I’m walking to my car when I see her. Sophia! Hurrying, I try to get to my car and beat a hasty retreat, but alas, she catches up to me…
Sophia: Where are you going?
Me: Away from you.
Me: Ummm, this car?
Sophia: How? How will you use the car to get away?
Me: Ummmm, I will go inside, stick the key in the ignition, turn it on, then use my mad driving skills to steer the hell out of here.
Sophia: But how does turning the key in the ignition actually turn the car on?
Me: Beats me.
Sophia: Shouldn’t you find out?
Me: Of course not.
Sophia: Why Not?
Me: Because I don’t need to know this in order to drive. I turn the key and the engine starts up. I guess it’s an internal combustion engine or something.
Sophia: But what if it isn’t an internal combustion engine at all?
Me: So what? There could be hamsters under the hood for all I care. All that matters is that my key turns it on, the steering wheel controls it, the gas makes it go, the brake makes it stop…
Sophia: So you also don’t care about how turning the wheel gets the wheels to turn, or how the gas–
Me: No, no, I couldn’t care less.
Sophia: So it’s fair to say that as long as the car runs, you don’t need to think about how it works.
Me: Yep. In fact, it’s just a distraction. Cars are meant for driving.
Sophia: So you never wondered how it worked?
Me: Well… Now that you mention it, there was a time. It wouldn’t start, and I started wondering about the engine and crap.
Sophia: So really, if you start wondering how the car works, then that’s because it’s not working.
Sophia: Who built this car?
Me: Mr. Who Freakin’ Cares, that’s who.
Sophia: But what if the person who built it was of a poor character? What if he he didn’t come from an authorized lineage of factory workers?
Me: Who. Cares.
Sophia: Why not?
Me: Because it’s irrelevant! The. Car. Runs.
Sophia: I see.
Me: Ok, so what are you up to?
Sophia blinks innocently.
Me: Oh, don’t act all innocent you junkyard Socrates. Spit it out, what’s on your mind? What’s the thinly veiled metaphor behind this conversation?
Sophia: I was just thinking about people who practice contemplative paths like Buddhism.
Me: And… ?
Sophia: It just seems that they should have the same attitude as you do towards the car. Yet many of them argue about details or why or how something works. But if it works, then that’s all that matters, right?
Me: Hey, isn’t this a modernized version of the Buddhist Parable of the Arrow?
Sophia: Yes. Back to the point, I wonder if they argue over these things because they are not getting results? After all, why would they need to worry about lineages, schools and so on, if they see with their own eyes that their life is getting better?
Me: True. Why would they even need to have faith? I mean, I don’t have faith in this car, I don’t need to. If it runs, it runs. Seems you only have faith if you can’t get results now.
Sophia: Which is fine for a religion that only rewards you after death; but Buddhism is a philosophy that is supposed to yield results in this life — in relatively short order, and without the supernatural. Yes, in Buddhism faith is a bad sign; it means you failed.
Me: Or maybe you’re not trying?
Me: Some people don’t actually practice, but love talking about it. Or maybe they’re more in love with the idea of being Buddhist then they are with improving their lives. So instead of applying the teachings, they instead memorize sutras, give themselves Buddhist names, wave a stick of incense around. It’s like… like…
Sophia: Venerating an auto service manual?
Me: Exactly! It would be like me reading the auto service manual over and over, clinging to every word, and getting into stupid arguments with people who have different manuals. I’d start having crises of faiths, and worrying about stupid crap like the character of whoever put this thing together. All the while, I’m not doing the one thing I was meant to do — DRIVE THE DAMN CAR!
Sophia: So Buddhism isn’t about Buddhism, it’s about–
Sophia: It seems we’re on the same page.
Me: Thanks for the lousy pun. Can I leave now?