Meditations…

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Yesterday morning, as I lowered myself onto my zafu to begin my morning service & meditation, I was struck by a singular thought;

Loving Kindness is difficult for me.

It is not that I have a problem giving Loving Kindness to others, but I am suddenly acutely aware of my inability to receive Loving Kindness. And this one thought suddenly answers so many questions.

Questions like, why can’t I seem to maintain an open line of communication with my newly found family; my aunt Margene, who I first made contact with a year ago? Why is it difficult for me to reach out to & stay connected with my Buddhist community? Why is it so hard for me to make new friends or accept invitations to join in with people I don’t know very well?

I’ve often said that I’ve become more solitary & reclusive in my older age because, as many do with age, I find my capacity for bullshit & ignorance dramatically diminished. I say that I’ve never really been much of a “people person” & that I’ve come to realise in more recent years that I suffer from a bit of social anxiety, so I’m better off staying home or going out with a couple of close friends to familiar places. And while all of that may indeed be true, the root of it all lies not so much in my distrust of others, but in my distrust of myself & my own worth. In my inability to receive Loving Kindness from those around me because I question why I would be on the receiving end of it in the first place.

With this little revelation in my pocket, I set about my day, doing what I do, holding this at the back of my mind the whole time. Wondering how I could possibly manifest Loving Kindness in my life without first learning how to accept it. And the response I received (from wherever these call & response thought processes derive) was that I need to continue to meditate on this.


This morning, I again lowered myself onto my zafu & began my morning service & meditation. I should mention here that it has been awhile since I’ve performed these rituals regularly & being on the tail end of a virus with major upper respiratory symptoms definitely makes meditation more labour intensive. So as I sat there, attempting to breathe deeply through my stuffy nose, while maintaining presence, I suddenly found myself walking into the foyer of my great-grandmother’s home. Mama Kate there to greet me with one of her glorious embraces. The smells. The sounds. Every detail & colour precisely as I remember it. And with tears streaming down my face, as the chimes of my timer began to sound, I was chanting a new mantra;

I’m not ready yet. I don’t want to leave.

What does my great-grandmother’s house have to do with my ability (or lack thereof) to receive Loving Kindness? Well, I have some feelings about that. I say feelings because they are not fully formed thoughts quite yet. I know them, but cannot completely articulate them at this moment. In other words…..

To Be Continued.

Let It Be …or… How The Beatles, Buddhism, & Mother Mary Saved the World

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This morning, for no apparent reason, I found myself singing while making my breakfast…

This song has always meant a lot to me, from the very first time I heard it, as a very young girl. Even as a child, I understood how powerful the lyrics were & why. And I believe that this song speaks directly to what the world needs – what it needed then, what it needs now, & what it will always need:

Compassion – Not only for one another, but also for ourselves.

This is why some version of “Mother Mary” seems to exist across cultures & religions; that goddess spirit, filled with compassion, often depicted as a martyr. As a baptised Catholic, former Gnostic, & practicing Buddhist, you might say I have a bit of experience with this goddess archetype. In Catholicism we revere the blessed Virgin Mary, in Gnosticism she is Sophia, & in Buddhism she is Kwan Yin (Kuan Yin/Guanyin), the female embodiment of Avalokiteshvara – (S)He who hears the cries of the world. However it is not her name, but her purpose, which makes her so important.

She exists to embrace us in her warmth & wipe away our tears, regardless of who we are or what we’ve done. She exists as a light in our darkest hour, to guide us out of our own suffering & open our eyes to the suffering of others. She serves as an example of the love & compassion we should show to all beings, including ourselves. And I emphasize compassion for self because that has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn (& still learning). Without compassion for self, we can become self-destructive & critical, & what good are we to others when our own spirit is beaten down & broken?

