Saturday, November 01, 2008

I made it back to the Temple last week for a sunday sitting/dharma talk-which I have not done in over 2 years. Odd, isn't it-when I lived in RH it took me almost 45 mins to make it on sundays and I almost always went the 1 or 2 sundays I was off a month. Just over 2 years ago- I moved less than 10 mins from the Temple and was in a position to have 3 or more sundays off a month and I have only gone for full moon chanting-and that few times at best. I am not sure what has drawn me to the temple now.
I have been off work almost as much as I have been at work this year and could have attended every event and used what was there to aid my healing-but I never did. Does that mean I had given up on what Buddhism offered me? Was I becoming jaded-as I so often do with religion. Being man made religion has so many many holes-so many restrictions-that no matter how beautiful I find the way I view humanity from the comforts of a given religion-in the end the paradoxes and hypocrisy always gets to me. As I have gotten older-really since before Ameena was 4 or 5, I have mostly looked to non-traditional, non-book religions-which has helped the Honeymoon period with a particular faith or practice to last longer, but none the less I soon find holes in whatever pagan theory I am studying and before I know it I am jumping sects and changing my mind. Years ago I would keep a journal of how I felt when I discovered a new practice/way to exist-how it touched my soul, how I viewed my life and all humanity through it, how it had changed and developed me. I would later look back at how I felt during my first few months of 'dating' a new religion or practice, after had I seen all of the puppet strings and was tired of the show-ready to jump to something else-similar yet different enough to satisfy my now logical view of this practice. I could always still see how I was changed by having believed and practiced-even for a short while-but it made no difference as to me having outgrown that particular practice or belief. It was time to move on. You know Sagittarius are supposed to be unreliable and irresponsible-free spirits untouched by the responsible aspects of life. I have always thought I never fit that description (well except for the sexual part-and even there I lack the partners you would expect a Sag to have had) I am so serious and was born responsible-in fact the first person I can remember feeling responsible for is my mother:) Yet, in the religion and spirituality category I am a true Sag-I fall in love quickly and completely with a new faith or practice or belief and just as quickly I outgrow and am done with it. People are so serious about religion-hell most wars are fought with that as a base-yet I have never understood how any person can not outgrow at least one religion. For me it would be like still liking the same foods as an adult that I liked at 5-when I smothered everything in ketchup (which I can barely tolerate now). It seems like stunted emotional growth-especially in people who believe so strongly and live so little of what they believe. How do they avoid hating themselves? The contradiction fascinates me....but I digress:)
Buddhism was the first 'main-stream' type rellgion I have been interested in oh 6 or more years. That's not completely true, I think in a sense I have always been interested in Buddhism, I just never studied it. After all, I grew up reading Pearl Buck books, I can not remember time I did not love and long for the China that existed in her novels. I studied Chinese for 4 years in high school and even visited China in 1990-so obviously I knew about Buddhism. I can vividly remember visisting a 'real' Buddhist Temple in the middle of winter in China-nothing I have seen in the states even compares:) Yet, in my mind I always saw myself as not good enough for Buddhism, my soul to dirty-not evolved enough. My soul was too young to be that kind, that compassionate, that wise. Underneath my cold and often difficult to really know or get close to exterior is a very much hot-blooded passionate woman. I do not just mean passionate sexually-though there is that aspect-I mean socially. I could never have followed Martin Luther King Jr who during the Civil Rights Movement turned the other cheek. I am more Malcolm X-I am not going to hurt you, but if you slap me you best expect I will slap you back bitch! My heart did not ache and hurt for injustice or inequality or atrocities-my blood boiled. I did not want an apology, I wanted heads to roll. Also my pagan studies have given me a different bent on human nature and existence. I do not believe in non-violence-even as a more or less Buddhist I do not. I do not believe in "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"- and not just because I am not Christian and consider the bible to be Christian mythology and not fact-but becuase I can see that policy just leaves everyone "blind and toothless". Yet, I do believe that a certain level of violence is part of nature and therefore a part of human nature- anyone who has swam in lake Michigan will tell you it is the undertow that kills-no matter how beautiful the Lake appears. How violent is a storm-with branches left all over the street and power lines knocked down-and that is here where storms are mild. Violence is part of both nature and humanity and to pretend otherwise is rediculos. Now I eat meat-though I have gone through vegetarian phases. Whether I ate meat or not, I never felt that it was wrong to kill animals. Death is a part of life, I do not support the Death Penalty, but I support abortion. I view abortion as the death of that potential life-I think it is re-born, not gone forever, but I do believe it is a life. My views are varied and to explain them could encompass a novel longer than the unabridged version of The Stand-and that is not what this post is about. Violence has no place in Buddhism and I guess inside I always viewed Buddhists as highly evolved spiritual beings and I have always been too flesh and blood for that. I know most 'practicing' buddhist might not fit my definition, but I do not join or claim to practice and follow a religion unless I truly buy into what they are selling. Otherwise I would be a hypocrite-and as rude as this sounds I am going to post it anyway-if I was that shallow I would just be a Christian. Mean, I know, but then unless you have been hunted and hounded by a group of people who can not seem to agree on anything other than that you are going to hell and it is their personal responsibility to help you see the error of your ways, you can not understand how Christians, in this country at least, can make a pagans life hell here on earth. Or how hard it is for me to be nice and take them seriously when I behave in a more Christian manner than they do. Here I will give a few examples, since I am so bitter, the Christian teacher who told my 4th grader that she was going to hell because I did not take her to church or believe in Christ. My previous boss who was a co-leader with me but did not believe me over one of our employees because it was his duty as a Christian to believe another Christian over me-a pagan and heathen. Becuase I could see in the eyes of one of my favorite employees that he honestly believed I was evil, as he prayed over every meal he ate and considered himself to be a 'true' Christian though he had sex outside of marriage, cheated regularly and without shame or remorse on his girlfriend, fenced stolen items and was not above selling drugs. Yet, he honestly believed that I was the lost soul. The hate also gets to me-Jesus was such a sweet hippy dude how did a religion descended from his teachings end up with so many hating self-righteous idiots? But, again, I digress.... this is not a post about Christianity has destroyed the modern world, it is about Buddhism and how I was drawn to it.
Believe it or not, a book is what sent me studying Buddhism, a sci fi book no less. The book was Radiant, byt James Alan Garder (who is of course Canadian:). It was of a series of books he had done on humanity in the future-low on the totem pole and often quite funny. The main character-You Suu (which means Ugly-screaming stink girl)-was raised on a Buddhist planet. The book featured a form of future Buddhism which, of course, does not exist today, but fascinated me none the less. I began to really look into Buddhism. I started with His Holiness the Dalai Lama-who I liked anyway, though I quickly decided that Tibetan Buddism was not for me. The internet was an invaluable source of information. The deciding factor would be this post found on a website:
Why religion? Why Spiritualism? Why Buddhism?
This entire article is actually posted on this blog on a post I made Friday, January 20, 2006. So I will para-phrase here. What caught was his explanation of 'religion' and what we as humans seek in it:
Religions usually start when one person has a profound understanding of life (the universe and everything). They try and share their insight - they teach. Other people get interested in religion because they see something in that person's TRUTH; they too want to know about the truth.

