My decision to “become a Buddhist” occurred slowly (as if one every really “becomes” a Buddhist, when in reality they adopt Buddhist practices – “Being a Buddhist is more of an action than a state of being, at least IMO). I had been having such a very had time with the faith I was raised in: Catholicism. Well, perhaps not with *that* faith per se, but with the whole concept of God, especially as He is presented in Catholicism specifically, and in western religions generally.
See, I just didn’t *get* God. Or maybe “He” didn’t get me. Intellectually, I understood the concept of a creator, an un-created being, a deity, a non-contingent reality. And for most part, I still buy into that concept. Where I couldn’t quite connect, as say, my wife could, or many of my friends, was the whole concept of a “personal” God. “Someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares,” as Dave Gahan sings. Sure, I’d had what I *thought* were real experiences of this God, this Lover of Souls who “knows you better than you know yourself,” but when I look back on these experiences now, it’s easy to think that these were just fabrications created by my mind, made to feel more real due to emotional impressionism and a desire, a wanting, them to be real.
Maybe they were. I really don’t know. How can I?
What I DO know is that I have very real, very tangible doubts (can a doubt be tangible?) about the existence of a loving, personal God. I’m not saying that He *doesn’t* exist. To say such things would be the height of hubris. But what I *have* been saying, at least to myself, is that I desperately want to know. I crave understanding. But how can I get that understanding? Ultimately, I can’t. I’m convinced, at the present time anyway, that there simply isn’t any way to know – and I mean to know in an experiential way – that He *really* exists. And so, what am I to do? Well, what I *did* do is seek out a philosophy that made sense to me. That “met me where I was at,” (I sure hate that expression) and what I found was Buddhism.
What struck me about Buddhism, as a practice, as a manner of living, as a philosophy, was that it is highly experiential. Observable. As one’s sitting practice of meditating develops, one can directly see peace, tranquility, and a calm mind developing. And it doesn’t rely on faith in some God “out there,” to provide grace in order for one to wake up, become enlightened, become actualized, whatever term you wish to use. Now, there may BE a God out there providing grace but Buddhist practices don’t rely on one’s supplication and sacrifices to that deity. Just practice. Meditation. Calming the mind. Detaching from one’s attachments. Practicing compassion for others. Loving one’s self and other living things. It’s all very simple. No dogma, no infighting about this doctrine or that tradition.
What a breath of fresh air this has been!