With the exception of this blog because, well… that’s the whole point of it, I don’t really go around advertising that I study Buddhism. It’s obviously not a shame thing, and it isn’t as though I’m not prepared to discussed the specifics of my beliefs when someone asks; it simply isn’t something I’m in the habit of doing. And I think that this is something important in relation to anyone’s faith. Having faith or being faithful shouldn’t require you to bring others into the fold. I often think about the poor practitioners who go from door to door…
I’m sure you can think of what faith system applies, although you may be surprised to know there are several who have this practice. What’s even more surprising is when these canvassers come to my door and are greeted by conversation and an exchange of information as opposed to having a door slammed in their face. Their faith is no threat to anyone. And if one is secure enough in their own faith, there should be no fear or worry in discussing it with others. But I certainly don’t envy them the task of walking all over neighbourhoods being rejected and refused, oftentimes in the cold or inclement weather.
It often surprises some to learn that I was born into a French Catholic family, and that I was in fact raised in the Catholic faith, well into my teens. I believe this surprise comes as the converting of one’s faith is not a frequent “genuine” event. What I mean by this is that there are plenty of newer-generation folks who will claim to follow one belief system or another, often to continue adhering to a previous one or changing to another whenever it suits them.
But when I reached my teens and started studying the martial arts, I fell into Buddhism almost as easily as one starts breathing at birth. This was one of the reasons why I chose to pursue it. I faced a surprising amount of opposition, especially from my family. You would think that family would be the most supportive, but considering my mother studied at a seminary in her youth and most of my aunts of my grandmother’s generation were nuns or missionaries, I think there was an expectation there, of automatic acceptance and perhaps a minty hint of obedience. I’ve even had an ex-girlfriend who once had the audacity to flat out tell me, “You’re not Buddhist! Stop saying that…” Needless to say, there’s a reason she’s an ex…
This has always made me wonder, is it enough to simply SAY that you follow a certain system of beliefs in order to be part of it? I think back to those formative years when I started studying Buddhism and knew next to nothing. I knew the ultimate goal was to find enlightenment and peace, which is what drew me to it in the first place. It seemed far more appealing than praying to an unseen, unknown deity that never responded or helped no matter how frequent prayer was leaned upon. But to some, it harmed my credibility that I lacked the knowledge to appropriately answer some of their questions.
During my youth, I was subjected to all the usual steps involved in someone’s indoctrination into a particular school of beliefs. I was baptized shortly after my birth, had First Communion and something referred to as “Confirmation,” which is a rite that involves confirming one’s adherence to that particular religion. I think this is interesting, because for all three of these rites I was too young and had no clear concept of what I was agreeing to or accepting; a fact that has long been argued in my mother’s household.
And granted, nothing in the Holy Bible actually speaks of NOT baptizing babies and children, but all the depictions I’ve ever seen of John the Baptist depict the baptism of an adult. How can one adhere to a system of beliefs without knowing WHAT they’re adhering to? It’s a question that’s plagued my noodle for decades and in some ways, many ways, I don’t feel this is right. Every person should have the ability to choose and understand what they’re agreeing to. But once you’ve made that decision, make sure you’ve made it because it’s right for you. And because it’s something you genuinely believe in.
Consider this for a moment: What is the point of saying that you’re Catholic if you never go to church, never pray, never study the Bible and adhere to NONE of the customs? Are you still Catholic? Or is is perhaps a label you’ve chosen to accept because it was imposed on you earlier in life? Or does it make your life simpler to have yourself categorized in a world where belief systems are considered important? I use Catholicism as the example because it’s what I was born into, but the same can apply to any system of beliefs.
I don’t have the answers. I can’t answer EVERY single question about Buddhism that comes my way, but I certainly aim to learn as much as I can. And maybe that’s the point. If I knew everything, there would be no purpose to life. I study Buddhism because I ultimately know that eventually I’ll find all the answers I seek and find peace. Perhaps that realization, in and of itself, is the enlightenment I seek and I simply haven’t realized it yet. But someday I will.
Be true to yourself. Be sure that your faith does not harm you, bring harm to others or create chaos within life and you can’t go wrong. At the end of the day, the story of everyone’s life begins and ends the same way. It’s how we fill the days in between that define who we are and the mark we leave on the world when we’re gone. And do your best to encourage peace. ☯
“There Is A Misconception That Buddhism Is A Religion, And That You Worship Buddha. Buddhism Is A Practice, Like Yoga. You Can Be A Christian And Practice Buddhism. I Met A Catholic Priest Who Lives In A Buddhist Monastery In France. He Told Me That Buddhism Makes Him A Better Christian. I Love That.”– Thich Nhat Hanh