Soundtrack time: I'm Set Free, by the Velvet Underground.
Hit play and start reading.
It's been a difficult decision to write this post. . . I've thought and thought, and struggled with how I'm going to share this news with my family back home, and I'm still not quite satisfied with the idea of just blogging about it, but whenever I think of getting on the phone, my stomach starts shaking and I know I just can't do it.
If you follow my blog, you've read some of my thoughts lately on faith -- I know I've seemed pretty harsh on Christianity here, here, here, and here, and especially here.
If you read between the lines, you might notice a kind of relaxing of the rigid lines that used to define my faith. . .
you may have also noticed this. Well, I don't know how to say this, but here goes.
Back in 2006, I had a pretty rough year -- you've also read my writings about that. In this post, I finished off my discussion of my own search for meaning with these words:
Maybe admitting "I'm not out of the woods yet" authentically IS the best thing I can come away with, and maybe The Lesson I've Learned is that life doesn't fit in boxes, nor needs to: Things I've Figured Out quickly become Prejudices, if I decide I don't have to keep thinking about them. Maybe some honest stumbling about in the woods IS an act of worship, and by being OK with that, or even celebrating that, it might even become a celebration of the fact we need never cease our search for meaning, that every part of our life can continue being deepened and enriched, long after we stop feeling sad.
I think a few of you have kind of read between the lines and spotted some of what I'm going through; I've spent the last two years or so trying to work out a framework where the things I believe, my spiritual life and practice, begins to focus more on the process instead of the destination -- gently stepping away from a destination helps me focus on the joys of the process, helps me to commit to being the person I am, in the place I am, rather than yearning discontentedly for some future, some heaven, some illusory attainment.
In light of that, I've been reading the Dalai Lama a lot lately, and finding that it makes a lot of sense to me, and I love the way that in Buddhism, it's more a question of finding a harmonious way to live, than of having the "right" doctrine or belief.
So I've decided to become a practicing Buddhist. I want to renounce the trappings of desire -- all those things that make me feel like a hamster running on a wheel -- and clear my mind, so that I can finally walk in the world as it is, instead of always comparing it with the way I want it to be.
"Renunciation is not getting rid of the things of this world, but accepting that they pass away."
The thing I like about Zen Buddhism is that it's not so much about setting a goal or an aim, but more about letting go-- being in that neutral, mindful place helps me to feel like it's really ME who is walking through this life.
Another thing I like is that Buddhism doesn't ask you to renounce any other belief, ritual or practice you have; it just supplies a kind of different framework for understanding why we do the things we do. This means I don't have to throw aside the Bible, the (wonderful, wonderful) teachings of Christ, or the morality I was raised with; it's more that I add this new thing to the other things I've already learned!
(title of this post from this song: "I'm beginning to see the light" by Velvet Underground
Here is a passage of the Dhammavadaka, edited a bit for length:
Remember always that you are just a visitor here, a traveler passing through. your stay is but short and the moment of your departure unknown.
Speak quietly and kindly and be not forward with either opinions or advice. If you talk much, this will make you deaf to what others say, and you should know that there are few so wise that they cannot learn from others.
Treasure silence when you find it, and while being mindful of your duties, set time aside, to be alone with yourself.
Cast off pretense and self-deception and see yourself as you really are.
Despite all appearances, no one is really evil. They are led astray by ignorance. If you ponder this truth always you will offer more light, rather then blame and condemnation.
You, no less than all beings have Buddha Nature within. Your essential Mind is pure. Therefore, when defilements cause you to stumble and fall, let not remose nor dark foreboding cast you down. Be of good cheer and with this understanding, summon strength and walk on.
To me, seeking the Buddha nature means becoming more alert and attuned to the people around me, and their needs. It means no longer clutching for the things other people tell me I want (money, status) or things that I can't see, and which can thus never satisfy my daily cravings and desires (heaven). By dropping this baggage, I can finally be free.
This is a kind of startling thing to finally announce! Sorry if it's a little shocking to some of you, but it's been really good for me. I've been writing more than ever before, and every bit of sunlight seems sacred now, every step I take seems like a celebration of life and creation!
In order to truly awaken myself to Buddha nature, and to finally die to the desires of the world, I have decided it is time to learn how to embrace silence. I'm taking a pledge of silence -- I'm going to stop all writing except the books and plays I'm working on. That means that you might want to read this post carefully, because it will be my last, until a year from today, when (hopefully) I've re-centered myself, and I break my vow of silence. Until then, I'll phone and be in touch with you that way, my loved ones! Thank you for enjoying my blog. I hope I'll see you again in a year.
(now, check the date of this post)