On Being Buddhist

Today I was reading an article about the on the Huffington Post. If you don’t feel like clicking on the links, basically, the Under 35 project is a website devoted to “meditators” (Buddhists) under the age of 35. Normal, every day people submit their writings on a certain subject each month about how they apply the Buddha’s teachings to their life. It’s a fabulous website and I adore it, but I’ll admit I haven’t spent much time reading the entries. But one section of the Huffington Post article really got to me:

“Part of why I share these stories is because I think there are people out there (hello Internet) who will scream “bullshit.” They will say that you can’t drink and be a Buddhist. Or strip and be a Buddhist. Or (and this is why I hate the Internet) be a guy going down on a guy and be a Buddhist.

Yet, here they are folks.”

I just mentioned in my post last night that Buddhism explicitly frowns up drinking. Is it really possible to remain true to the Buddha’s teachings and yet still participate fully in the “world”?? This is a radical concept for me.

I truly believe converts are more devout than those raised in a faith. And because I’m a convert to Buddhism, I feel the need to be super devout – and it has been a great source of internal conflict for me. Even when I belonged to the Christian church, the religion was taught with an air of “if you don’t do this (or if you do this) then you’re not a Christian”, and I suppose I’ve carried over that thinking into my Buddhist practice. I feel like if I’m not being absolutely devout, then I’m failing.

But is that really true??

There is a part of me that desperately wants to pack up everything and become a Buddhist nun. But an even bigger part of me says no, there’s still too much left to accomplish in the world. And a tiny voice also tells me that becoming a nun is just a extreme way to run away from my problems.

I suppose some will argue that if you truly wanted to follow the Buddha’s teachings correctly, you wouldn’t drink or do any of that stuff. But that’s not my question. My question is can you do all of that “negative” stuff and remain true to the Buddha’s teachings?? And it seems that the answer may be yes.

But this brings up a lot of questions of what my practice should look like. I don’t meditate at all right now. I read books occasionally, but my practice boils down right now to trying to keep an attitude of compassion; and when college is in session, attending Buddhist gatherings. That’s certainly a worthy undertaking, but I’ve always chided myself internally for not being more devout. For not setting aside time every day to meditate and not having a better altar and still giving in to my desires.

But maybe I’m wrong to do that. The Buddha says himself not to trust anything anyone tells you until you have tested against your own understanding. Maybe I have forgotten that. Maybe not meditating or having a tiny altar doesn’t make me less of a Buddhist. Maybe that’s what just works for me.

This is a great realization for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to continue improving my practice or deepening my understanding of the Buddha’s teaching, because I do. But it means I don’t have to beat myself up for not being the “ideal Buddhist” (if there even is such a thing).

I feel fabulous right now. I feel freed knowing this. I’m not perfect, and I never will be. My practice works for me, and who cares if it’s not what other people think is “proper” or “ideal”?? I’m not any less of a Buddhist because of it.

I seems like such a vivid future lies ahead of me now, full of opportunities and possibilities unknown and unseen. It is an amazingly wonderful, glorious feeling.


About emilleejoyce

I am a yoga alliance 200 hour certified yoga teacher whose hobbies include growing cacti and succulents, cooking vegan food, and bicycling. My day job is in academic publishing.

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