I finished The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hanh, this morning. The book described the techniques used in Buddhism to attain the Noble Eightfold Path (Right View, Right Thinking, Right Mindfulness, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Diligence, Right Livelihood), which will lead to peace in one's life, not through the end of suffering, but through transforming suffering into understanding.
I was going to list all the passages I marked, but it really comes down to this one:
You don't have to die to enter nirvana or the Kingdom of God. You only have to dwell deeply in the present moment, right now.
If we live in the present moment, in every thing we do, we will be more peaceful. When we live in the present moment we make choices that bring about an end to our own suffering. The end.
Ok, so not quite the end, because I really liked this:
In Buddhism, our faith is concrete, not blind, not a leap. It is formed by our own insight and experience.
I love that, because one of the areas that has caused me to struggle in other religions is this idea of faith, which I perceive to be: give up all the rational rules by which you think the world follows and believe in something that goes against rational thought and is only true in the case governed by a certain religion. Why do we have to believe Jesus was born of a virgin to think he was a good teacher? Why the ridiculous when we can just believe and have faith in the reality?
And this: I go back and rely on the Buddha in myself.
I see this as making each person accountable, rather than relying on something beyond oneself - a god. I really think each person knows the right way to live, we don't need religion to teach us that it's wrong to steal, to have addictions which bind us, to not cheat on our spouses. We can say we follow rules because our religion teaches us that it is what we are suppose to do, but what does that mean? Does that mean without your religion you will commit atrocities? God, I hope not! Does it mean that we can read inspiring texts and be reminded to live more fully, with greater understanding, with more compassion for fellow beings? Sure, and gathering with others can help us in this journey, so a church or sangha has its purpose, but we don't have to credit these ideas to a higher power - we all know these things, because we all live in this world. Cheat on your spouse and go to hell? Who cares...cheat on your spouse and cause a lot of pain...reason enough not to do it, right?
Finally, Buddha was not a philosopher trying to explain the universe. He was a spiritual guide who wanted to help us put an end to our suffering.
Sounds good to me. I don't need someone to tell me elaborate stories that go beyond my realm of understanding - this doesn't make them more creditable in my eyes. It is nice to have someone acknowledge that there is suffering, to admit that we cannot live without suffering and yet, we can choose how to live with suffering.
There was much in the book about specific practices and honestly, some of it had my head spinning. To really understand it all I'd need to study this book more, but in my one reading of it I have been inspired to live more presently in each moment. Amen. :)