Take, for instance, this article on Yahoo! which asks the all-important question - How would the Buddha date? Aside from being a visionary, philosopher and spiritual leader, the Buddha, it turns out, is also hot stuff on the dating circuit. The author of the piece argues that this is because the Buddha recognises the fundamental interconnectedness of all beings (and no, he's not talking about Orkut) and uses every relationship as a vehicle for meaningful spiritual connection (presumably while getting hot and heavy on the back seat). Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact that he apparently has four arms. At any rate, it seems that there is actually a point to attaining enlightenment. Never mind the possibility of eternal nirvana, it means that women can't get enough of you.
But wait, does this mean you have to run away from home and sit under trees until a lightbulb goes off in your head? Not at all. After a lot of spirituo-twaddle about maitri and karuna, the author finally cuts to the chase, telling us that:
"The essence of Buddhist relationship is to cultivate the cling-free relationship, enriched with caring and equanimity. It is helpful in intimate relationships to communicate honestly, stay present, tell the truth of your experience using I-statements rather than accusations and judgments, and honor the other enough to show up with an open heart and mind and really listen."
Ah, cling-free relationships. Yes, of course. To go with your perma-press heart, no doubt. And who knew that in order to have an intimate relationship you actually had to stay present? No wonder my attempts at multi-tasking aren't working. Never mind the larger detachment from the world, all you need to do to get it on like Siddhartha is "Make yourself the "perfect" mate, without being too perfectionistic about it". What could be easier?
If you do actually succeed in wading through the dense jungle of cliches, you realise that the essence of the whole argument is that you need to have really, really low standards. As long as you're willing to go out with practically anyone, and still manage to see their positive side, you're never going to be strapped for dates. Of course, the laws of selection mean that you're going to end up dating the most outrageous losers, but hopefully you're too busy being a goody two-shoes to actually notice.
Personally, the whole thing sounds way too milk-sop for me. I don't want passion changed to compassion - I'd like to be able to tell the difference between my lover and my social worker. And I'd hate to be in bed with someone who "recognizes every moment in life as a possibility of awakening" (was it good for you, or did you just achieve enlightenment?). The most important thing in a relationship may be the tenderness of a good heart, but I'd like mine done rare, thank you. Take away excess baggage, anxiety and neurosis and what you have isn't a relationship, it's catatonia. Just ask that other great spiritual leader of our time - Woody Allen.
On the other hand, if detachment is the hallmark of a good relationship, then I'm getting SO much action.
Next up in the series: How would the Buddha do his taxes? How would the Buddha program his VCR? Does the Buddha kiss on first dates?