Buddhism Made Easy

24 10 2009

On a personal note, this month has been pretty stressful for me.  I have started another job, downtown, while still working 3/4 time for the company I’ve been with for a year.  Apart and aside from everything else, this has cut into my time quite a bit, as you can tell by my incredibly sporadic blogging.  As I adjust to my new schedule, and in advance of the Christmas rush at the store, I’ll try to be better about blogging.

Perhaps, as a direct result of the stress of the past month, I’ve been especially looking forward to discussing Buddhism.  Unfortunately, the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more fluff has fallen by the wayside, and the more I’ve just wanted to dive into the heart of it.  So, without a lot of fluff or fanfare, without going into the Religious structures of Buddhism or the mythology of the Buddha himself, I’m just going to dive in.  For all my SGI friends out there, I’ll get to SGI Buddhism in its own posting but later.  And for my non-SGI friends who might be surprised to learn this, there have been divisions in Buddhism the same as every other Religion discussed here thus far; but they seem quieter, because Buddhism itself is a quiet Religion.

Here we go. 

All Life Is Suffering.

You can’t talk about Buddhism without saying that.  Like you can’t talk about Islam without saying “there is one God and Mohammed is his Prophet”, or Christianity without saying “Christ died for our sins”, which, come to think of it, I didn’t say.  But I digress.

All Life Is Suffering.  Life, itself, makes you miserable.  Everything that you normally do in your life to occupy your time, especially in pursuit of happiness, makes you miserable.  Chasing after things makes you miserable.  Ambition makes you miserable.  The more you chase after something, the more you get of it, the more that you realize that there’s still more out there you don’t have, and you drive yourself crazy.  There’s a hole inside you that cannot be sated, and the more you feed it, the larger it gets, and the hungrier your desire becomes, until that day when you yourself become that hole.

The Buddha’s answer was, in modern terms, chill out.  Relax.  Give up your attachment to things and find what’s really important.   And what’s really important, in Buddhism, is what’s eternal: the Soul.  For all the talk about eternal bliss — Heaven — that other Religions talk about, Buddhism is about achieving it, in this life.  Buddhism is the only Religion that says that Happiness, true and unadulterated Happiness, is available to everyone, regardless of Class, Creed or Gender, and Happiness, itself, is a worthy goal in this life, not a gift bestowed hereafter.

So, cutting to the chase, how does one achieve Happiness?  According to Buddhism, it is in giving up the quest for things you will never attain.  You will never have all the things you want, because want is keeping you from what you really want, and that is Happiness.  Of course, lower-case-h happiness manifests differently for some people than for others; but Upper-Case-H Happiness manifests the same for everyone: to be free from Want.

So, the Buddhists eschew attachment from Things; they eschew the pursuit of More; they seek the Infinite rather than the Finite.  And the way they do this is to Simplify Their Lives, and spend an awful lot of time sitting in quiet contemplation trying to shut up the voices in their heads telling them that they really want that new car, that new house, that More.

Eventually, if you spend enough time sitting in silence telling those pesky voices to leave you alone, telling the voices that you have what you Need, and that Want is yucky, eventually, Want starts going away, and Need suffices.  And, if you spend enough time eschewing the Finite in search of the Infinite, Wisdom comes.  Truth.  Truth like “the Soul is eternal”.  Once you know, in every fibre of your being that the Soul is Eternal, the question of reincarnation becomes easy: if the Soul is Eternal and Life is Prolific, surely reincarnation is a fact.  In which case, it behooves you to make the world a better place for generations to come, so that when You reincarnate into the world next, there is Less Suffering.  It’s really in Your Own Interests to make everyone as Happy as they can be so that You don’t have to spend as much valuable time in your various Next Lives getting over being miserable, so that you can get to the Happy thing sooner.

So, Buddhists try to make life as good as possible for the lowliest of creatures, and the most miserable of humans, to make the lot of Everyone — themselves included, in this incarnation and the next — just plain Happier.