So then, what is this 'some-thing' that we are to join with - or be afraid of? Most religions say that this 'thing' is God. But what is this God thing? And it goes on like this and on like this and on like this. The trouble with words is that they are limited - the word can never be the same as the thing it is describing.
You can listen to many different teachings but only through your own study can you actually realise THE TRUTH.

I could not have agreed more with that. What further drew me in was not that Buddhism was based on the premise that life was suffering and his path-the Buddhist path- was a way to end suffering, what drew me in was his example of how we created our OWN suffering and reveled as victims in it:
The suffering is not so much physical as mental. It is what we 'add on' to a situation. For example you have a nice china coffee mug -- you drop it and it breaks. Maybe it drops on your toe and there is pain. I'm sure you can survive this much. What is difficult to deal with are the add-ons . . . ''Oh, that was my favourite mug. My best friend gave me that; I will never get another. What stupid idiot left it balanced there anyhow? How can I tell my friend? And look at the stain on the carpet. My mother will kill me. It's not fair. Why do these things happen to me?''
It's difficult to accept the facts of life the way they are!
To be content with things just the way they happen is not easy.
So the dukkha, the suffering is something we actually create -- we make the problem. Mugs break, friends come & go, the weather changes -- all of this is natural.
We don't want things to go wrong we want them to go right. This is only natural. But the bad news is that it is natural for things to go wrong (sometimes). Most people can see this but it is very difficult to fully accept it. The good news is - it will change (eventually).
Because we do have some control in the world, and can often get what we want (and that is nice) we want that all the time. SORRY. No can do. Sure, you are careful with mugs; you try and look after your friends, but ... you've got to allow nature to do its thing.

Go with the flow.
If you can see when it is time to stop wanting and just leave things be your suffering will decrease. Like if you are trying to push start a car with a dead battery. You push -- and it nearly goes -- push -- and push again -- its worth making the effort. You want the engine to go. But maybe the nature of that engine means it won't start. Know when to stop. Take a break. Flag someone down. Call the repair man.

It may not seem like it, but this was a revelation for me. I could so see how it was not the event that caused suffering-though that is clearly not always the case-but what we add on to it. How we hold onto to an unwanted change that has occurred with both hands, struggling, cursing and sweating, trying with all our might to force that change to return to how it was before. How this in effect is how we choose to suffer rather than choose to except reality at it exists in that moment. The key word being choose. How often do I feel beat up by life, like the things that happen to me are out of my control-which is true-but I do not have to allow that to direct my path. I could learn another way to handle those things that are going to happen anyway-those un-fun and often life altering, aspects that are the bread and butter of this journey we call life. I wanted to know when to let go, take a break, call a repairman-and so my journey into Buddhism began.
I will not go over the details-for those too exist in previous posts-but I will say that at the dharma talk I attended this past week, I felt renewed. My teacher said that an easy explanation of Buddhism, the 10 Commandments-so to speak-of Buddhism would be:

Not to do any evil,
To cultivate good,
To purify one's mind,
For some reason this definition moved me, like an epiphany. It was nothing I had not heard or read before in studying Budhism but for me, it opened the reality of what I was seeking from Buddhism-not perfection but simply to not do evil, cultivate good and purify my mind.
I can do that!

So, I am seriously thinking of taking the Precepts this spring-commiting to Buddhism after many years of study-I am ready to not be perfect but instead to not do evil, cultivate good and purify my mind.....
~~Where ever you go, There you are!


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