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Will from the USA shares ...
I'm writing partly in response to Bill's question above, but partly to simply relate my experience with Buddhism. In early 2007, at the age of 49, I left Christianity, the faith I was raised in, in favor of Buddhism to find a spiritual life that works for me. I found it, indeed. My path turns out to be simple, effective and involves only concepts that can be verified by observation. My practice is this: I use a meditation form (Shikantaza) from the Zen tradition as a tool for self awareness. I try to observe myself and the world clearly without (mostly morally) judging what I observe. Lastly, a practical restatement of the Four Noble Truths forms the basis for all else: I suffer when I cling to a desire to have reality different than it is. On the practical level, if I find myself upset with anything I start with one question: What am I not getting that I want? And then: Am I OK if I don't get it? While simple, this is, of course, not easy. :) In the last six years, I haven't found any situation that couldn't be effectively dealt with in this manner. It works.
Thanks for this comment. Your practice, the path you're walking, sounds to me like what I call the essense of the Buddha's teaching. I too follow a similar path. I think simple goes a long way towards inner peace and tranquility. Our culture and society, world-wide, promote through the media and other, that life has to be lived with more of everything. Religious holidays have become marketing schemes. Corporations aren't satisfied with earning a good profit, they have to beat the previous years profit. It seems people are programed to create drama in their lives' for no reason. All this the Buddha realised centuries ago. Very good comment.
Lucy Watson from Australia asks ...
Please tell me how to meditate.
Meditation is simple to put into practice, but sometimes a little more difficult to be disciplined enough to do everyday. My site explains meditation in more detail, (click this link to read more) but here's a quick outline. You find a comfortable place to sit. You close your eyes, and silently follow your breath. Keep your mind focused on your breath as you breathe in and out. When your mind wanders from your breath, and you begin to imagine all sorts of other things, just bring your mind back to your breath. You may be able to keep your mind on your breath, but you may experience itching, discomfort, or just the urge to move. This is all normal at first. Go ahead and scratch that itch or adjust your posture to feel comfortable. As you train your mind these sensations will not arise any longer.
As you keep up this practice you will find many benefits that arise. Your mind will take on a peaceful calm, your ability to focus and concentrate will increase, you will feel a pleasant sensation in your mind, possibly throughout your body.
Later, once you have become disciplined in this meditation, you can examine the origins of the different thoughts you have during your meditation practice. In this way you can determine their value and reality. As the Buddha said, all things are impermanent, and the same with thoughts. If something bothers you, you can address it through your meditation, and possibly overcome it by seeing it clearly. In this way you can see it for what it really is and know that it may well be your untamed mind playing games. All this takes time, so be patient.
All the best with your meditation practice. Thanks for a great question.
David from the USA asks ...
I have been self studying Buddhism for 2 years. The problem I have is I get overwhelmingly confused when the different traditions come into play. I identify with the Theravada school, but the Zen school seams to be more prevalent and available to me where I live. The Zen also seams more mystical and not as traditional as the Theravada which seams to be based on historical teachings. My only issue I have trouble understanding in Theravada, is the strong emphasis on unattachment. I understand this well for all material things, but the teaching is also on other people. It is as if you are to live your life aloof, and not be affected if your wife, brother or mother dies. A cold perspective if I understand this correctly. It seams to not be compatible with true love of people. If anyone can help explain this It would be appreciated. Thank you.
You ask a good question. Many people are turned off by Buddhism as they mistakenly believe it promotes detachment from everything. I don't believe this is what the Buddha intended. The Buddha actually called his teachings the Middle Way. That is the middle way between extremes. This is a simple concept to remember how to approach near anything in life. As far as I know this applies to everything including the concept of detaching or non-attachment. I believe it goes like this: We get into trouble, or experience dukkha when we don't have our sense faculties under control. So if you're one of those people that see an ad on television and just has to have that new car, new purse, new whatever, your succumbing to attachments. Do you really need that new whatever? Are you not seeking happiness through false means when taking this approach?
When you think of this in regard to the people you love I believe the Buddha intended that we prepare ourselves for the inevitable (death, possible disease, et cetera), not to stop loving these people, or to detach from them. I believe the Buddha realised that it is important to understand that we go through life as impermanent beings, and that we should meditate on this fact so that we gain insight as to who and what we really are. In this way, we understand that every moment is precious, and that it is better to live each day, or moment, enjoying simplicity, not the complicated, not to get caught up in the illusions of life, to see reality -life as it really is, and to deeply enjoy the people in our lives'.
So, by understanding that death is a normal part of our lives' as opposed to something we must fear, we get acquainted with the inevitability of death, with our own inevitable death and of those we know. What does this do? It can change how we negotiate life in ways we have never possibly considered before. For example, we become more patient with people and their quirkiness, or more understanding of their predicament. Also, we become more understanding of our own quirkiness and predicaments. I believe this is what the Buddha intended, not that we detach.
Thanks for the great question, I hope I have been able to express myself adequately.
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