Why Buddhism?

I don’t call myself a Buddhist yet, by any means, but I do think about the philosophy and principles every day and work to apply them to every aspect of my life. To me it seems like a journey, filled with endless learning and application, before I’ll feel comfortable enough to use the label.

So why am i interested in Buddhism?

Buddhism is DIY

Buddhism has a heavy focus on the individual and your actions. You have complete responsibility for your actions, as everything is interconnected through, and a sum of, Karma.

I am the owner of my actions, heir of my actions, actions are the womb (from which I have sprung), actions are my relations, actions are my protection. Whatever actions I do, good or bad, of these I shall become their heir. ((Upajjhatthana Sutta))

I’ve always believed that you are the sum of your actions and the actions/inter-actions of those that created you (and so on). I also feel that, for the most part, you create your own success and failure through your decisions and how you treat people. The thought of praying to an unseen God has always seemed awkward to me. I’m a DIY kind of person. (You are probably asking yourself: what about sickness and death? There are answers, but I’ll save that for another post.)

The whole process of exploring, learning and applying Buddhist principles is DIY too. You make it what it is.

In fact, the Buddhist scriptures are:

not regarded as gospel, as an unassailable statement of divine truth, revealed by a prophet, to be accepted purely on faith. Instead, its teachings are meant to be assessed firsthand, to be put into practice in one’s life so that one can find out for oneself if they do, in fact, yield the promised results. ((What is Theravada Buddhism?))

So everything is learned and experienced first hand.

Buddhism is Self Improvement

Buddhism also focuses on self improvement through the Noble Eight-fold Path:

  • Right View (see the impermanence and interconnectedness of everything)
  • Right Intention (committed to become a better person)
  • Right Speech (enhance people’s lives through your words)
  • Right Action (do no harm)
  • Right Livelihood (earning a living doing no harm to others)
  • Right Effort (put in the necessary amount of energy to live these virtues)
  • Right Mindfulness (see the world clearly without distortion)
  • Right Concentration (focus)

So focus on enhancing lives (your own included!) through compassion and kindness by expending enough energy to see the world clearly without distraction or bias, realizing the world is interconnected and impermanent.

No one can argue with self improvement, right?

Science!

I believe very strongly in science. I work for a science education company and my wife is a science teacher. Even without considering all the other ways it impacts our lives, it’s a very big part of our daily life.

So how does science work with Buddhist principles? Buddhism relies on cause and effect and, as I mentioned above, first hand experience. Sounds a lot like science, right?

The Dalai Lama even studied science as a young man. Physics, cosmology, biology and psychology no less! Here’s what he had to say at the 2005 Society for Neuroscience conference:

Although Buddhist contemplative tradition and modern science have evolved from different historical, intellectual and cultural roots, I believe that at heart they share significant commonalities, especially in their basic philosophical outlook and methodology. On the philosophical level, both Buddhism and modern science share a deep suspicion of any notion of absolutes, whether conceptualized as a transcendent being, as an eternal, unchanging principle such as soul, or as a fundamental substratum of reality. Both Buddhism and science prefer to account for the evolution and emergence of the cosmos and life in terms of the complex interrelations of the natural laws of cause and effect. From the methodological perspective, both traditions emphasize the role of empiricism.

Just one small example of why I am so impressed by the Dalai Lama. I highly recommend reading the whole speech too, if you have the time.

The Dalai Lama doesn’t shy away from science or technology (like many organized religions do), as he understands the powerful role it can play in our lives. His main focus is the role ethics can play in our advancement:

I am speaking of what I call “secular ethics” that embrace the key ethical principles, such as compassion, tolerance, a sense of caring, consideration of others, and the responsible use of knowledge and power — principles that transcend the barriers between religious believers and non-believers, and followers of this religion or that religion.

Spirituality and science working together? Yes, please!

It’s Simple and Logical

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.

-Dalai Lama ((Compassion and the Individual))

Quite simply, I love the focus on compassion and kindness. It’s an easy message to like. All of the principles that build off it are logical (to me, at least) and fit a lot of my belief structure already, with very little effort or alteration. It seems natural.

I have to admit the lack of a (sometimes) hypocritical central organization makes for a refreshing change compared to the Roman Catholic religion I grew up in and especially the evangelical Christians that are becoming more mainstream due to fairly popular politicians.

Growing up as a Catholic, the thing I always struggled with was having faith in something I didn’t believe in 100%. Faith requires 100% belief, otherwise it doesn’t work. I take the approach that if 95% belief was OK, what’s stopping it from being 90% or 75% or even 25%? Nothing. Once you notice a chink in the fence, you start noticing them all.

I’ll leave that for another post, though. Way too much to get into on that topic.

I hope you are enjoying the posts so far! I’m psyched at the response I’ve received. I’m getting more traffic than I ever expected, especially considering I haven’t even promoted the site yet.

What would you like me to write about next? That and any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Use the comments, they are for you.

Where this is going

To give you an idea of where I plan on going with this site, here are a few general topics I've been thinking about lately:

  • Finding and following your passion: seems like a lot of people my age (including me) are having a mid-life crisis in terms of finding the right vocation/livelihood that will make them happy (or happier) — something that fits with their passion and interests.
  • Buddhism and kids: how do you do it?
  • Coming to terms with (and moving past) the religion you were brought up in: I know most "westerners" were most likely brought up in another religion — for me it was Roman Catholicism. Even though I haven't been a member of the church for like 15 years, I've been struggling with moving past it as I start to focus on Buddhist philosophy.
  • Dealing with time, attention and competing responsibilities to focus on the relationships that mean the most to you.

I'm sure Melisa will have her own set of topics and ideas, but that's where I intend to take my journey.

Welcome

A new domain. A new blog. A new purpose.

I've been blogging at end-on-end.com since at least 2004 (seven plus years — wow!), mainly about family, technology, music and politics, although I never had a singular theme or focus. But that's what personal blogs are meant for, right? Today, I'm launching this new blog with a more focused approach: still personal, but through the lens of mindfulness, as my wife and I (and 3 kids too, I suppose) discover and explore Buddhist philosophy and thought. We plan on writing longer form pieces on our journey, sharing our experiences and what we learn along the way.

I've been very interested in Buddhism since freshman year of college (1994-95), but never spent an extended time focusing on applying it to my life. That all changed recently, though. We've had an interesting year so far, with what seems like crisis after crisis in our life. Some have hit really close to home, but many had to do with people close to us and we were heavily invested in the event. The sum total of all this took a heavy toll on us emotionally and physically. Almost to the breaking point. Thankfully, something along the way sparked both of us to start reading Buddhism-related books: my wife started reading a few Dalai Lama books on happiness and I started reading Mindfulness in Plan English.

After that, many great conversations ensued between the two of us and we started noticing Buddhism more and more in our life. From Dan and Merlin talking about Buddhism on the Back to Work podcast to the two pieces of Zen art we received from a Buddhist monk while we lived in Seattle (one of them features the Ensō symbol you see on this blog) — it was practically everywhere we looked. So we decided to keep exploring and start applying it to our life. Our happiness has definitely improved since that point.

Yeah, the crises have seemed to stop for the time being, but we're also making more of an effort to live in the moment and be mindful of each other and the kids, so we focus on the things that we care about most. That's where this site comes in... I already loved the End On End name and domain, since I used a version of it for the other blog. I thought the name fit well with the concept for this site and even the Enso symbol we have hanging in our house, so I decided it was time to start.

I really hope you decide to stick around and share this journey with us!