If you buy a book on bikes, you can learn all about them.
You can learn about why they have spokes, the different types of gears, and the benefits of drop handlebars. You can learn about the importance of balance and how to lean into a corner. You can learn about the most efficient use of gears.
But it’s only when you get on one and try to ride it, you realise that what your mind knows is only half the battle. It’s important and interesting, but it’s not the whole deal. Not by a long shot.
Buddhism is a lot like that.
When I was doing my MA in Buddhist Studies, I was amazed at some of the conclusions that some respected academics came to based on the words in the texts. They totally got the wrong end of the stick because they weren’t practitioners.
In fact many of the early translators of the Buddhist texts were Christian. I’m sure they were trying to do something of benefit, but inevitably, the Christian world view found its way into how they translated some important Buddhist concepts. With unfortunate results. Even the word ‘Buddhism’ is unfortunate in my opinion.
(I should point out that I was also pleased to see how many Buddhist Studies academics these days are also practitioners and so have that perspective on the texts too. It’s still a fairly young discipline, but there’s some important work being done. Our future understanding of the Dharma may be quite different because of work being done now.)
Anyway, I should get back to the point of this post…
If you want to know what Buddhism is about, you can’t just read a blog like this.
Sure it will give you some kind of taste, but until you try it out, it’s like reading about riding a bike compared with riding one.
How you start will depend on where you’re starting from. Here are some key aspects to have a go at:
- Developing awareness. Try to be here while you’re here. Suspend thinking about past or future for short periods of the day – just try it for a few minutes at a time. When you find you’ve wandered off into fantasy again, don’t worry. Just come back to here and now.
- Develop positive self regard. Try positive affirmations (‘May I be well and happy’ is traditional – but whatever floats your boat will be fine). Do stuff you like doing. Stop giving yourself a hard time. And stop giving yourself a hard time about giving yourself a hard time!
- Try to notice the coming and going of all things (internal and external). Nothing is really fixed. You may ‘know’ this, but when it becomes alive for you in your daily life, your relationships, you aspirations and your dreams, you are transformed (usually a bit at a time). When you see the flow of things, you bring yourself more in alignment with reality, and life tends to get a bit easier.