It doesn’t matter your religion (or lack thereof), race, nationality, gender, sexuality, etc. Those things do not truly define us, as we are far too complex to be defined in such narrow terms. And when we use them to define ourselves & each other, we draw lines in the sand, further dividing mankind, when THAT is the one fundamental & most glorious trait we all share; that we are part of the human race. And as such, we are all marvelous works of art & science. Each one of us is completely unique; no two alike, not even “identical” twins. Yet by nature of the fact that we share this trait, it can be inferred that we all come into this world with the same capacity for intelligence, compassion, & loving kindness as anyone else. And while we may be born into a variety of circumstances & cultures – some of which foster & encourage the growth of those capacities, while others hinder or even discourage it – the seeds remain intact, at our very core, capable of being awakened at any moment, regardless of what life we’ve lived up to that point.

In Gnosticism this is referred to as the divine spark, which all of mankind contains within itself & influences us toward love, peace, & harmony. In Buddhism it is Buddha seed or Buddha nature; the root mind & ultimate nature of all sentient beings. The goal of both practices being to recognize & cultivate our own spark/seed, while also encouraging the same in all of mankind – to paraphrase one of my favourite passages from the prayer I use in my own Shodaigyo (Buddhist meditation practice) – so that all people throughout the world may return to their true nature & everywhere under the heavens become a tranquil land, & all the people of those lands lead happy lives.

So what does all of this have to do with a Beatles song? While Paul McCartney may have been inspired to write the song in 1968 by a dream in which his mother imparted her wise words to him – “let it be” – there is no doubt that the tone of the song & basic idea that it encompasses speaks directly to that innate spark or seed in all of us; that divine wisdom, compassion, & loving kindness that has the power to change the world… if only the world would open itself to its power.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer… Let it be. For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see, there will be an answer… Let it be.

Why Your Confederate Flag Argument is Bullshit

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I am so sick to fucking death of all the STUPID bullshit posts (by both sides of the debate) on social media about the damn “confederate flag”!

If you want to take a stand & get all worked up about something & plaster your opinion (usually written as “fact”) all over the internet, at least take the time to use the same internet to do your homework & know what the hell you’re talking about.

I am Texan. I am Southern. I grew up with imagery of this flag all around me (including in cartoons we all watched on Saturday mornings). I grew up associating it as a symbol of the South & Yosemite Sam & Dukes of Hazard & Lynard Skynard & all that “good ol’ boy” Southern heritage crap that everyone & their dog is now using to defend it. Southern Pride! The South will rise again! Yeah… I understand your sentimental attachment… I “get” it. HOWEVER…

I am also a huge history buff (with particular interest in Civil War & Texas history). I minored in history in college & make it a point to research the hell out of topics that interest me & get to the truth, even when that truth may contradict everything I’ve been “taught” by various sources throughout my life. And yes, the Civil War was about more than “just slavery”, but the fact that ANY portion of it was fought in an effort to protect one man’s right to OWN another man is FUCKED UP (sorry, there’s just no other way to say that). And that is really the ONLY thing that most people are capable of remembering about the Civil War, because it is such an incomprehensible piece of our collective history.

Let me put this in other terms that will hopefully resonate with you just a little bit better…….

I am a Buddhist. In the 1930s Adolph Hitler adopted a Sanskrit symbol, used for thousands of years by Buddhists, Hindus, & Jains as a sacred auspicious symbol, & forever changed its association in the minds of future generations. I know, respect, & understand what the swastika actually means, however I refuse to incorporate the symbol into my altar & cringe at the thought of my son wearing his mala, adorned with a swastika bead, in public because I know what this symbol means to most people & the pain & heartache it still represents to those who suffered under the Nazis. Do you understand this?

Do you understand that your “confederate flag” – no matter what you associate it with or THINK it represents to you – is to African Americans what the swastika is to Jewish people all over the world? That flag represents a war fought, at least in part (& a rather large part), in an effort to keep an entire race of people enslaved, repressed, & denied their basic human rights. And it has been used time & time again, in the years since the Civil War, to represent groups that would continue to deny such rights to minorities & people of colour. Just as Hitler’s swastika continues to be used by similar groups to this day.

