From a Christian perspective, I imagine that Buddhism could be seen as a collection of mythology and superstitious ceremonies that are taught by someone who lives in a monastery and wears a robe. Our concept in the United States about any religions other than Christianity are jaded by the indoctrination that has been forced on our society by Christians in an attempt to dominate politics, family, and most of our society as depicted by Christian mythology as the only one truly spiritual and righteously moral religion in the world. By Buddhist standards most Christians wouldn’t know good morality from fear of being sent to hell for not conforming. Please remember who we are dealing with in any religion.
All religions were early man’s attempt at an explanation of science and nature. All religions contain mythology. By Christian standards, Buddhism is a heathen society of monks and nuns who teach lay people Asian exotic customs and esoteric beliefs based on a mythological book of some kind, along with meditation. Actually the Pali Cannon is the only true written historical record of Buddhist scripture. We must look at the fact that when we have been practicing or being indoctrinated by one belief system, it is hard to view another through open minded eyes. I liken it to considering buying a sports car after spending most of your life driving a fire truck. The cup holders and the radio are nice but where are the ladders and hose compartments? Doesn’t this thing have a siren? We can’t be objective once we get used to doing something a certain way and most of mainstream media in America was hijacked by Christianity years ago. Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” comes to mind. The humorous thing to me is that most of the owners of mainstream media were and are mostly Jewish producers of television and they used to produce Christmas Specials on television to advertise their sponsor’s products on.
Today, prayer in schools and the celebration of religious holidays is not permitted because of the unfairness of trying to force one religion down everyone else’s throat. I used to think all holidays were religious. Thanksgiving is a national holiday. I remember the annual Christmas pageant that was, “Oh So Full”, of the indoctrination by the church into and onto our children that even the people who were Jewish and Islamic were forced to participate unless their parents strongly objected. I realize I am dating myself here but I remember in the third grade being told to bow our heads and pray in school. Over the years I have heard so many misnomers and propaganda against Buddhist practice that I feel the need to debunk myths here.
First, Buddhism doesn’t contain any heathen practices and isn’t considered to be a faith of deities. There is no Buddhist God. Their idea of what a God is in Buddhist teachings can be basically described as an analogy for aspects of our own personalities. Karma is basically what most of us consider the phrase “What goes around comes around.” Anyone who has studied the science of astronomy now knows that we are all part of cosmic dust and Siddhartha Gautama originally said in what we now know to be around 500 BCE that everything, including every particle of dust is all part of the same thing, including people. It took scientists thousands of years, a Hubble telescope and an electron microscope to understand how right he was. That is why one aspect of modern physics is now known as “Buddhist Cosmology”. He said we are all connected. So, if I hurt you or anything else, I am hurting a part of me. Buddhists don’t need a deity to answer to for morality, they have a set of ethics which consist of what most people call “the golden rule” which is not in the bible, as so many people told me through the years.
I have heard many comments over the years about Buddhism that I wish to expound on. Some women I know have said things that made me wonder what planet they grew up on. One friend of mine said once, “I am not going to pray to some old fat Buddha!” This is wrong on so many levels that I can hardly contain myself when someone is that ignorant. The “old fat Buddha” she was referring to is the artistic rendering of the honorific figure named “Cloth Sack”, a nickname given for the large sack that he is depicted carrying most times. He is seen as a huge fat round man with long drooping earlobes. His actual name is Hotei to the Japanese and Budai to the Chinese. He could be thought of as the Buddhist version of Saint Nicholas. In legend he carried gifts of candy for the children, tobacco for the men, and sewing implements for the women of the villages he visited. He is no more real than Santa Clause but he is used to illustrate parabolic stories in several artistic renderings, mostly statues and paintings in Asia. Sometimes he is said to be the “Maitreya Buddha” of the future by people who have not studied and learned that he was supposed to be a. Buddhist practice is not used to beg forgiveness or curry favor with deities as what some of my fellows call “the spook in the sky”. Buddhists do not practice in order for things to change but to have the strength, wisdom, and insight to change them properly instead of expecting someone to come fix the world based on the wishes of humans, who spiritual deities are usually seen as being intolerant of. Buddhist prayer and practice is designed to reach what might be called the spiritual part of a person, which some call our Buddha nature, which we all have. This is something born into us so we don’t learn it, we learn to bring it out.
There are as many sects of Buddhism as there are of protestant Christianity. Christians use the word love as much as we do the word compassion. We believe that we are responsible for what we do and what we allow to happen to us and don’t believe “the devil made me do it” is a viable excuse. Buddhists do believe in evil but from within not as something that invades our bodies or lives like a ghost. Everything is within. When people ask me if I believe in a higher power, I always say yes. I feel that through something in me, not out somewhere in space. The key is the direction of the Universe and it moves on it’s own without my intelligence. I have no control over it so I must control myself. Happiness is a state of mind. It is like a train traveling down a track in it’s own direction and speed. I could hang off the back of the caboose, trying to swerve from side to side along the tracks to change it’s direction or run and push to speed it up or drag my feet to slow it down. But, what I eventually want to do is learn to go inside, find my seat, and learn to enjoy the ride.
Meditation can be as simple as concentrating on my breathing instead of thinking about everything else. I can’t stop all conscious thought but I can slow it down enough to where I am not thinking too much, creating stress. The key word for me is mindfulness. Being mindful of who I am, how I treat the world, and how I perceive what is given to me. We don’t have ten commandments, we have five precepts that go like this:
1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.
The original Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama started the entire journey over trying to relieve suffering in the world. The original teaching was the four noble truths and the eightfold path.
The Four Noble Truths:
- Suffering does exist
- Suffering arises from attachment to desires
- Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
- Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
There are many sites on the internet and places one can go in most all major cities to find Dharma teachings and meditation groups that practice Buddhist meditation. About.com and Wikipedia both have immense resources of Buddhism definitions and many other religious explanations. If you are interested then I would suggest studying and finding a center to practice in with others. One can be of any religion as Buddhism is made to adapt. Buddhism was said to be the journey, not the spiritual destination. What the end result you find is internal. The path of Buddhist practice was described in the simile of the raft. If you couldn’t cross a river and built a raft, after crossing the river, would you say, “Oh, what a great raft,” and then carry it around on your head from now on? Or would you set it adrift or leave it for someone else to use? Which would be the proper use of the raft? Buddhism teaches us not to become attached to any views. Quote: “”…Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us learn to look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for…” End Quote by Thich Nhat Hanh from *The Order of Interbeing. The first mindfulness training. It is simple and it’s common sense philosophy makes it easy for anyone to adapt to.