eligion is the subject of extreme sensitivity for many reasons. Those with different views have been murdered, beaten, shamed, lost employment, and suffered broken homes. Yet, without some form of religious belief, many of us struggle to maintain, let alone function physically and psychologically.
Many factors make Buddhism different from Christianity and Islam. First, Buddhists do not believe in God or worship; they believe in meditation, ethical living, and mindfulness. While Christians and Muslims pray, worship one God, and perform good deeds.
For a century, Buddhism has proven beneficial even if we don’t commit ourselves to it full-time. Still, that doesn’t mean Buddhism should fall into the religious wars that are so common, primarily because, on the surface, Buddhism’s teachings are universal, and they do not claim their God is better than another’s God.
Siddhartha Gautama was from India and was known as Buddha 2500 years ago. Gautama was the prince of a wealthy family but decided to escape the luxurious life in search of enlightenment, which he did six years later.
Followers of Buddhism are called Buddhists. They center their lives around several strong beliefs, such as rebirth and suffering which they say is possible through enlightenment.
“Hungry ghosts are individuals who are starving even though they are led to tables spread with endless food and precious delights,” author Brenda Shoshanna writes in her book Zen and the Art of Falling In Love. “Hungry ghost might sample one relationship after the next, not knowing how to digest it. They never know who the persona is in front of them, or who they are themselves.”
Buddhists meditate at a Zen training center. When individuals walk through the door, they are required to take off their shoes. “When we take off our shoes, we begin the process of letting go of our usual defenses and external signs of value. As we practice, we realize that everything is significant—every little moment…” said Shoshanna.
“The practice of medication stops this frantic activity, quiets our wild monkey mind [anxiety, stress, negative thoughts]. Our wild monkey mind loves to accompany us wherever we go. It is an inner chorus of continual comment that spoils everything and prevents us from truly being with whatever appears.”
Sitting is another Buddhist teaching. The theory is that by reaming motionless regardless of distractions, this brings about a clear picture of what’s in front of us.
“In Zen meditation, by not moving, we are surrounding control over the condition. We are allowing things to be as they are, to appear, develop, disappear, reappear in any way they may,” said Shoshanna. “When we do not move, we are yielding to a higher wisdom; we are allowing life to take its own course.”
A prevailing belief of Buddhism requires us to remain in the present moment if possible. Shoshanna uses the example of taking what might otherwise be a rainy day (a minor issue) and turning it into a horrible storm, which can hinder positive ways of solving a situation.
She also says applying the concept of the doorman helps perspective how power we have over our ability to self-love and heal. On average, when we wander into certain chain stores, we are often greeted by men and women staff who act as hosts.
On average, they are helpful, and without hesitation, they greet everyone with the same zest. And if a customer fails to respond, the doorman doesn’t seem bothered. They continue to greet the next individual with the same smile and positive energy.
“By accepting the total range of human experience, we do not fixate upon one aspect of a person [or thing], making it the whole story,” says Shoshanna. “Let something go. At first, let it go for one day, and see how it feels to be without it; remember you can always take it back again. Then try it for another day.
By doing the job of the doorman, our illusions about ourselves and others become clear. We do not act upon the feelings; however, we stay focused upon what is required of us,” she said. “By staying focused upon the job, we are given, the painful feelings arise and then depart.”
On the surface, Buddhist teaching seems simple compared to “traditional” religions, which can require a higher level of analytical ability and often creates inaccurate interpretation. Yet, for all the benefits that Buddhism might offer, there are drawbacks.
Many argue that to meditate in front of a buddha statue does represent worshiping a God and a higher power who fails to represent what a “traditional” God has to offer, mainly through healing. Buddhism doesn’t offer the notion that there is something larger and more powerful, which can’t be identified, but whose presence is there during crucial and desperate times.
Buddhism believes in “Karma,” which means suffering in return for evil things we have done. While many religions believe in the same teaching, the difference between them and Buddhism is that “traditional” religions have scriptures that offer guidance, especially when a person hopes to break free from problematic behaviors. Buddhism doesn’t offer concrete suggestions, which makes it challenging for many to buy into the concept of meditation as the chief source of enhancing our lives.
All in all, Buddhist teaching hasn’t proven harmful in the long run; as Shoshanna writes, “…we are yielding to a higher wisdom, we are allowing life to take its own course. Basically, we are only guests for a short time upon this beautiful earth. How odd to believe that all revolves around us; how sad to refuse to accept the gifts we have been given, just as they are. Why do we not realize that we are only travelers, that this is not our ultimate home?”