And just to clear up a few things for those of you who apparently slept through every history lesson in school:

  1. When the Confederate States succeeded, they ceased to be part of America. Therefore your argument that the “confederate flag” is no different from the flags representing other American states, or that it is among the flags that have flown over this country, is just plain ignorant.
  2. This damn flag you’re so passionately fighting over isn’t even the actual “Stars and Bars”, as I’ve seen so many people refer to it as. The actual flag that was dubbed the “Stars and Bars” was the original flag of The Confederacy & it looked remarkably similar to the original American flag. So it was revised. A few times. But NONE of those revisions resulted in the flag we’re talking about today. Yes, it may have shown up as PART of the official Confederate flag design, but it wasn’t the official flag. The flag you’re all referring to as “the confederate flag” was actually General Lee’s battle flag. It was used exclusively in battle to represent his troops. And guess what? Even HE wanted no part of it after the war was over.

Don’t believe me? Look that shit up. Use Google to search for FACTS for once, instead of stupid imagery & memes about your “Southern Pride” & “Rebel Soul”.

You see, I appreciate my heritage & where I come from… but not to the point of blindly defending the flaws & mistakes made along the way. Hell, I’m from Texas. If I spent all my time holding on to the idea that everything about my state was righteous & worthy of fighting to uphold, my fucking head would explode from all the bullshit lies I’d have to tell myself to do it!

Injustice Anywhere…

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Processed with Moldiv47 years ago the world lost an amazing, powerful man. And just 40 years earlier we were given the gift of an equally amazing & powerful woman. So today, on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & what would have been the birthday of Dr. Maya Angelou – two of my personal heroes – I share with you the following poem, written by Dr. Angelou in tribute to her fallen friend, Dr. King.

Abundant Hope was first delivered by Dr. Angelou on August 26, 2011 at the Women Who Dare to Dream luncheon, as part of the celebrations marking the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic March on Washington. The luncheon honoured the legacies of the women of the Civil Rights Movement, including Coretta Scott King, who remain beacons of strength & hope in the continued fight for human equality.

Dr. Maya Angelou & Coretta Scott King celebrating the "Maya Angelou Life Mosaic" Collection by Hallmark at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York; February 25, 2002 (Photo credit: KMazur)

Dr. Maya Angelou & Coretta Scott King celebrating the “Maya Angelou Life Mosaic” Collection by Hallmark at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York; February 25, 2002 (Photo credit: KMazur)

Today, as we go about our daily lives – maybe you’re preparing your Easter celebration or perhaps, like me, drudging through the chores & errands you only have time for on the weekends – I ask that you reflect upon these words & the lives of these two extraordinary, courageous people; people who fought long & hard for social justice & refused to be silenced. I ask that you think about the various forms of social injustice members of our society are faced with today & ask yourself, “What can I do – what am I doing – to stand up for social justice in my own life & my own community?”

It does not matter the colour of your skin, the size of your bank account, which god you pray to, who you love, or how you see yourself when you look in the mirror. It does not matter whether or not you believe your life has been personally impacted by social injustice. We cannot live our lives isolated within tiny bubbles of our own creation. No truer words have ever been spoken than when Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

What happens to one of us, happens to all of us… or so it should be. Freedom, Justice, & Equality are merely myths until ALL men & women are TRULY free to live their lives without fear of violence, bigotry, & persecution being enacted against them simply for existing in their own skin.

Abundant Hope by Dr. Maya Angelou

Reverend Martin Luther King

The great soul
Flew from the Creator
Bearing manna of hope
For his country
Starving severely from an absence of compassion.

Martin Luther King

The Great Spirit,
Came from the Creator
Proffering a sparkling fountain of fair play
To his country
Parched and deformed by hate.

