Day by Day with Buddha
I love Buddha. Why? Because I do.
What do I mean? I can tell you it’s not the same as what Christians mean when they say “I love Jesus.” Buddha is dead. I love him for what he gave us and how his words still speak to our humanity in ways no other person has spoken. Yesterday I gave my family a second lesson in Buddhist ethics and Buddhism. My skeptical wife is not an easy audience, either. The beauty of Buddhism is that it does not contradict in any specific way particular beliefs nor is it militantly opposed to religious views not its own. Instead Buddhism says, “this is how we see things. Follow and accept or not.”
I follow and accept. How could I not?
I see friends and family struggle with life, pain, emotional distress, all because they’re attached, they cling to the things that cause them pain. They do not recognize how clinging is the cause of the pain, not the object being clung to.
I translate these concepts very badly. They make sense to me, though.
My problem is that I cling, too. I cling to the notions that people need to find answers and people should not hurt and people are too stubborn to cut loose from that which causes them pain and find peace.
A friend of mine is so distraught over living with an abusive spouse. Christianity offers no solutions. In my humble, minority opinion I believe one can send a letter to Santa Clause and spend the night in fervent prayer and Santa Clause is more likely to answer. Buddha has already given the answers. Within the teachings of Buddha and those who followed him are all the tools necessary for any of us to deal with any situation.
A book I’m reading says Buddhism is a “rational” approach to religion. It is that absolutely. Even those who not spend half their day in meditation (and I do not) can find ways to cope and answers to life’s problems. In the words of Buddha one can find understanding of why we do what we do and why others do what they do. With that it’s a simple matter to decide how to respond.
Every day I struggle with difficult emotions. I wrestle with depression, lethargy, pessimism, even anger sometimes. I hover on the edge of despair. These are problems I have had for decades. All my life they’ve nipped at my heels. The answers my former religion gave me, “pray,” and “trust God,” and blah blah never, ever gave me anything but more despair. I went from asking why I struggled to why God did nothing about it. I learned how to rationalize all kinds of irrational ideas. Then I finally admitted I was just being stupid.
I do not apply the principals of Buddha fully to my life yet. Like all humans there are still struggles. The difference, though, is that before I had questions upon questions now I have answers to my questions. Solutions are there even if I choose on occasion to forgo them. And even if I choose to indulge I do not get the awful fear that I’ve “sinned” and that God is going to get me.
Buddha saw mankind suffering. He found a way out of it. I recognize the wonderful truth of what he found. My suffering lessens and continue to ease each time I apply the simple principals he taught. These principals are what I’m teaching my family. Though I accept much more of what Buddha taught in the metaphysical realm people need not do so in order to apply the principals of Buddha’s basic teaching. One does not need to become a cartographer to use a map. One does not necessarily need to become a Buddhist to use the map Buddha drew.
I am a Buddhist. I choose to study, learn, and follow in the Theravada tradition, more or less. I wish to focus on the man Gautama who became Buddha because absorbing only what he taught will take a lifetime.
If I have one wish it is that all others learn the beauty of Buddha’s words and recognize how they can revolutionize their lives. How very unfortunate so many never will. But that is Samsara, that is suffering, and that is Truth. Sad. Very sad.
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