Project Conversion

Project Conversion

My Time Ends with Buddhism

posted by abowen

Another month, another religion, another goodbye.

Buddhism, you and I…it’s been real, pal.

That’s the overall lesson of Buddhism, isn’t it? Learning to open ourselves up to reality free of our input and biases. Indeed, it’s hard to wash a dish without thinking about the dish, or the bills, or the kids arguing over a toy in the background. But that is why the Buddha gave us the Eightfold Path. It’s truly is a journey.

What I’ve Learned:

The stereotype: Buddhism is a hip faith that only artists, movie stars, and liberals practice. That’s true, but only a half truth. As I read the scriptures and the words of the Buddha, I discovered just how hardcore the Buddha was. Line after line he challenges us not only to control ourselves, but to have so much discipline over one’s self that this control becomes as natural as breathing. Oh yeah, he also says on many occasions that the best way (and sometimes the only way) to reach Enlightenment is to take up the Homeless Life and become a monk.

This isn’t the Buddha I expected. The Buddhism I expected didn’t recommend me to leave my family (with my wife’s permission). The Buddhism I expected didn’t guide into deep psychoanalysis. I didn’t expect to question everything I’d learned from the past four months.

Buddhism, when followed to the letter, is like the P90X of the religious world. And one of the central reasons for this intensity is because there is no dependence of a divine figure. If you are to be free, the Buddha says, you have to do it yourself.

By the same token, there are many forms of Buddhism which address the path toward Enlightenment in different ways. Whether you are Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, or Pure Land, the path is said to lead to the same destination. The Buddha’s method is big enough (and sometimes complicated enough) for all. Personally, if I were a life-long Buddhist, I would pick tools from each tradition for my practice. Wisdom is everywhere if you just allow yourself to find it.

What I’ll Change:

This topic will be covered in more detail next month. Stay tuned.

What I’ll Take With Me:

Every faith this year provides a souvenir. Buddhism is no exception. Going forward, I feel I have greater discipline to carry the rest of the year. The Buddha is a great example of self-reliance, perseverance, and determination. He has taught me how to never settle for less than the goal; to push myself to the limits of my comfort and understanding.

Whenever I feel anger, I catch myself, detach, observe, and make a course correction. The power to detach oneself from your thoughts and observe them objectively is a great tool, not only on one’s path toward Enlightenment, but in developing a positive outlook on life. This unrelenting editing process will serve me well in the future.

The most interesting and often frustrating aspect of Project Conversion is that I often do not feel as though I’ve grasped an understanding of the faith’s lessons until the end of the month. This isn’t to say that I get it all figured out, but that I glean a spark of inspiration, a point of illumination, a moment of satori. My moment came to me at this year’s home school convention during a talk about how to handle a strong-willed child. Most of the content and subject matter of the whole convention was Christian-based, and while I have no problems with Christianity, the doctrinal usage tended to get heavy at times. My natural inclination was to tune out the speaker. Satori ( a moment of Enlightenment) came once my Buddhist self-editor switched on and I removed my bias. I understood that wisdom is wisdom, regardless of where it comes from. By judging the source, I was attaching labels and therefore was attached to what wisdom should look like instead of observing it as it truly is.

Thus, I understood what it means to be a Buddha–an awakened one–to true reality.

Now that my month with Buddhism is at its end, I know that I cannot focus on how much I might miss the experience. If I am to honor the Buddha and reach Enlightenment, I have no choice but to move forward in the moment and be part of the world in its pure existence. There is no them or us. There is no good and evil. As a lay Buddhist once told my Mentor the meaning of Buddhism was: “The first letter of the word Buddhism…B. To be a Buddhist, just be.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month. June will be…different, but fun no doubt. Details are on the way.

Peace and thanks for joining me.


Comments read comments(11)
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posted June 4, 2011 at 11:24 am

Good question Jennifer. I in fact did run into this very issue with my wife. She asked how a Buddhist could be so cold. I explained to her that a true Buddhist is the exact opposite. Once I understood who detachment works, I offered her the following metaphor. The Buddhist is like a star whose warmth and light is generated from the inside independent of any outside source, while planets gain most of their warmth from the sun and are illuminated by the sun. Therefore, a Buddhist does not depend on outside stimuli for their joy, it is generated from within and radiates outword regardless of the circumstances. Once I understood this, it was easier to face the day because I knew two things 1) everything is transient, and 2) my joy isn’t dependent upon the outside world. With this in mind, I can think clearer and more objectively and therefore more wisely.

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