The whole man came forth
With a brain of gentle wisdom
To persuade quiet
Upon the loud misery of the mob.

A whole man stood out
With a mellifluous voice
To bind the joints of cruelty.

A whole man came
In the midst of a murderous nightmare
Surrounded by demons of war
He dared to dream peace and serenity

With a heart of faith
He hoped
To resurrect his nation.

I open my mouth to the Lord,
And I won’t turn back.

Martin Luther King

Faced the racial
Mountain of segregation and
And bade it move.

The giant mound of human ignorance
Centuries old
And rigid in its determination
Did move, however slightly, however infinitesimally,
It did move.

I will go, I shall go
I’ll see what the end will be.

Martin Luther King

Brought winds of healing
To his country
Reeling unsteady
With the illness
Of racial prejudice,
Screams of vulgarity
Could not silence him.

Fire bombs and dogs
Could not take his voice away

Ona my knees,
I told God how you treated me
Ona my knees.

He knew himself
A child of God
On a mission from God, and
Standing in the hand of God.
He spoke to the hideous hearts
And to the bitter monstrosities
And asked them to transform
Their ways and thereby
Liberate his country.

Representing the grace of heaven
He spoke to the evils of Hell
Representing gentleness
He sang to brutes.

He brought the great songs of faith
Persuading men and women
To think beyond
Their baser nature.

Lord, don’t move your mountain,
Just give me strength to climb it.

He hummed the old gospels
Encouraging the folk to act
Beyond their puny selves.

You don’t have to move
That stumbling block,
Lord, just lead me around it.

Leader to those who would be led
And hero to millions.

Martin Luther King

Was father to
Yolanda,
Martin, III,
Dexter, and,
Bernice.

He was lover
Friend, and
Husband
To
Coretta Scott King.

He spoke respectfully
Of the Torah.
He spoke respectfully
Of the Koran.

In India, walked in the footprints
Of Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi.

Christianity made him patient
With all religions
And his tremendous heart
Made him believe
That all people
Were his people

All creeds and cultures
Were comfortable in
His giant embrace
And all just causes
Were his to support and extol
Through sermons and allocutions
With praise songs and orations

He preached fair play and serenity
From hand cuffs and prison garb
From leg irons and prison bars

He taught triumph over loss
And love over despair
Hallelujah over the dirges and
Joy over moaning.

Fear not, we’ve come too far to turn back
We are not afraid, and

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
Deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome
Someday.

Requesting Generosity for a Family in Need

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“Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.”
– HH XIV Dalai Lama

This week members of my chosen family were struck by tragedy when their home caught on fire. Seeing their suffering & feeling powerless to help, I was inspired to turn to the wonderful resource of crowd funding, & decided to establish a GoFundMe campaign on their behalf.

John Holmes said, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down & lifting people up.” The way I see it, we all have a responsibility to one another; a responsibility to do what we can to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings, whether we know them or not. A responsibility to take time from our petty self indulgences, open our eyes, & look around at the world & the plight of our neighbours.

For every moment we have suffered, there is another person out there who suffers ten times worse. It is only through actively striving to end their suffering that we can hope to ease our own.

“If you are a Buddhist, inspire yourself by thinking of the bodhisattva. If you are a Christian, think of the Christ, who came not to be served by others but to serve them in joy, in peace, and in generosity. For these things, these are not mere words, but acts, which go all the way, right up to their last breath. Even their death is a gift, and resurrection is born from this kind of death”
– Jean-Yves Leloup

Please take a moment to visit the GoFundMe campaign, help if you are able, & spread the word by sharing the link on your blog or social networking sites. Your efforts are appreciated more than you know.

