In earlier posts I have written about Buddhism, the basic ideas, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path. As I discover more things about Buddhism myself I’m going to write about what I find. But I’ll give you a little personal history first. I was raised attending non denominational Christian church. A church that follows the basic Christian belief but was not affiliated with Baptist, Lutheran or any other Christian denomination. When I moved from my parents home and got out on my own at 17, I left church behind. You could say I believed in a God but really didn’t give it much thought. In my early thirties I came to a point in my life where I thought I needed God. I started reading the Bible and tried to clean up my life. Up to that point I smoked and drank and pretty much lived how I pleased. Things happened to me of a crisis nature that made me believe that I needed saving. I went back to church, prayed a lot and really tried to live a good life. Whatever the reasons, I never felt the presence of a God. No matter how I tried it just never happened for me. Even when things turned around, and my life got quite a bit better I could never say that I felt it was “Gods presence” that made it happen. So I left religion and belief behind.
A few years ago my wife and I joined a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship that some of our friends belonged to. The UU, as it’s commonly known is a religion that pretty much leaves your religious beliefs up to you. Founded on the Christian religion, UUism has come to be a haven for people of any and all religious beliefs or no belief at all. Everyone is welcome and no one is told that their belief or non belief is wrong. It is a great place for people like me who want the community and fellowship of a church but just can’t bring yourself to believe the dogma of mainstream religion. Over the years I have read about and studied Buddhism. Buddhism is considered a religion by many but I see it as a way of life. A way of life and living that helps you find spirituality and continually helps to improve your life and the world around you.
I read an article about 30 years ago in a magazine about Catholic monks in a monastery in Massachusetts who practiced Buddhist meditation. I found it very intriguing that it was okay to combine Buddhism with other faiths. That’s when I really started looking into it. Since then I’ve read a ton of books by The Dali Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and many other Buddhist practitioners. I have learned to meditate, and practice what’s called “Mindfulness.” There is a Buddhist meditation center in my home town that I have visited a few times and I have a friend who is a Zen Buddhist Priest. I am by no means an expert in any of this but I have learned some over the years and I believe that it all has helped me to be a more spiritual person and one who acts and thinks with a clearer mind. Buddhism teaches about the impermanence of everything including material objects and life itself and knowing this has helped me to worry less, make less assumptions, stop judging, and just be a decent person because I can and want to, and not because I think there will be some kind of judgement of my life after I die. It is very freeing to believe this way.
The Dali Lama Thich Nhat Hanh
So that’s my religion history, such as it is. If you have read my earlier posts you will recall that I wrote about “The Four Noble Truths.” The Buddha, (who was a man, not a god) taught about these truths or beliefs and what they mean about life. Very briefly, this is what they are. #1 There is suffering in life. #2 There is a reason for the suffering. #3 There is a way to end the suffering. #4 Following the Eightfold Path is the way to end suffering. Sounds intriguing right? Well it does to me and it did when I first started learning about it. So I’m going to write some posts about what I’ve learned as I have applied these truths to my life. And as with anything, I’m still learning and will always be learning. That’s one of the great things about this. You can never know it all so there is always something else to know and keep you going.
One of the things I read about Buddhism that really helped me to discover what it is about was written by the Dali Lama. He said, give Buddhism a try, if it works for you that’s great. If not, leave it behind. It really helped me to see that Buddhism is not some dogmatic belief system that you have to ascribe to in order to “belong.” It’s probably the most important thing I have read about Buddhism. It really opened my eyes. With my next post I’ll write about the first Noble Truth and what I think it means. See you then!