This is why all the pictures you’ll ever see of the Dalai Lama have him smiling.  He is *always* smiling.  You don’t catch him, in an unguarded moment, being angry or miserable or killing a mosquito on his arm.  The guy is always smiling.  Heads of other Religions are seen smiling, even a large portion of the time, but looking at their faces, their smile lines aren’t etched on them, and there are many many pictures of them just looking care-worn.  Pope John Paul II is often pictured smiling, but even a cursory comparison in Google’s images section will show that HH John Paul II’s smile lines pale in comparison with HH the Dalai Lama’s.  Mother Teresa, who will almost certainly be named a Saint in our lifetimes, shows the burden she carries in so many of her pictures.  And what is that burden?  That All Life Is Suffering; and that she spent huge portions of her life alleviating that suffering in others.  That suffering is real, painstakingly real, for so many people all over our world.

OK, so, I promised Buddhism made easy, here it is:

1) Stop chasing after superlatives – you will never be the richest or the smartest or the most successful or the most humble; and even if you do achieve a superlative for a very brief time, a) you will never know you’ve attained it; and, b) there will always be someone who knocks you off your pedastal, and, again, you will never know you have lost it.  And the quest to always outshine the guy next to you will just make both of you miserable.

2) Spend time in meditation, at the least it will shake off the stress of the day, and, the potential benefits, at least according to Buddhism, are Infinite.

3) Realize that Happiness comes from Within rather than Without.

4) Understand that Happiness, for its own sake, is a worthy goal.

5) Between two extremes, there is always a Middle Way, and following the Path of the Middle Way is the most direct path to Freedom from Want, and, therefore Happiness

And finally, 6) Make the world better for the next generation by making it better for this one.


Now, a quick chat about what’s to come… there will be more postings about various of the World’s Major Religions; I am particularly looking forward to more of Susan’s discussions of Islam, especially in light of Mette’s insightful discussion of Sharia Law.  There will also be some nice discussions of the World’s Other Religions, as well as a quick delve into some historical Religions, now called Mythology.  And after that, we’ll start getting into yet more stuff. 

Thanks for reading!




2 responses

24 10 2009
Mette Damgaard

Hello Bambi, where you are just diligent. That you have come to is so large.
I was very glad, almost happy when I saw your blog. To you, busy woman, you tell about Buddishme, makes it even more interesting.
It is not when you are busy, that creates stress. Not that there’s much about the ears. I think all of us who read your blog, will rejoice at your posts. But now, just continue to keep the “uncertain time” you come back with something to debate.
Then we will, as now, be so glad, maybe even feel a happiness over the new, which may titillate our thoughts, and knowledge;)
There is not much to say on your paper.
Point 1. but I will now continue to chase my dreams and desires.
– 2. My family do not understand me when I feel like “playing at Farmville”, they think that I am wasting time. But frankly, here I sit and meditate while I click around. Nothing disturbs me and I can smile and laugh when I think about every single neighbor I have. I like so much of them all.
– 3. Yes 100% agree. Engrossed in thoughts, marvel at something and having fun every day. So you sleeps well. This means that you have to do something you want, eg. to work. It creates a satisfaction and joy inside, and it is the sense of giving themselves reflected as happines.
– 4. ;D
– 5 I just correct a little. The most direct route from poverty and misery (not-happy) is the realization of their own situation, and so make the most best,of it is left. Create a dignity and self worth. Be glad yourself, and what you have. Really happy you will be when you can rejoice with others. Living in the now, be present, and share with others what you have, even what little it may be, eg. a daily smile … smile is free, and make the recipient happy.
– 6. Oh – I am deeply grateful to you that you keeps you in the blog.
You force me to think and decide. I´m loving it and often return to your pages, to wonder why? ! Thanks to you Bambi.
Love Mette

29 05 2010
Javier Shaw

Haha I’m actually the first reply to this incredible read!?

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