Sunday 1-7-2024 — Opening to Buddhism.

Happy Sunday!

This month in seminary we studied Buddhism. This post is a portion of my monthly reflection paper I wrote on my experiences.

As part of our Seminary requirements, we students are to visit a sacred site or attend a ceremony related to the religion we are studying for the month. For my visit, earlier this week I went to a Buddhist temple just north of Princeton, NJ. The temple itself is still under construction but the grounds are open to practitioners. I stood before the very large statue of the Buddha and listened. It was quiet. I walked around the brown plants of the garden and then along a meditation path through a woodland.

As I walked, I passed an altar type structure with many small Buddha statues, each one with a different name plate. This formed the question, ‘Is there more than one Buddha?’ When I got home and readied myself to write my monthly reflection paper, I spent time researching to understand more of the religion that our textbook did not offer.

The past months, with the religions we have studied, I have found myself appreciating the ways that they are similar to my own understanding of God from my Christian tradition (further expanded by my spiritual studies). The extra research time I took has shown me a difference. I now ask, where is God?

(I found in the textbook and by researching online that yes, in Buddhism, they believe in more than one Buddha. This made me smile as I see the level of consciousness obtained by the Buddha to be as Jesus obtained, Christ consciousness. I also believe that many humans have obtained this, so finding a religion that acknowledges that it is not just one special human is validation for where I am with my understanding of human potential – we are limitless.)

With my past tiny bit of knowledge about Buddhism, I always had positive feelings about it. This is because compassion is presented as the main practice. Surprisingly, textbook learning has not emphasized this. And Buddhism is different from other religions as lacking are a basic philosophy about the nature of God, creation, and the spiritual realm.

I am now feeling this faith system lacking. Where is Love?

“It’s closer to psychology than religion. One fact about Buddhism fact that will surprise you the most is that it is closer to psychology than religion—it’s really quite practical. The Buddha could be seen as an early psychologist, teaching his disciples the idea of acceptance—that the world is a certain way, and that wishful thinking only leads to sorrow.” (This is from one of the articles I found online as I searched on my questions.)

My thoughts went to Siddhartha’s Enlightenment as described in my textbook. Believing that this experience of Oneness would be Love-filled, I found the description limited and uninspiring. “Siddhartha realized that desire is the cause of suffering and that for suffering to end there must be an end to desire.”  (Invitation to World Religions, 4th Edition, Brodd, Little et al, pg. 160)

I wondered, ‘Where is the Wow! Where is the light and the Love and the expansion?’ This had me feeling that this religion is just psychology like the article I reference above. Still, there were aspects of it that I appreciate.

My spiritual practice for the month was based on Buddhism’s ‘metta’ prayer. I appreciate the attention this religion reinforces on care of the self. Meditation and prayers to find self-love and expanded consciousness is of benefit for the whole of humanity. Through experience I have learned that the better I understand myself the more compassion I have for others. The passing of this wisdom through the generations with the message that ‘you too can-do this’ is such a blessing to us all. ‘Know thyself first’ is a good way to begin expansion.

Also, I do feel appreciation for the mindfulness, “Right View”, philosophy that Buddhism has brought into the world as I can relate to its teachings in two ways.

First would be through my studies of “A Course in Miracle” (ACIM), the Workbook, a yearlong study of daily lessons, where we spend half the year doing lessons of undoing. They are very similar to Buddhism’s principles of seeing the impermanence of things in this world.

The second way I can relate is that I had a peak experience a few years ago in which, for a few short minutes, I laughed as higher perception filled me and I saw that we all play parts in a game. What Buddhism philosophy provides is an important piece of the puzzle, but, as a religion, I want more.

I have just begun another year of ACIM Workbook lessons. The Introduction describes the two parts to the workbook. The first, as I mentioned, is about ‘undoing the way you see now’. The second part is ‘the acquisition of true perception’. This work, which is about coming to know yourself as eternal Love, and beloved, seems a critical part of the spiritual path to me.

“God is but Love, and therefore so am I.” (ACIM Workbook lessons 171 -180). This line repeated in my mind as I reflected on Buddhism.

I have known for many years that my dharma is to learn to ‘love well’. God and Love are synonymous for me. For a few days, my understanding of Buddhism felt limiting.

After a good night’s sleep, I returned to reflect and continue my seminary paper. I was brought some insights that helped me to feel more positive about my understanding of Buddhism.

First, in my reflection, I thought of the three faces of God and was able to find that Buddhism puts a focus on the ‘First Person’ face of God, God in me. Next, my mind went to devotion. I thought of the strong devotional practices of the Sufi, loving the personal God (Second person God, You or Thou). Did Buddhism contain devotional practices?

I was reminded of the large Buddha statue at the temple site I visited. I realized that it would not be there if there were not devotion in the Buddhist practice. I went back to the textbook and where I had little luck in the text searching for the word ‘Love’, there were several references to devotional practices. From my experience, devotion invokes the flow of Love between Creator and creation. Herein lies the Third Person God, the ‘It’ that is unknowable but is experienced.

On more thing smoothed the resistance, the wording in the text on Buddha’s enlightenment that I referenced above. I read and understand that the Buddha discovered the blockage to the flow of Love. This connection to ACIM brought tears with this realization and correlation.

“The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance.” (ACIM Introduction.)

I now feel at peace with Buddhism.

Blessed are those who can trust. Who do their practices and let Love be revealed to them.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.