Monday, August 23, 2021

Am I A Buddhist?

A few days ago a woman living in Australia wrote to me and asked if I was a Buddhist.  I have been thinking about her question.  Am I a Buddhist?  What is a Buddhist?  Is there a formal process for becoming a Buddhist or does an individual simply take up the practice by incorporating Buddhist thought and practice into their lives?  I have not gone through any formal process for being a Buddhist.  I have simply tried to live like one.

Oddly enough I first learned about Buddhism, Zen, and the Dalai Lama while living in a Catholic monastery.  Although we were not there at the same time, it was the same monastery where Thomas Merton lived for 27 years.  I have been blessed to see and hear the Dalai Lama twice in person.

Over the course of my life I have become more and more attracted to the Buddhist way of living.  I find the various teachings and philosophy very comfortable.

How do I live as a Buddhist?

Although I am not always successful I strive to always practice kindness.  The Dalai Lama himself once said "My religion is kindness".  I also strive to practice mindfulness.  What does that mean?  For me it means striving to be where I am and to do what I am doing.  As Ram Dass says, "Be here now".  In other words, be where you are and do what you are doing.  I have a personality that is often lost in day dreams.  I am a thinker who probably spends too much time in introspection and reflecting.  There's nothing wrong with either of these things but you shouldn't do them every minute of the day.  Even now as I write these thoughts I am struggling to stay focused on what I am doing.  To make it even more challenging I believe I have a touch of ADD.  Staying present and focused is challenging for me.  The writings and teachings of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh have been very helpful to me.  Along with striving to be kind and present, with mind and body in the same place at the same time, I strive to always be grateful.  Although I sometimes struggle with depression, I know I am very blessed and privileged to have the life I have.  

Whenever I can I also try to study "The Four Noble Truths" and the Buddha's "Eightfold Path".

I would like to quote from a small book called The Buddha Way.  

"To study the Buddha way is to study the self.  To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.  To be enlightened by all things is to be freed from one's body and mind and those of others.  No trace of enlightenment remains and this traceless enlightenment is continued forever".

The Four Noble Truths are as follows....

  1. The Truth of Suffering
  2. The Truth of the Origen of Suffering
  3. The Truth of Cessation
  4. The Truth of the Path
Our suffering is basically caused by our longing and desire for things to be other than they are.  Most of us are not content and we want what we do not have and we want to be somewhere other than where we are.  We suffer because we are constantly longing for something we do not have and may never have.

Just my personal opinion but I believe that being spiritually enlightened is not the same time as being politically "woke".  

Finally, let me just share the Buddha's "Eightfold Path".

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration
In a nutshell I think the "Eightfold Path" is telling us to understand reality as it is and to not believe everything we think.  Speak only good words and only do what your heart tells you is right.  Let your work be for a good cause.  Do no evil and cause no harm.  Give everything the effort it deserves and whatever it is you are doing, be there while you are doing it.  Let your mind and body be together in the same place at the same time.

Whatever your religion is, I think you can follow these teachings.  A Christian, Jew, or Muslim can live like this and still be faithful to their faith tradition.   

This is how I strive to live.  Am I a Buddhist?  I hope so..... 

1 comment:

Inside Out said...

Hello Michael this is the woman from Australia. This will be a short message because my last and 1st message to you got lost in the ether somewhere!

I think I am beginning to arrive at words for what I am experiencing! I adore what I have learned & experienced of Buddhism. I understand the nature of suffering to stem from desire. I confess a great passion for understanding a phenomena in preference to casting judgement. But when I hear Buddhists prescribe ‘simply accept’ whatever goes by…. My body shrinks and tightens! Let me give an example; the Buddhist monks of Tibet whose leader understandably upped and left Tibet m, could they possibly ‘just’ accept the Chinese assault on their way of life’. It is my experience that I must work for ‘acceptance’ that it isn’t a gift that just drops in…. That I can’t just be accepting without meeting the noise of actual or perceived injustice!

Now I will stop and wait…to see if this message arrives…
Thank you for listening Michael
The woman from Australia who is actually English!