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Am I Buddhist or Am I Not??

April 10, 2011

I just returned from my favorite coffee house in a nearby city. Usually I am not there alone, I go there for support group meetings.

For many Sundays now, I have had the desire to go to a coffeehouse by my lonesome and sit and read and write or work on art or whatever.

That’s what I did this afternoon and evening. I read a bit of “Creative Journaling,” and was all ready with my colored pencils to do some really cool art..

.. and realized I had left my sketchbook at home.. great.

So I found other stuff to do.

I read some of “Diet for a Small Planet.” It’s a really deep book, so I have to take it slow.

And I wrote some notes about my life in my little spiral bound index card notebook.

Some of the notes were about Buddhism.. specifically what I agree with and what I don’t.

Here’s mostly what I wrote down in my notes..

How am I Buddhist?

1. I believe desires can cause harm and suffering.
2. I believe that overall, the Noble 8 Fold path is a good guide for living.
3. I believe meditation will work, and does work, even though I do not, as yet know this from personal experience.
4. I like the Buddhist group I attended last month.
5. I think certain practices, such as meditation and chanting, are likely to be quite healthy.
6. Many American (non-Asian, I mean) Buddhist converts are vegetarians because they don’t want to cause harm to animals. I am in the process of becoming a vegetarian.
7. I believe in quieting the mind.. finding inner peace. If we find deep inner peace, it doesn’t matter what is going on externally.
8. I believe some questions are unanswerable, and we should not try to wear ourselves out asking “why why why why.”
9. I took a personality test.. a really cool one, on beliefnet.com. It relates personality to religion. Top of my list was the type of Buddhism called Mahayana.
10. I often just think like a Buddhist, and try to follow the 8 fold path in some ways. It’s part of my consciousness.

There are probably some other things I am not thinking of .. but those are the reasons I feel I am Buddhist.

Here are reasons why I’m not.. or at least, things I do not agree with..

1. problems with dualistic thinking vs. non-dualistic thinking.. major contradictions here.
2. Other paradoxes and contradictions.
3. Some teachings I find unfathomable and ridiculous. Not going to get into examples of this now.
4. “Sexual misconduct.” This is interpreted differently by different Buddhists.. a general interpretation of right sexual living is being in a committed, monogamous long term relationship. I am occasionally, and have been, sexually active here and there, but it’s been years since I was in a long term monogamous relationship. So I am violating a Buddhist rule or guideline for sexual conduct, and have done so through the years.
5. Buddhists are not supposed to consume any intoxicants. I like to have a beer once in awhile, and on rare occasions, a high ball – Jack and Coke or something like that. I also am quite tempted to smoke tobacco. I do not get drunk, and I do not smoke anything that gets me stoned. That is a good balance, I think.
6. I don’t go for any of the mystical far out teachings of Buddhism.. the myths, the magical stuff, etc. But then, I can be a Buddhist without believing in any of that stuff.
7. Being into Buddhism sometimes greatly aggravates my OCD symptoms. And this hurts!
8. I am not into karma and the belief in past lives. This is a big part of Tibetan and Therevadan Buddhist teachings, but not near so much in Zen, which is one reason I like Zen.
9. I don’t feel that comfortable identifying myself as a Buddhist.. doesn’t feel entirely honest. I consider myself “semi-Buddhist.” That’s what I tell people.

You can see why I feel conflicted!

One thing to keep in mind is NOT to be a fundamentalist. And NOT to feel like a hypocrite if I have a beer, or take part in a sexual activity at times. These things are part of life. I feel bad doing such things, when trying to be a Buddhist, but this is not a kind way of treating myself.

I just have such trouble not being all or nothing about such things! It’s the way my mind works, or rather doesn’t.

Fact is, I can be a Buddhist and do stuff that I want to do.

There is no deity to appease by my actions. The guidelines in Buddhism are just that, guidelines. Many western Buddhists get hardcore about the faith and take vows. I don’t have to do that. I’m not into vows.

I keep reminding myself.. (and will continue to do so) that Buddha said, “Here are my teachings. Take the ones that make sense to you that you can adopt into your life. Throw the rest away.”

And supposedly, the last words Buddha said before he died were, “Be a lamp unto yourself.”

So, I can be a Buddhist, and still follow my own conscience, even if it means that I sometimes go against Buddhist teachings. And this is ok, I can still be a Buddhist.

Even if I feel uneasy about it..

I feel uneasy about tons of stuff. I shouldn’t sweat this..

These are my thoughts on Buddhism, and whether or not I am a Buddhist.. I think I … mostly am.

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