Journal #8 – Buddhist by Heritage, Meandering Otherwise

Posted: March 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

I am “Buddhist”.  What this entails, I have never known.  Although my parents claim that we are Buddhist, we by no means are “devout Buddhists”.  Essentially, because Buddhism was the religion both my parents’ families practiced (to what extent, I cannot say – definitely not enough to have left an impact, though) – I sometimes claim to be a Buddhist today.  Do I know anything about it? Nope.  To be honest, the chapter on Buddhism in Smith’s text is actually more I have read on Buddhism than I have known about the religion in my entire life. I may wear the Buddha on my necklace that I’ve had since I was a toddler, but that’s more so out of remembrance of my grandfather who had given me this necklace.

The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are essential to Buddhism and serve to outline how one moves from the First Noble Truth of suffering to freedom from captivity, the “overcoming of tanha” (103).  Having read and/or skimmed through these sections, I no doubt find truth in much of it – particularly the necessity for inner development and recognition of oneself to improve one self and their mind.  It calls for a strength within us that influences us to act ethically and phase out the causes that bring about suffering.  I in many ways commend this practice and recognize the need to do so in order to better one self.  But is working for the self truly the best way when there exists family and community?  I’m not sure if I skimmed over any particular sections that emphasized the importance of community and strength in bonds, but the focus on inner reflection and betterment almost seems selfish at times.  One particular quote puts me at great confusion: “All we are is the result of what we have thought… all things can be mastered by mindfulness” (109).  Do we, as ethical and moral human beings, really work on our own for our individual selves?  I can’t find myself agreeing to that idea with the amount of importance I place on family and community.

Before reading Smith’s section on Buddhism, I had carried brief knowledge of the above mentioned items.  My father actually discusses religion every so often with me, acknowledging the benefits and flaws of each.  I feel that this may be why my family does not practice devotedly any particular religion.  We may claim to be Buddhist, but that identity is definitely flawed if all that is written up there is what Buddhism wholly entails.  I tend to pick and grab parts of other religions along with Buddhism, not purposely but rather because those qualities that I find in various practices are those that I have been raised with.  I never followed a religion, I just embraced and grew as my parents and my social environment deemed necessary. Of course some influence of my own thoughts and belief exist, but I don’t think I could ever attribute my morals to any particular religion.


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