Machicek-Dunlap Family Fire Fund

An Open Letter to the Grandmother I Never Knew

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Patricia Ann Moon 30 Dec 1937 - 23 Feb 2004

Patricia Ann Moon
30 Dec 1937 – 23 Feb 2004

I didn’t know you… & from what I’ve been told, you didn’t want to know me. I’ve heard stories, from both my mother & my father – your son – about how you wanted them to get married, but my mother refused & you disapproved. So eventually you decided that I must not really be Keith’s baby & set about trying to convince him of that, ultimately resulting in him joining the Navy in an effort to escape everyone & forget.

My mother’s story also includes something about not wanting to get married because she was only 15 (her 16th birthday came less than two months before I was born) & didn’t think she was in love. She also didn’t feel Keith was responsible enough to be a husband or a father. I always thought that was a rather odd thing for a 15 year old girl to be so conscious of. But the truth is, by the time she became pregnant with me, she had already left school to care for her younger siblings because her mother wasn’t around to do it. And in the end, she wound up marrying my step-father because she was being told that she would be forced to give me up for adoption, due to her young age & lack of support. Her mother wanted to adopt & raise me. Fortunately for me, she knew her mother would make a worse parent & did what she had to do in order to keep me.

According to my father’s story, my mother was the love of his life & he was heartbroken when she did not want to get married. He felt pressure from his family (you) to walk away. He was lost & confused & didn’t know what to do. The Navy option presented itself so he took it & left. At some point he encountered my step-father & my uncle (my mom’s brother) who he says threatened him that if he ever made any attempt to contact me, they would make him regret it. I’ve never been sure whether this occurred before or after the Navy. Either way, it was a ridiculous thing for them to do & a ridiculous thing for him to decide to abide by.

When or how the choice was made to lie to me about who my father was… I’ve never really been told. All I know is for as far back as I have memory, I was Lori Scarmardo – the blonde haired, hazel eyed Sicilian girl, whose stranger colouring was explained away by her mother’s Scotch/Irish heritage & the fact that her “great-grandmother” was a Mormino (which is apparently a family of fair skinned Sicilians, in which blonde hair & blue eyes is not uncommon). And I believed every bit of that until one day in 1988, when an argument with my “dad” would result in a sudden, unexpected confession of the truth.

The funny thing is, I always knew. I really can’t explain why, but I knew. It was just there… this primal gnosis inside of me. This truth that really can only be described as “divine knowledge” because it wasn’t given to me. I didn’t learn it anywhere. It was just there, all along, just waiting for me to acknowledge it. And I can’t even remember what triggered it the first time I said it – “You’re not my real dad.” – So matter of factly. Not in anger or rebellion, but just because I suddenly knew in every fibre of my being, that this was true. And for the next few years, I continued to say it. And he continued to visibly bristle at each utterance. I knew that there was someone else out there; another father. But I don’t think I ever really thought I would be given the truth or actually find him.

According to Keith, after I called him that first time & we made plans to meet, he hung up & immediately called you, excited to share the news. He told me your response was cold & condescending. You told him I wasn’t even his child. Apparently the two of you argued. To the best of my knowledge, there was little to no communication between you after that. He never really spoke of you again. I always hoped that one day he would relent & contact you & that you would relent & accept me. Even as an adult, I have dreamed of meeting you. I have fantasized that there was this whole family who didn’t even know about me, just as I had never known about them. This family that would welcome me & want to know me & my boys. That somehow, one day, all of the missing pieces to my puzzle would be filled in.

Keith & I have had a strange relationship over the years since I met him. He has vanished completely from my life for long periods of time. Our most recent reunion occurred in 2010 when I suddenly came across information online that led me to a Facebook profile for a woman who turned out to be his wife. Surprisingly, they were just down the road in Lampasas. We talked & met for lunch. Keith & Linda (his wife) met my boys, already teenagers then, for the first time. And for the next year & a half we all spent quite a bit of time together. Then he stopped communicating again. Linda stayed in contact & told me it was just too much for him, but he loved us. I chose to let him go. I don’t blame him. I have no way of understanding what all of this has been like for him, just as he can’t fully understand what it’s like for me. I know where he is & how to reach him if I need to & that’s better than it was for several years.

