Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Beliefs of a Bad Buddhist

Playing on the iPod: David Lanz & Paul Speer
Meters swum today: 1900

One of my co-workers (not the xenophobic clod) asked me today what Buddhists believe, anyway. I told her I didn't have the foggiest idea. I could tell her what I believe, though. That wasn't nearly as interesting because she suddenly remembered something she had to do. Remind me to use that trick next time someone asks me if I've accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.

I ought to say here, I'm a Buddhist by default. Couple years ago I sat down and figured out what, in fact, I actually believed, did a little prowling around the basic tenets of world religions, and Buddhism came the closest. This is all my mother-in-law's fault, by the way, may she rest in peace. When she died and we were cleaning out her apartment, we found out she had at least one book on just about every religion known to man, from paleolithic shamanism right up through Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (more on him later). She was New Age when it was old age and could cast a horoscope the old fashioned way, ie, without computers. We had her funeral in a Lutheran church, but that's only because I hung around the place. Nice folks, Lutherans.

Anyway: I can't hold with the Biblical God because I know too much about cosmology to take them both as literal fact. Analogy, story, myth, even nice groundwork as to how one should treat one's fellow beings, sure, but literal belief, no. Old Testament, New Testament, New Improved Testament, doesn't matter. And yes, my folks took me to church and Sunday school and all that. and I tried really hard to believe it, especially as a kid, but I couldn't. Quite.

What I believe is that the nature of life is to exist. Scientists have found weird little worms that live in boiling water in volcanic vents at the bottom of the sea, and lichen in miles-deep caves that have never seen the sun and eat rocks. I believe that if there's any way possible for a living thing to exist, it will. Witness trees and small blades of grass jutting out of concrete and sheer cliff faces at impossible angles. I believe that all life is essentially the same. I believe that what Buddha figured out, while he was hanging around under the bodhi tree being pestered by Mala and experiencing ultimate truth, was that we're all made of the same stuff. These divisions we create to say this is you, that is me, that's a rock, that's a plant, I'm a person, are all artificial and all inherently wrong. I believe that Buddha realized that because we are all the same, there is no birth, no death and no need to be afraid. It's not a question of "not coming back again" as a reincarnated being but of simply realizing that the "I" that can come back again does not exist. I am you, you am I, we are all the same. We are life expressing itself in one of the billions of ways it's found over the years. Every moment is perfect. Everything around you reflects the glory of God, or Life, Itself. Why? Well, because the nature of life is to exist. See beginning of paragraph.

I guess I can see how that might bug a colleague who's used to hearing something like "I believe that Christ died for my sins" or "I believe there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet." Maybe I better stay out of these discussions for a while. But that's what I believe. Prove me wrong.

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