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Aubrey Portwood

My 2013 New Years Resolution: Be a better Buddhist

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375. Control of the senses, contentment, restraint according to the code… — Bhikkhuvagga: The Monk, Dhammapada

Suffering

When I began Buddhism, I was excited. It wasn’t hard to become a Buddhist. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t complex, it was straight to the point.

Many Buddhists (converts) say that it was some amount of suffering that brought them to Buddhism. This was the case for me (and too, for the Buddha himself.) At points in my life I was an Athiest, Agnostic, then Jewish, then something in between Christian and Jewish, then I found Rastafari and Kabbalah. I was all over the place! I’m not sure anyone has suffered from Religion, but I did. It was exhausting, I lacked trust, faith, and even hope.

It was easy to recognize my suffering during this time.

The reason I’m writing this post, is because I feel the same kind of suffering today as I did then. Just over different things. I guess I know something is wrong, something isn’t right within myself.

If the moon was Buddhism, then the light it shown was suffering.

Letting Go

I remember, at one point towards the end of my religious journey, just letting go of it. I didn’t have to pick anything, I didn’t have to believe anything, nor reject anything. I just let go. I remember the feeling of relief. I had learned so much from it that I started studying what the problems were. I wrote them down:

  • My ego
  • My delusion
  • And finally, my suffering

And, I found these things to be apparent for everyone. Everyone is a bit egotistical and selfish, delusional to some degree, and suffered. So, then, suffering became a focus point for me. It was the ego, ultimately, that led me to delusion which led to my suffering. This became my “religion” for a while. I stopped putting myself first, started focusing on other’s instead. I felt like, at first, I was repressing my issues. But really I wasn’t. I was letting go of myself. A few months later I decided to read a book about Buddhism, just by chance. It was pointing directly at the ego, at delusion, at suffering and I was astonished and became a Buddhist.

Moral Principles vs. Meditation & Practice

Since becoming a Buddhist I haven’t meditated much. In fact, at all. Buddhism gives you a clear outline on what brings you to peace and/or enlightenment. It’s called the 8 fold path. It’s basically, in a nutshell, tells you to live morally and practice meditation. And, we all know what it means to be moral on some basic level without ever having to read the Wikipedia article I just linked you to.

Just live morally. Well, I think all religious people would agree with me. It’s hard.

Plain and simple, living morally is very hard. It’s hard to do all the time, but it’s not really hard to do most of the time, or even half of the time. I’ve been pretty good at being moral most of the time. But, I don’t meditate, which is a big part of following the path. But, since I became Buddhist, I could say I’ve been practicing Buddhism-“lite” for the most part.

(Which, I need to add, is still good. If more people just made an effort to live morally, I think the world would be better for it.)

Achieving Mindfulness

Another aspect of Buddhism-“lite” I feel I’ve achieved is mindfulness. I think it’s actually a horrible word to use, because it’s more like analyzing, or looking deeply. Thich Nhat Han describes it best when he tells us to not look at a cloud as just a cloud, when you look at it deeply, you should be able to also see, just as clearly, rain, snow, or tea.

It’s really that simple, but doing it everyday in all things makes it more harder to do. You actually have to take time to think about things. You also have to do a bit of the ego-removing we talked about before. But, for the most part, it’s not hard. It really helps when you’re frustrated, angry, or worried. Just sit down, think about it deeply. Try and see what you aren’t seeing.

Laziness & Complacency

So, in this post I have been describing some of the things that I feel I’ve achieved as a Buddhist. But, I’m going to tell you that, though it sounds nice, I’m actually quite lazy and don’t do any of it as often as I should.

There’s a ton of things I could be doing better. The quote above was written there to remind me that Buddhism is about discipline, control of one’s self, keeping cool, and remaining in a peaceful mindset. You see, I’m not very disciplined. In the back of my mind, I always think that if I could only become a more disciplined person, I could achieve a more peaceful mind.

I’m very much controlled by my desires, which in true Buddhism is the center issue causing all suffering. I eat too much, desire material things and status (I’m leaving some thing out here intentionally). These things aren’t bad to have, but I’m so attached to them that I can’t control them most of the time. It’s unhealthy.

The List

So, I thought I would start off 2014 with a list of things I need to do better as a Buddhist. Not sure how I’m going to do them, but no more being lazy.

  • Find discipline
  • Let go of yourself more
  • Detach from addictions
  • Be moral more often
  • Actually Meditate
  • Attend a community (Sangha)
  • Get Ashley more involved (for support)