And now I am writing this because I want to tell you that I do not blame you either. I’ll never understand your choices or what led you to make them. As a mother it is hard for me to fathom lying to my children about who their father is (regardless of what I may think of him), or cutting them out of my life or not being there for them when they need me. But perhaps I feel so strongly about these things because I grew up in these circumstances. I have no idea what circumstances you grew up in. I would have liked to have known. This week I thought I was actually on the right track, finally getting so much information via ancestry.com… & then I finally found a record for you! When I realized it was a death notice I was heartbroken. When I located your brief obituary information a few hours later, & discovered the cause of death was ovarian cancer, my heart sunk.

I am sad for what you must have gone through. I am sad for your family & friends who lost you. I am sad that I will never meet you & hear your story. Wherever you are, I hope that you have found peace.

PS – We share a middle name. Did you know that? I never knew before last night. I wonder if it was intentional…

Trials of a Teenage Transvestite’s Single Mother

As a single mom of a transvestite son, these words speak straight to my heart.

Heidi Shuler

My son’s black ruffled skirt is shorter than the straight denim one

he usually wears. We’re late for school. Don’t dawdle, I say

as he swings one leg out of the truck and then the other, far unlike

how my grandmother taught me—knees clasped, pivot at the hips,

feet land together, and stand, ladylike. Those were Iowa manners;

this is Eugene, Oregon etiquette, twenty years later. A little copper

cowbell clanks against the glass door of the convenience store

as he rambles in, lanky stride long with steel toe boots and fishnet

knees as far out in front of him as a grasshopper. His delight

in the flounce of his skirt is a grasshopper wishing to skip.

The Maybelline black eyeliner applied like someone not long past

crayons and coloring books is a stealth acquisition from my makeup bag,

returned with a flattened tip which I dedicated to his…

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Flu Season?

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I came here with the intention of putting all of these profound thoughts that I’ve been making notes on for weeks now, into words… an actual post for the first time in over a month. Instead, I just keep falling back against this pillow that’s propping me up, while that little Catholic girl living inside of me recites prayers to a god I don’t believe in, begging him to take the pain & sickness from my body.

I am not devastatingly sick but I am not well either. Not at all. I am in that messed up middled area. That point where you now know that you’ve definitely picked up whatever it is that everyone else has, & it’s starting to settle in to every little nook & corner of your body & weigh you down, but it hasn’t completely taken over… yet. That Catholic girl tells me that this is what purgatory must be like. I think I’m inclined to agree with her on that one. Dante’s got nothing on Mother Nature over here.

If anyone knows the cure for this… or the appropriate deity to sacrificed my first born to in exchange for good health (kidding – somewhat)… please be a dear & hook a girl up.

Attachment, Relationships, and Misconceived Buddhism

This is a very good read. And the discussion that ensues in the comments is just as good! Glad I stumbled upon it.

shenpa warrior

A common misconception about Buddhism is that it teaches its adherents to rid themselves of all attachments—including relationships. Attachments, according to Buddhism, ultimately cause suffering. This is something that, despite my interest in Buddhism, has kept me from really appreciating it until recently. Even psychologist Jonathan Haidt made this mistake in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis: “Yes, attachments bring pain, but they also bring our greatest joys…” Haidt proposes that the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment may be extreme.

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om mani padme hum

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My son has been Buddhist for many years. In fact, I believe in my heart that he was born Buddhist. His first experience with a Buddhist community & practice came when I asked by only Buddhist friend to take him with her to services, so that he could finally have a community of people who shared his beliefs. As it turns out, my friend was SGI, which meant nothing to me at the time. In fact, despite having a deep interest in religion & minoring in Religious Studies in college, I had no idea that Buddhism was actually divided into so many different sects.

