A Pragmatic Dharma
In conversation a few weeks ago, the comment was made to me, "I don't understand the whole Pragmatic Buddhism thing." What followed was a well-intended discussion about the necessity of a synthesis of Eastern and Western thought, and what you would lose by doing so. "They're just too messy," I was told. And I get that...to a point.
Siddhartha Gotama's world was far different than ours, and much of his teachings were a response to the culture and beliefs of the times. He believed that the "norm" was no longer relevant. People were losing something by clinging too hard to traditions and beliefs, and (while they certainly have their place) a lot of unnecessary suffering was occurring by doing so. He taught that everything is impermanent. Things change, people change, and culture and tradition change. By clinging to the idea of something permanent, we hurt ourselves, over and over again. Nothing lasts forever.
Fast forward to the modern world: a world of constant motion. We have grown in many ways, but many of the personal struggles the Buddha was dealing with still exist. The times (culture, tradition) have changed. The personal element has not. We watch everything constantly rise and fall around us, but we exclude ourselves from the equation. We want to live forever, often focusing on what comes after instead of what is here and now.
Pragmatic Buddhism takes real time (and scientifically) tested practices and applies them to the modern age. This is done by understanding that we live in a kind of grey area between black and white. Everything is interconnected, and often the good can have negative effects. Pragmatism tries to resolve this issue by looking at the whole picture, including the good and the bad, and trying to make the best decision possible. Not only for ourselves but for everyone.
So while PB honors the traditions and lineages it comes from, it also strives to move forward as a meaningful, honest way to help an ever-changing world. No longer bound by the idea of removing ourselves from the world, every day life is our monastery. Everyone is our brother or sister as we work together to make the world a better place. So in Pragmatic Buddhism there is nothing to "get." It is a way of life, and a way of experiencing the Dharma in action. With nothing to lose (or nothing to gain), that is our goal.