Isn’t there a saying that if you want to keep friends you don’t talk about religion or politics? Well, I’m surprised that I have any friends at all if this is the case. Technically I am a Buddhist, practically my religion lies in theory and common sense.
A fortune teller once told me that I had “stolen” someone’s spouse in a last life and that’s what I’m paying for now. Firstly, I’m pretty sure that romantic entanglements require participation from both parties. Secondly, it does not surprise me in the least that I was a shit-disturber in my past life. That’s what I appreciate about Buddhism. There are consequences to your behaviour but there are also opportunities to try to be better the next time around. There isn’t forgiveness and you have to pay your dues. This is very comforting to someone with my temperament who gets into many a situation purely because of my need to know and feel. It makes me think a bit more before I act.
Buddhists precepts also promote the concept of impermanence. Inaccurate interpretations suggest that this is a way of withdrawing from the world. I disagree. I believe it’s just a tool to interact with society in a calm, balanced and composed way. Attachment and favouring your ego can cause unnecessary pain because it instills a fear of the unknown. When you give into uncertainty and reconcile with the fact that both pleasure and pain eventually subsides, everything is more bearable.
When all religions are wiped clean of all of the self-righteous excuses to define the “other” they are all beautiful. What is better than a set of codes to help cultivate kindness and be held accountable for your actions? It’s the extremists who scare the living daylights out of me. When you interpret scripture for the purposes of control and dominance you are doing no favors. You can keep your exclusive club membership because I don’t want it. I will not give you the satisfaction by admitting that I somehow need to be saved.
Religion also helps you make meaning when theory ends, when even Foucault could not help explain the causes. It helps you cope with the childhood cancers, grandparents starving five year olds, war and thirteen year old girls being raped and thrown off of moving trains. It helps you face the heavy, twisted shit that makes you cold and sick. When you are baffled how people and life can be so cruel.
I subscribe to the belief that an open heart is the most important tool for life. The Dalai Lama in “The Art of Happiness” helps to articulate this strategy. He provides examples of how different religions would approach certain predicaments. They are all valid and equal in his eyes. This type of flexibility is so needed in our present world when we are all about safeguarding countries and putting up walls. Fluidity provides more opportunities to listen, and with that at least there are more opportunities to learn.