Twenty-nine-year-old Buddhist teacher Lodro Rinzler is the cool kid's Buddhist. In his new book, The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation (Shambala), Rinzler spells out mindful compassion for the millennial set, making room for one-night stands and cocktails on the weekend. Turns out, spending a few months meditating in silence on a mountaintop isn't the only way to achieve enlightenment.
OM generation Rinzler's new book presents Buddhism in a way want-it-now twentysomethings can grasp.
In the book, you mention a year when you experienced great loss and sadness, and truly delved into your Buddhist practice. Since your parents were both Buddhist, was this not something you were exposed to your whole life? The year you mention was a real grieving process for me. I ended up going out to a monastery in Nova Scotia for a one-month long, primarily silent, meditation retreat. I remember very specifically this moment when I was doing a walking meditation, and I realized at that moment that I was doing something that my parents had never done. That's when I got that I was doing this for me, not just as something I was raised with.
What do you think the hardest part is for twentysomethings today to grasp in a serious Buddhist practice? I think we're just so used to seeing results quickly. A meditation practice is a very gradual path, and the effects are so hard to notice! It took me a long time to actually realize that when I don't meditate, I feel crazy. My mind speeds up, I'm not as kind to people, I don't appreciate what I'm doing in my life as much. There are very subtle effects, and you do become more in-tune with your world, but it's hard to wake up one day and say, "Oh, now, today I got kind."
Was that why you chose to write the book in this more casual style, as opposed to a traditional Buddhist instruction manual? The style is certainly intentional in that I wanted to develop a book that focused on what we as young people go through. That includes going out, it includes dating, it includes figuring out that your parents might be crazy, going through your first job . . . so trying to figure out how the principles of mindfulness and compassion could have an effect on all these things.
From a Buddhist perspective, what's the best way to celebrate Valentine's Day, for all the lovers and the singletons out there? Good question! I don't have any good restaurant recommendations. [Laughs.] No, but if you have a partner, that is a good day to take some time to really appreciate them for who they are, while loosening your expectations of what you think that might be. Start fresh and apply some sense of curiosity to who this person is. If you don't have a partner, and you're going out and drinking, similarly, keep an open mind to whoever you meet, and don't be too quick to pass judgment on them!
If you weren't a Buddhist teacher and author, what would you be doing career-wise? I would be a comic-book writer. There's a lot of references to comics in the book, and I got a lot of my moral lessons from some of these amazing characters.
Have a name for your hero yet? Not yet!
Lodro Rinzler reads from his new book, The Buddha Walks Into A Bar; A Guide to Life for a New Generation, at Trident Booksellers & Café, 338 Newbury St, on February 16, at 7pm.