By Scott Taylor
You may have seen a cartoon similar to this somewhere:
A man in a doctor’s office waves his arm around wildly and says, “Doc it hurts when I do this.”
Someone recently asked me, “What got you into studying Buddhism in the first place?” This took me a bit by surprise and I said I’d have to think on that one for a while. I have to think on most things for a while. I’m not exactly a quick decision maker; ask the frustrated people in my life.
I’m more used to, “How long have you been growing your hair?” My standard answer to that is, “I’ve been growing my hair ever since I was born.” So far nobody’s been forward enough to reply, “You’re quite a smartass, aren’t you?”
Well, I try. It’s one of my hobbies.
I can’t remember exactly when or why I started studying Buddhist philosophy, but I do remember that when I began reading it, my first reaction was that everything it said rang true to my inner self. Buddhism is very trendy in the “Let’s-hold-these-crystals-and-burn-some-sage-and-cure-the-world’s-problems” crowd, but that’s not really me.
It can also be very attractive to those of us who, due to misinterpretation, want to excuse ourselves from being human. I’ve been accused more than once — by romantic partners, of course — of being “unfeeling, unemotional or [gasp] cold-hearted.”
It’s not that studying Buddhist principles makes us unemotional; it’s that it teaches us not to let those emotions rule us. Even the Dalai Lama feels sadness, loss, anger and frustration, but he recognizes these and doesn’t let them direct him to decisions.
I remember reading a few years ago — I don’t recall the source and can’t verify this — that at one point the Texas educational system banned schools from teaching about Buddhism in social studies classes because it was “too attractive to young people.”
We wouldn’t want young people becoming too well-adjusted, content and peaceful.
What attracted me to Buddhist thought was the truth in it; the guiding idea that we all want to be happy, and there is a way to achieve that state. It was so matter-of-fact, so simple, and so rooted in actual experience and scientific principle (the Dalai Lama once said “If science should ever prove a Buddhist concept to be false, then Buddhism will have to change) that it was a revelation to me.
I often illustrate it with this thought:
“What happens if you hit your thumb with a hammer?”
“Exactly! So don’t hit your thumb with a hammer.”
This, of course, is a simplification, but that’s one of the things that caught my attention in the first place.
So what’s the point of all this? Is it to try and convince others to take up Buddhist study? Not at all. It’s that the world could surely use more peaceful, well-adjusted, content people right now, and we should all find a path to follow that rings true to us and leads us to that state.
The answer doesn’t lie in a single religion or school of thought. When asked if everyone should become Buddhist, the Dalai Lama commented that, no, people should follow their own cultural traditions and religions if those lead to peacefulness and happiness.
Find a path that rings true in your heart and walk it. And be happy!
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