Thursday, October 17, 2013

Buddhism as a blessing ... sort of

Perhaps like others, I am rather lazy about recognizing the blessings of my life. This stems in part from the fact that a blessing is something easy and thus easily overlooked.

But for me, it also stems from an irritation bordering on irascibility when I hear others "counting their blessings" like some grinning Dallas Cowboy cheerleader ... everything is so arm-lock wonderful in their lives and they are bound and determined to strut their stuff and wave their pom-poms in public. The promotion -- egregiously referred to as "sharing" -- does nothing so much as to underscore the fear of whatever it is that is not a blessing.

For all that, it occurred to me today that one of the straight-up blessings of my life has been an encounter with Buddhism. I am not interested in cursing that encounter by publicly anointing it as a "blessing," though lord knows I have tried that in the past. Spiritual tits-and-ass cavorting is not what touches me this morning.

What does touch me is how fortunate I feel to have run into something and subsequently credited it and, for my purposes, it turned out fine. Not that I would lay claim to being a good Buddhist or an experienced one. It turned out fine in one specific way:

Buddhism makes observations and suggestions. That is the beginning and end of it all. Observations and suggestions are only as good as the one doing the observing or following the suggestions. And therein lies the blessing ... which, of course, can feel like a terrible curse. Observations and suggestions are just that -- observations and suggestions.

The sometimes desperate longings of a lifetime -- death, disease, drugs, divorce, delight, to cite some alliterative examples -- might incline anyone to put Buddhism up on a pedestal, to raise temples, hew to important texts, or concoct a religion or persuasion as firm and clear as the words written on Moses' tablets. How nice to have something to look forward to -- something else, something advanced, something as assured in its way as an individual may be unassured in his or hers. It's comforting and cohesive and friendly and loving. Buddhists may claim not to believe in god and yet often, perhaps, find themselves hip-deep in the petition, "be my god." This is, to my mind, the curse masquerading as the blessing.

But the blessing remains unconvinced and unflinching -- here are some observations; here are some suggestions. They are neither better nor worse than the observations and suggestions other aspects of life offer up in any moment of any day. You don't need to be a Buddhist or not-need-to either. You won't get hit on the nose with a rolled up newspaper if you don't adhere any more than you will get a gold star if you do. Observations and suggestions are all around us all the time.

In Buddhism, to use an easy-peasy example, there are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The truths observe; the path suggests. Here, as anywhere else, observation and suggestion are only as good as the one observing or the one following the suggestions. There is no other "good." If there were some other "good," I suppose it would be spelled g-o-d and gods are the creators of separation, the very stuff desperate people might seek to heal.

Oh well, I guess I'm flashing my boobs and shaking my pom-poms here. The blessing I find in having encountered Buddhism is the same one I have found in other compelling instructors in my life ... it observes and suggests and whether I choose to follow or implement has nothing to do with something called "Buddhism." It's perfectly neutral, no matter what gear I may find myself in.

In the greasy spoon of day-to-day events, people sit down to breakfast. When the checks come, yours may read "$5.47" where mine is "$6.12." Both of us are full and satisfied -- blessed by a nourishing meal. Maybe "Buddhism" was on the plate. Maybe not. No matter ... the food doesn't mind.

I just feel lucky to have been offered some useful observations and suggestions.

Not that the observations and suggestions care much one way or the other.

OK, I'll go back to waving my botox and pom-poms now.

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