Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Great Religious Challenge Part I

A friend of mine, who is Mormon, challenged me to read The Book of Mormon and upon some negotiation, we decided she will read The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. I am not a Buddhist, but I find the teachings of Buddhism to make the most sense to me out of all the religions/philosophies I've studied, which admittedly are few. I have read some material by Thich Nhat Hanh, but not this entire book.

I am now on page 41 of The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching and admit to being a bit confused about the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path - I just can't keep them straight, but there has been much already that has me rereading words in an attempt to absorb them into my daily practices:

"Allow the rain of the Dharma to come in and penetrate the seeds that are buried deep in your consciousness. A teacher cannot give you the truth. The truth is already in you." This passage resonates with me, because I have felt that prayer and meditation were just this - allowing yourself to sit with the truth that is already there. Truth is not given by some divine source, it is within each of us, we just need to sit down, shut up and listen to it.

Suffering seems to be the key to Buddhism - recognizing, accepting, embracing, looking deeply at and having insight into our suffering. We are to sit with our suffering, try to identify its source and become more mindful so we may make choices that will least likely bring more suffering. So far there are guidelines: eat good foods, live a simple life without dependence on objects and yes, watch films that enrich our lives rather than "water the negative seeds of craving, fear, anger and violence in them."* We are instructed to meditate, to be mindful, to rest so that we may heal. Nothing earth-shattering here.

The very first words of the book are, "Buddha was not a god. He was a human being, like you and me, and he suffered just as we do." We are instructed to take our suffering to the Buddha, but so far I have not been lead to believe we are to worship the Buddha. This was a huge catalyst for me in leaving Christianity. I can wrap my head around learning from Jesus Christ, but I cannot understand worshipping anyone or anything.

I am enjoying this book and as I read it, I see bits and pieces of Christianity popping through - probably not a coincidence. It reaffirms for me that religion is about commonsense, but also a need to believe in something beyond our own wisdom so we may attain favor in this world.

When I finish this book I'll begin The Book of Mormon and I admit, I'm already skeptical, but that is just all the more reason to read it, right?

*This challenge began because of a discussion regarding rated R movies, specifically The King's Speech, and the Mormon Church's stance on viewing rater R movies. I would say that viewing The King's Speech enriched my life, and the few swear words spoken did not water any negative seeds.

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds very interesting. The only exposure I've had to Buddhism was two lectures in a world religions class in college, and what I caught in passing on a week-long trip to Thailand (pre-tsunami). So, it will be fun (though probably a little bit of work) to get a more thorough understanding. I'm a slow reader, so I think I'll go ahead and order it now. Chances are, I'll be reading it the whole time you are AND the whole time you're reading the Book of Mormon.

    I don't blame you for being skeptical, and even a little afraid (as you wrote on facebook) about reading the Book of Mormon. Someday I'll tell/write you a funny little story about something an abuelita told me on my mission about the Book of Mormon. It's just a quirky little ditty, but I don't feel comfortable posting it here for all the world to see.

    At any rate, don't be skeptical/afraid on my account. I'm glad you're willing to read it, and I'm happy to let you draw your own conclusions from your experience doing so. Heck, I wouldn't have it any other way.

    (Did I just write "Heck"? What a stereotypical Mormon thing to say! Heaven help you Heather dear!)