I was asked recently why I suddenly decided to study Buddha and the precepts of Buddha after all these years of proclaiming myself an atheist or, at best, an agnostic. The short answer is that I’m still leaning towards Atheism and Agnosticism as my view of reality. The long answer is more complicated.
I’ve told a little of my life’s store here and there in my many blogs. Basically, I’ve seen the very worst that the human race has to offer. My time traveling around the country and especially my time in the Marines and then Vietnam taught me that you can take the most decent human being and turn them into animals that adore killing and inflicting pain for reasons they could never explain in a million years.
I came home from Vietnam a mental wreck and it didn’t get much better over the last 42 years. My body is disintegrating because of the Agent Orange I was exposed to and so many other reasons and the VA does everything in its power to refuse treatment or compensation. Like the poor idiots that are going to Iraq and Afghanistan, we are all hailed as “heroes” when we’re murdering other human being for the wealthy but become zeroes in the eyes of the nation when we return. By the time the kids going over now start getting cancer from the depleted uranium they are exposed to day and night there will be no VA and no heath insurance to cover their illnesses and the country will gleefully turn their backs on them as they always do if it might cost them a penny in taxes to care for the wounded.
So, knowing that it is terrible and getting worse, I’ve had to decide that I can only directly affect my own mind and how I see the world and indirectly affect how my immediate family is protected and loved by me.
I looked into nearly all of the major religions and found some very powerful, peace-filled messages that the followers of those religions nearly always intentionally ignored and then behaved as the animals that all mankind becomes when they decide that there are no limitations to stand between what they have and what they want. Christians proclaim their god the “Prince of Peace” and then murder children in their sleep thousands of miles away while the Americans sit in their east chairs watching insane children’s games or stupid movies made for morons.
So, I decided to pick and choose among the religions for the messages I wanted to try and live by. Jesus probably never existed but the messages that are given in his name are almost always teachings of peace and love and sharing. Buddha may or may not have existed but, again, nearly all of his messages point the way to a world in which war and hunger and anger and need no longer exist. Even the Native Americans offered many valuable lessons about man’s relationship to the earth. The very early Islamic teachings were of peace before they became centered on death and suicide and a hatred of women.
So, after that long search I settled on trying to learn more of what Buddha and his followers taught. I do not intend to chant or wear robes or shave me head or any of the other cultish outward appearances that religions seem to demand. Instead, I will seek the words that help me get through life a bit easier from day to day. I’ve added a few here that I try to remember every day of my life since they are so appropriate to so many daily puzzles. Maybe they can help others. Maybe not. But they help me.
Words I Love
Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is not.
This is a huge lesson for me. I feel such pain in my heart and body but the reality is that how I react to that pain is my decision. Even in personal relationships, the pain of losing someone dear to me can be painful but I do not need to suffer from that loss for a long period of time. I can remember the joys from that time and keep that close, instead.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Again, I must remember this every day. I have so many regrets from my past, so many wishes for the future, and it is very difficult to keep myself rooted in the present which is the only place in time I can make a difference or improve my life or those around me. But it is a day to day to struggle to do so.
However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?
This encompasses both of the previous quotes, for me. My mind can repeat the teachings, I can try to share the teachings but the moment I act impulsively I act in ways that contradict all that I know to be true. It is like the followers of so many other religions, they attend whatever services they attend, listen to whatever speaker they have chosen to listen to, then they leave and return to their lives of greed and hatred and meanness. I do not wish to be like them but I find that I so often am and that brings me sadness.
It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.
This is my final quote for the day. It is, probably, the most important one. No matter what I’ve done in my life that I regret and no matter what I may do in the future that I will come to regret, it is always my own mind that set me upon the course that resulted in those acts. Until I can control what has been called my “Monkey Mind” I can control nothing.
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Thanks for reading this. Peace. Namaste