My girlfriend, Ashley, started a blog last week and wrote a post about my Buddhist lifestyle. We decided that our religious dynamic might be a “topic” to talk about. I didn’t think she’d actually write something, but she did! It’s probably the coolest thing she’s done yet, and I’d like to talk more about how a Buddhist and Christian fell in love…and stayed that way. In a sense, me and Ashley have a two sided coin in our hands. One one side we have similarity, and on the other difference. I would say this coin is one of the most valuable in our collection, and each side is valuable. Let’s see if I can explain…
I remember meeting Ashley for the first time, and I never thought to myself, “I wonder if this girls goes to Church?” or, “I wonder if she’s Christian.” I just saw a slightly-goofy, friendly, smiling, funny woman full of joy. It was an easy decision, I wanted to get to know this person more. Yet, it cannot go without being said that be beginning of our relationship was going to be a doosie. At the time, I wasn’t Buddhist…I was an (with finger quotes) “Atheist.” Now, this didn’t mean I renounced God or anything, it just mean…well, a lot of things, almost too many thing to bore you with here. But, I don’t think she thought, “I wonder if this guy is an Atheist.” She, obviously, was Catholic. Sounds like it’s not really going to work right? But, we ended up falling in love? What?
It would be our difference that would take me, personally, on one of the most complex religious journey’s of my life, one I cherish, and one that brought me to the place I’m at now. I took on Christianity. And Judaism. And Islam. And Rastafari. And Kabbalah. All in the search for for something, something that I think, now, was a search for Ashley. I know that may sound cliche, but after it all I wasn’t looking for God, peace, or meaning in life…I was just looking to connect to Ashley.
But, I was trying to do it with systems and brand loyalty. I was doing it all wrong. Now, that doesn’t mean that, today, we don’t get in a debate or two, or even have some disagreements. But, it all really doesn’t matter in the end.
And so, I became a Buddhism. Why? In just a few words, because everyone suffers, and everyone wants to be happy. But, that’s really another story. Let’s tart with the basics of why me and Ashley are actually more similar than different.
Through my previously mentioned religious journey, there was a constant presence, of a person, a renegade of sorts, a rule breaker, a hero, a renunciant… it was Jesus. Throughout my journey I must have read his saying hundreds of times, from the gospels to the gnostic gospels and other sources. I was all over the place. I was fascinated with someone I, personally, called Yesuah in my head because that was his actual name. Someone I considered a man, not a God, but a profound master of compassion, someone who truly got people and our condition. I didn’t focus much on his consubstantiality, or where he came from… Instead, I focused on his compassion for people, for his understanding, forgiveness, patience, and his overall distaste for the rules.
At some point, while trying desperately to figure out the “technical” aspects of Christianity (like the Trinity, God’s Ways, etc), I got fed up with Christianity. I suffered nights over my frustrations with these technical aspects, torn in frustration and the constant back and forth- it was a mess, I became a mess…it just got bad. So, my focus was really starting to be on Jesus, and not him as a person (I wasn’t about to join some personality cult), but rather his profound and deep connection with humanity, his teachings, his sayings…they all made complete sense to me. I had to ignore the fact that he was Jewish, ignore the fact that he believe in a Jewish God, ignore so much, and just really focus in on what I felt was important, what I feel was important to him…people…happiness…peace.
I always like to say that Jesus brought me to Buddhism, but really, even though I claim Buddhism, it’s really just a bunch of hog-wash, because I am not a student of some system and not of others. Jesus was my first teacher, Jesus walked on a path with me…and still does. When I hear something said by the Buddha, there’s always a very similar counterpart that Jesus told me about before. And, really, I see the two as one. And, it’s not them, it’s their teachings, their understandings, their actions. Really I’m a student of love, kindness, happiness, understanding, etc…all things Ashley is a student of as well -and that’s an important part of it…
My favorite saying, is one that dates back to early Judaism, said by Jesus and the Buddha alike:
Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
It’s a principle I’ve held on to. It’s a principle Ashley holds on to. It encompasses all our similarities, our love for people, the thing that kept a Christian and an Athiest (then to be a Buddhist) together! Once you strip off all the politics, all these “systems,” all the separation, we’re all really the same.
I once asked Ashley, “What is God to you?” And, I really challenged her, I was really just challenging myself. I said things like, “You think God is some old man out there or what?” -things like that. It was definitely a tense moment, but I remember what she said: “God is Love.” I remember being stunned by the response because, for a moment, I found this connection, because it was something I agreed with. I remember the “Atheist” label feeling really stupid at that point. Things started to change…
If God wasn’t some old man in the sky ordering people in the desert to do something, and if God wasn’t all the things the Torah spelled him out to be, Ashley, Jesus, Buddha, and I all understood a simple thing. Aside from labels, aside from religious systems, aside from any kind of philosophy, God was simply the act performed between one being to another with a sense of compassion, kindness, understanding, patience, and with the goal of happiness and peace, non-violence, and for the betterment of all. God really wasn’t all that complicated for the group of us from then on, and I think it’s a grounded understanding that has always brought me and Ashley together.
Church & Meditation
Now, Ashley goes to Church, and I sit down and meditate. We both walk roads that lead to the same city, the way I see it. I think it’s our greatest strength that we are able to live among our differences and our similarities. We embrace them both. I, personally, have both of them to thank for where I’m at in my life.
I really feel that, no matter what difference we have, our destinations are the same. It’s this simple fact that has broke down barriers for the both of us. I no longer struggle with kneelers, church, or sacraments. Ashley has started to break down barriers of her own, like understanding Karma.
And so, we move on, and as we do we get stronger! Ashley’s sitting next to me not really reading what I’m typing, and I wonder if she feels the same as I do. I wonder if she’ll write something about it?
I hope my little post here sort of answers the question of, “how did this happen? How did a Christian and an Athiest (soon to be Buddhist) get together? How did we stay together? What the heck!?” What do you think Ash?
A Christian and a Buddhist. Who knew?