I have been pondering this post for quite some time. It’s a little difficult for me to write, because I’m not 100% sure of the reasoning myself. Hence why my blog is called “Accidental Buddhism.”
Let me start by saying thank you to those who have been reading my blog regularly and have left comments of encouragement. I truly appreciate your support and love. I write this blog to put my ideas and thoughts down, but it makes it far more fulfilling knowing I have a readership; even if it is small but loyal.
No less important to me are those who do not seem to understand why I choose to follow the path of Buddhism. Some cannot figure out why I would abandon my Catholic roots to pursue this new faith. I was asked recently, “are you involved in some kind of Buddhism?” As though Buddhism was some kind of cult and not one of the worlds oldest religions.
Up until recently I have kept my dabblings into other faith systems to myself. They were no one’s business but my own. I did not take them seriously enough my self to put them on display for the world to see. Then, as I’ve described in other posts (Can Diets Be Buddhist In Nature) I came across yoga. Yoga, like Buddhism, finds it’s roots in Hinduism. In Sanskrit yoga is defined as “to unite.” It is one of the six pillars of Hinduism. But, Buddhists practice yoga as well. Since Buddhism’s founder Siddharta Gautama was originally a Hindu prince before he became The Buddha, it is understandable that the two faiths merge in many ways (much like Christianity and Judaism).
For my own personal beliefs I use yoga as a form of meditation. My yoga practice and my study of Buddhism throughout college and since naturally led me “to unite” with the Buddhist faith.
Of course this is not a complete story of “Why Buddhism,” but it is a beginning. Now, hold onto your chairs because here’s where I get a little provocative.
Disclaimer: please understand that what follows are my feeling and are in no way meant to demean or denigrate anyone else’s faith or beliefs.
Above I mentioned that I had “abandoned” my Catholic roots. This is a misconception. I have not completely abandoned my upbringing. I still feel a deep attachment to Catholicism. The rituals of the faith have always been compelling to me; most particularly the praying of the rosary (I still carry one with me). I find it ironic that people assume I have forgotten my former faith, but I am attracted to Buddhism for many of the same reasons I am attracted to Catholicism. Like the rosary the Buddhists have the mala; prayer beads also used during meditation. This gave me my first sense of connection between the faith of my birth and my chosen faith.
If you can truly say that I abandoned Catholicism (or Christianity to be more literal) it is because I felt that they had abandoned me. Christianity has become quite contentious over the last decade here in the United States. Instead of being the all inclusive religion of love and acceptance that Christ espoused, it has become a religion of exclusion and heartache. This hits much closer to home for me as a gay man. The pastor of the church I grew up in (who I served as an alter boy for) has published articles in the church bulletin and given homilies from the pulpit condemning homosexuals and homosexuality on a regular basis.
This is not one rogue pastor this is numerous pastors throughout Christendom. Because of this and other reasons I have long felt excluded from Christianity. This is not to say that there are not open and accepting Christians in the world; there most certainly are and I have been blessed to know them. But when the outspoken of the faith launch an all out war against any of it’s followers, there is something wrong.
Please know that I am not running to Buddhism because I’m upset with Christianity. That is far from the truth. I was led to Buddhism because it feels like home to me. Buddhism is a very individual practice. There is of course a community that practices together (known as the sangha); I have not found one as of yet since my practice still remains in its infancy. I have a friend that always admired Buddhism and he used to say, “What I like about Buddhism is that they say, ‘I’ll be over here practicing and you can practice whatever faith you believe and I’m here to help you when you need it.'” It is that acceptance of others’ beliefs that I like about Buddhism. I also like that it can be seen as a philosophy and less as a religion. You can be a Christian Buddhist, a Jewish Buddhist, a Muslim Buddhist, or even an Atheist Buddhist (there is not God figure in Buddhism – you believe in the higher power you choose to believe in). [I will focus on God and Buddhism in an upcoming post.] So, I have not abandoned my belief in God or the Goddess, or the Universe, or whatever anyone chooses to believe in as a higher power. I think this is what scares most of the people who are confused by my conversion.
I believe the other element that people find distasteful is how public I’ve made this transition from one faith to another. Religion is a private matter for many people; up to this point is has been for me as well. The difference for me; I don’t write this blog to convert people to Buddhism, that is a path they must choose for themselves. I write this blog for my own understanding. Putting my feelings in writing is another form of meditation for me. It keeps me grounded and centered and mindful.
So, I come back to the question, “Why Buddhism?” And the only answer I can truly give is because it is the best faith for me. I will always respect others’ faith of choice; all I ask is the same in return. And no matter your feeling about what I believe know I will always love you and hope you can always love me.