Buddhism and the Winter Olympics?

Posted by:

K. Ken Fujimoto

Like many of you, I have been watching the Winter Olympics and much of what I see totally amazes me. Who comes up with the ideas for some of these events? Who came up with the idea to jump off a cliff after skiing down a steep slope to try and land over 100, 200, even 300 yards away? Who decided that they should go head first down an icy track at over 80 miles per hour on a little sled with virtually no protection except a helmet? Add in the X Games type events where they do loops, twists and flips two or three stories above the ice, and one can only wonder what kind of mind comes up with such ideas. Even the more “normal” events such as alpine skiing and such are done on courses and at speeds that would be incomprehensible except for an elite few. It is all impressive and great entertainment, but I still cannot help, but wonder, “Who comes up with this stuff?”

A little research shows that the ski jumping started with a more comprehensible jump of about 9 meters and gradually escalated from there until we have what we have today. This is probably the case for all of the events. They all started with someone doing something amazing at the time. It might not have been close to the totally incomprehensible feats we see today, but it eventually led to what we have today as people gradually continued to build upon that beginning.

As odd as it may seem, we can see parallels in the development of Buddhism and these Winter Olympic events. This is part of the reason that the academic study of Buddhism often refers to the earliest period as Primitive Buddhism. This is the Buddhism of the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, the Six Paramita or Six Aspects of Perfection. These are basic and fundamental concepts that form the basis of Buddhist thought, but over the centuries, changes and developments have arisen that seem to make things more complicated and difficult to understand.

For the Olympic events, the motto of higher, faster, stronger, has been the goal and has led to the developments in the events held. The goal for Buddhism is how to reach greater and greater numbers of people with the teachings that can lead to their spiritual liberation. This is what has led to the development of the different schools of Buddhism and the different practices or activities that are recommended to reach that spiritual emancipation. Because the goals are different, the manifestations of the changes and development are different, but we can see that in the Olympics and in Buddhism, each step has been an attempt to take it to the next level. In so doing, there may be controversy along the way, but once those controversies have been cleared or overcome, a new level has been reached in both.

We do not know what will happen in the future, but just as more amazing feats will be accomplished in the Olympics, Buddhism will also be taken to new levels. It may not happen as dramatically as in the Olympics, but they will happen. We only need to make sure that we do not lose sight of the fundamental goals and values.

© February 23, 2014