Fast forward a few years… After breaking away from the SGI community & spending a year or two questioning all of his beliefs & studying a variety of religions, my son now practices Nichiren Shu Buddhism. And in an odd twist of fate, one of my old friends, who is very special to me, is about to become a Nichiren Shu priest. Having two people in my life who are very important to me immersed in this culture & practice is such an interesting thing for me, as I truly love listening to them talk about their practice & hearing of the experiences that led them to it. It also stirs up my own spiritual curiosity, which I often try to ignore & push aside, & has recently led me to become more open to such things & willing to allow myself to explore on a deeper level many of the feelings & beliefs I have buried inside of myself for years.

In doing so I seem to be finding myself coming to a truth that I am still struggling to accept – that perhaps I too am Buddhist. Why do I struggle? Why do I use the word, “perhaps” rather than simply, “I am”? I’m not really sure. Maybe it is because, in my journey to this realization, it has become clear to me that one is not simply a Buddhist, because there are many different “types” of Buddhism, just as there are many different “types” of Christianity & the differences between them can be so vast & varied as to make me question the validity of it all. At which point it becomes incredibly disheartening for me.

If I look at my own beliefs & the knowledge (truth) that resides in my heart (which I strongly believe has been there since the beginning of time) & examine these things in the context of the different sects of Buddhism (which, admittedly, I have limited knowledge of & attempts to research can become quite confusing) I find that I am more & more drawn to Tibetan Buddhism. This doesn’t really surprise me, as the teachings of Pema Chödrön, His Holiness the Dali Lama, & Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche have been central elements in my own mental & emotional healing, having had a profound impact on me over quite a few years now. And, of course, coming to this realization I immediately begin to question… What is the difference? What makes Tibetan Buddhism & Nichiren Shu Buddhism, essentially, different religions?

You see, this is why I’ve always said that I am not very good at religion. I am a scholar. I may not have multiple degrees hanging on the wall, but I have always had a passion for knowledge & can easily spend hours researching & learning about the things that fascinate me. And for as long as I can remember, religion – of all varieties – & mankind’s need for religion, has held great fascination for me. So when I find myself continuously drawn to a particular religion, which I recognize as being fundamental truth, only to discover that what I perceived to be this basic, unified embodiment of pure knowledge & truth is actually quite divergent &, in some cases, at odds… I want to know why. I want to understand the differences & why they exist.

If all sects of Buddhism stem from the teachings of one enlightened being – Siddhartha Guatama/Shakyamuni – whom all recognize as the Buddha, why does there seem to be such vast disparity among many of the different sects?

This is the same argument that I often pose to the followers of different Christian denominations – to be considered a Christian tradition there must be, at its core, the fundamental belief in Christ as the physical manifestation of God & Saviour of the people (which is precisely why I argue against the labeling of Gnosticism as a form of Christianity, but that is another topic for another day). So if all Christians believe in Christ & all Buddhists believe in Buddha – why do we have all of these different groups disagreeing on which teachings of their chosen spiritual leader are truly the ones they’re meant to study/practice/follow?

Even when I am presented with the argument that all of the teachings of said spiritual leader came over the course of many years & the earlier teachings were more elementary & irrelevant in light of the later teachings, I still counter with… if you’re trying to bake a cake by following a series of instructions – & you’ve never before cooked or baked or even seen an oven – would you skip right through the instruction on what the oven is & how to turn it on & use it, simply jumping ahead to mixing the ingredients, hoping that in the end you’d have a beautiful cake? Or put another way, would you attempt to build a house without first pouring a strong, solid foundation, & expect it to stand up against all of the elements the universe will throw at it? No, you would not. So why divvy up the teachings of the Buddha, deeming some crucial & others irrelevant?

See… this is why I’m simply not very good at religion. I always end up with far more questions than answers, when all I really want is to simply nurture & grow the truth within my heart & follow it down the path it leads me. I thought it was leading me to Buddhism, but now I’m not so sure what that even means.