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  Finding Buddhism - Further Spiritual Explorations

  By R. Wyndhorse -02/08/02

Other than the radical nature of embracing a strange and beautiful religion, what has initially attracted me to Neo-Paganism was its refreshing openness to varied spiritual ideas and its lack of rigid dogma. Its practitioners have freedom for creative expression such as formulating one's own rituals and spells. Neither is it a sin to explore other forms of religions, analyze their inherent wisdom and even adapt some principles that one finds to be in agreement with one's sense of virtue. Compare that to the narrowness of other dogmatic religions which tend to discard ideas no matter how wise it is simply because it is not written in their recognized Holy Book.

It is probably not surprising that when I came across Buddhism, it should attract me too. Although Buddhism is a form of organized religion (the sort I tend to buck) with its accompanying doctrines and Holy Books, I find that it contrasts to other forms of organized religions in that it does not force its dogma on its practitioners. One is free to study and analyze existing religious ideas, test it and pull it apart before one accepts it. As a matter of fact, one is even encouraged to do so and it is the Buddha himself who advises this in a teaching called Kalama Sutra that says:

"Rely not on the teacher/person, but on the teaching. Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words. Rely not on theory, but on experience. Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

This is just one of the many teachings in Buddhism that appeals to me. Buddhism is a religion that is reasonable, logical and not presumptuous. It is non-oppressive and does not claim to be THE one, true religion. Rather, it provokes a person to explore one's inner self and acquire wisdom mainly through the practice of meditation. It appears to me to be a deeply philosophical religion with many mysteries and elaborate rituals as in the Tantric versions, yet its practice can be as simple as one wants it to be such the Zen variety.

Buddhism, just like Christianity, has many varieties because of the many cultures and countries that has adapted it. Just like the proverbial water in a vessel, the beauty of Buddhism is that it transforms and evolves according to the culture of the place where it is propagated. Zen evolved from the minimalist Japanese, from the shamanic Tibetans came Vajrayana or Tantra, the enigmatic Chinese have Pureland Buddhism and Mahayana and there are probably more that I haven't even begun to understand yet. However, unlike Christianity where some leaders profess their church variety to be better over another, I find that within Buddhism, no one claims to be better. It is because no teaching (or at least those that I have encountered so far) contradicts some other teaching. All Buddhism "varieties" are based on the same teachings of Buddha and Buddhist leaders accept that the reason for the diversity is purely cultural or due to focus on particular styles of learning. Perhaps a good analogy would be the use of eating utensils. The Chinese use chopsticks while the Western world uses fork and spoon and yet another culture would use their bare fingers. Each is an effective way to conquer hunger and fill one's appetite despite differing techniques to do it. It is plain arrogance to claim that one method of eating is better over another.

I guess I am attracted to Buddhism mainly because of the following reasons :

1. It is not conceited and self-aggrandizing

2. Its emphasis on the pursuit of wisdom and happiness by finding it within one's self

3. It is philosophical rather than dogmatic. This appeals to both my heart and mind

4. It is strange and mysterious sometimes yet it teaches sparklingly clear truths.

I have often read that Buddhism is a philosophy rather than a religion. But while it is true that it is indeed more of a philosophy, it is still a form of religion if we consider the elements of regularity and ritual. However, to me it doesn't really matter. Buddhism's allure for me is that it presents a technique to master one's Self as opposed to the shallow "preachiness" of other religions. And although I have a tendency to avoid the moralistic concepts of most religions, I find it reasonable to accept the guidelines for "morality" as presented by Buddhism because it is governed by the principle karma rather than some vindictive god.

Having said all of the above is not equivalent to saying Buddhism is the greatest religion. What I am trying to express though is why Buddhism is right--for me. Buddhism is by no means perfect. Just like Christianity or any other religion is not perfect either. Mainly not because its teachings are flawed but because they are translated and governed by mere humans who are subject to humanity's foibles. To put it more correctly, I should say it is the Buddhists and Christians that are often at fault rather than the teachings of their respective religions. Ultimately, I think all religions embody the same teachings--compassion, goodness, spirituality, peace, enlightenment-- often just worded and presented differently. It's like they are saying the same thing using different languages. The trap where we humans find ourselves in falling into (and too often not even realizing it) is brought on by our ego. The average person always thinks he is right and the other person is wrong. If it so happens that it is the leader of a gullible group who happens to think soŠ well, religion can even be a cause for war. The September 11 event is probably a perfect example.

I still have so much more to learn. If I were to follow Buddhist thinking, it looks like it might even take me several lifetimes to know enough and evolve into the kind of being I would like to be. What I can say for sure though is that Buddhism and Neo-Paganism have both opened doors for me that seems to lead to even more inspiring paths for spiritual journeying. Another thing that I can be definite about is that I did not find this sort of inspiration in organized religion before. Religion used to turn me off. The only thing that kept me within one was simply because I inherited it and the momentary glimpses of spirituality in it. Now, I believe there is finally something that religion has to offer that I can respect and endeavor to look into. The Buddha and his philosophy make sense to me.



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