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 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 also focuses on self improvement through the Noble Eight-fold Path:
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?
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!
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.