddhism,” but can you give us a quick “elevator pitch” for the idea?
Al Billings: Yes, I can do that. The basic idea is that if you are not part of a traditionally Buddhist culture or one in which Buddhism plays a role, you are not part of an inherited complex of ideas surrounding what is or is not “Buddhism” or the “Dharma.” This leaves those of us, in the “West,” for example, in a bit of a quandary. What is Buddhsm? What is the Dharma? What is essential to it? What is optional? What does Buddhism in the 21st century here in America look like if you haven’t inherited it as part of your culture?
My proposal, or really just an idea or thought experiment, is that we embrace aspects of the open source ethos, as exhibited in software projects like Linux or Firefox, in how we approach the Dharma. We don’t need to model ourselves or the Dharma as we practice it necessarily on how Japanese, Chinese, Tibetans, Thai or anyone else does it within their context. That evolved there over hundreds and thousands of years. While many folks make themselves, to some extent, into faux Tibetans, dressing in Tibetan robes, taking Tibetan names, adopting elements of Tibetan culture (to pick on one group as an example), this is not really adapting the Dharma to our situation. I propose that people collaboratively receive teachings and techniques and even texts and recombine or use them as makes sense, as a kind of skillful means, even if it means going across different Buddhist cultures or even traditional kinds of Buddhism or lineages of it that often seem incompatible in ways. The end result is a Dharma that works in our culture (hopefully).
Read more at Technoccult.