Not long ago, at a Vipassana meditation meeting I attended, a practitioner described to the group a conversation he’d had over dinner with a Zen adherent.  As he explained, “We decided that to be a good Buddhist is to be a bad American.  Because to be a good American is to be a consumer, while to be a good Buddhist is to see through that consumeristic mindset.” The other people at the sitting agreed or disagreed to various degrees.  Their conversation brings up many good questions.  Is there a conflict between Buddhist and American values?  How are each of those defined?  Can one be a good American without being a “consumer?”  Can one be a consumer and still be a “good” Buddhist?  Is this conflict inherent, or might it change in the future?  Is there something about being American that conflicts with Buddhism, or might other countries/cultures experience similar conflicts? Of course, there’s no single answer to any of these questions.  But please share your thoughts on the subject, if you wish.

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