Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why I am a Buddhist

Why am I a Buddhist? I’d say I am a Buddhist because of deep meditative experiences, bolstered by sangha and study. My friend said she’s seen glimpses “over a wall”, or what could be. I feel there is more. I feel that closing the distance between me and the Buddha is a worthwhile project.

The meditative experience was a deep absorption, integrating, healthy, helpful to reach my potential, suggested something more, imagine an awesome potential, and suggesting the means to get there.

The ethical explorations, the ten precepts, are for me extremely useful guides in how to behave, not in a way that I’m controlled by others, a sheep, or declawed, but in a way that truly makes me happy. I’m convinced it’s in my own interest to be kind and mindful.

Little things. Hot weather doesn’t bother me as much. I don’t feel like drinking alcohol addictively. You can read all the studies about he benefits of meditation.

Buddhism is pragmatic, and not intellectual, it’s interested in turning us in the deepest seat of our being. It’s not about asceticism, nor hedonism. Against my former anti-religions stance, I have become interested in chanting and other devotional activity.

Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. God is not pragmatic on the path to enlightenment. While I have some close friends who feel the issue of God is relevant to them, and I deeply respect their practice. For me, I don’t need something that doesn’t work for me. Some see that as making Buddhism not a religion. If you want to define it that way, I’m fine not to call it a religion: It’s not a philosophy, though, it’s too pragmatic.

Every step I’ve taken in the Dharma, becoming more devotional, developing friendships, reading primary and secondary texts, every retreat, every sangha night, every practice day. My friendships have been very positive. Every person I meet in the community seems awesome.

There has been nothing to make me wonder if I was going on the right path. While there have been revelations about imperfections and unskillful behavior by some people in the movement, the way it’s been handled has made me feel the FWBO is relatively transparent and integrated, open, not interested in covering up and misusing power. What I am talking about has been written about by people in the FWBO.

Look at the chairman of the FWBO, Dhammarati. Listen to his talks. He doesn’t seem to groove on the “power”, he seems to be slightly put out by it. He adopts his role reluctantly. He’s skeptical, curious and not interested in hypocrisy.

The organization is minimal. The preceptor’s college’s only task is to let people into the order. Every center is run by a chairman and a counsel and the people in the sangha.

The order is generous by offering it’s teachings free. There are some business, that teaching things like pain management, you can buy the books. Some people make a living through the teaching, which is fair enough; I don’t begrudge them that. But there’s some incredible commitment and generosity. It not an established religion, it retains elements of the forest tradition, appreciates the vitality. That’s what I feel about the movement—it is very alive.

I feel the ethnic elements of Zen (Japan) off putting, find Tibetan Buddhism alternately fascinating and ethnic. I think Sangharakshita’s modern synthesis the most appealing one, his vision of an order the most appealing. I’m not put off by his use of non-English terms. He is interested in all the movements of Buddhism, he’s inclusive, integrative, and well grounded in the fundamentals. I can draw the best out of these traditions, without having to shave my head or wear a robe.

And that is why I am a Buddhist.

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