I have always been fascinated with the story of Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha. I first read his story while in my teens, and was enthralled with his amazing journey, which was very different in many ways, than that of the man Jesus.
When my oldest son Chris was 8 years old, he came home one day and announced that he had known his 6-year-old neighbor friend John in Japan! Since we had never been in Japan, he was obviously referring to a past life! This was so out of the blue that I was amazed. From that time on, Chris grew ever more fascinated with the Japanese culture. Of course, that included Samurai warriors and karate, but also other aspects of the culture, such as the arts and the beauty of calligraphy.
When he was 17, he saw the movie “Little Buddha,” and left the theater in tears. He actually made a grand effort to keep from sobbing aloud, which one does not often see a 17- year-old boy doing after watching a movie! But the Buddhist culture and their belief in rebirth called to something deep within him. To this day, though he is spiritual rather than religious, he is still fascinated with the history and culture of Buddhism.
I also had that reaction to the movie and still do every time I see it. It combines the mythic story of the life of Buddha, along with the story of a young boy who is identified by contemporary Buddhist monks as their former teacher in a previous life. When the boy’s parents learn of the belief they have to go through quite a process accepting its possibility.
Like most religions, I find myself loving the essential truths that are revealed and taught, and yet feel less drawn to the actual practices. Meditation and chanting are typical ones, and I do enjoy both, but cannot begin to imagine the long periods of time spent in the Buddhist tradition. From my Western perspective, it seems like so much work to become enlightened!
Rev Peter Hata, our guest speaker this week, comes from the Pure Land Sect, which does not emphasize the practice of meditation! Their focus is more on the grace of the Buddha and the power of faith to facilitate enlightenment. I am very interested to hear more!
One Buddhist phrase that helps me often is: “Detached engagement.” I can be fully engaged while being detached from the outcome. This often helps me to lighten up. I highly recommend it!
Love & blessings,