Hey, the world is full of stereotypes. Especially when it’s about something we know nothing about. For example, did you know that not all people who cut me off in traffic are f$%kin’ idiots? Holy shit, right? I never would have guessed that one. But seriously, as a people we tend to lean on our stereotypes and assume things before truly getting to know the very thing that we’re judging. One good example of this is the fact that I’ve been studying Buddhism for over twenty years.
Can you imagine, trying to explain that the religion you study is NOT the one you were baptized and raised on? My mother sure has an issue with it. She attributes it to “all that karate stuff,” but it sure makes frank conversations about Buddhism difficult, at the best of times. The only gratitude I have is that I never had to explain this to my grandmother, light rest her soul. She would have bathed me in Holy Water and probably would have tried to have me burned at the stake (NOW who’s using stereotypes???)
The point is, I’ve been faced with a number of stereotypes in the past two decades. And despite the fact that I can understand some if not most of them, I thought it would be ideal to dispel and/or explain some of them. For example, did you know that not all Buddhists shave their heads? Some will shave their heads in observance of someone’s death. Others will observe Tonsure (shaving of the head) as a means of discipline, humility and devotion to their order. But some Buddhist can and WILL have a full head of hair. You’ve been warned…
Another aspect is meditation. Believe me, if I could spend six to eight hours of meditation every day, I’d be in nirvana-based heaven. The truth is, it doesn’t happen all that much. At least not in a modern, family-based times. When I do get to meditate, my 5-year old son loves to run circles around me on the floor to see how long it takes to break my concentration. If I’m lucky, his mother will come take him away before I end up giving him a free karate lesson, but the chance to meditate seldom comes along.
I feel that it’s important to point out that five minutes of meditation is better than none at all, but some days, it just can’t happen. And that’s okay, so long as you make some time at some point throughout your week, to meditate in some given way, shape or form.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in decades is likely control over my emotions and demeanour. People think that someone who studies Buddhism is supposed to be stoic and without outward emotion. Well, for one thing, Stoicism is something totally different from Buddhism, although there are some similar aspects to both. But the reality is that I am not Buddhist because I am calm and controlled. Rather, I am calm and controlled BECAUSE I study Buddhism.
In reality, even when I present a calm exterior I usually have a roiling storm of raging waves beneath the surface. I feel and experience emotions and reactions in the same manner as ever John and Jane Doe on the street, although they usually don’t get expressed externally. And even when they could be expressed externally, I often don’t have the normal, every day emotional tools to do so. But the assumption that a Buddhist will be passive and emotionless is pretty inaccurate. If someone threatens me or someone I love, I’ll hand them their ass in the same manner that any respectable martial artist would.
The important thing to remember is that most of us are open to conversation. Although most people don’t go around screaming their religion from the rooftops (unless they’re writing a blog about it) we’re always open to questions and education. If there’s something you’re not sure about, just ask. If you’re dealing with someone who IS screaming their religion from the rooftops, you should probably be concerned. But that a different issue. ☯