Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Life Crafted With Care

A cousin who was my closest childhood friend passed away last week. And as we often do Zak I fell into discussions about deeper issues as we worked. The practice of Buddhism is a frequent topic when we get together. As practiced by most Westerners Buddhism is a philosophy, rather than a religion, since there is no worship and no affirmation of a deity.

As I see it (and I am no scholar) my practice of Buddhism serves to discipline body and mind, encourages me to live a useful life, and helps as I struggle to grasp the nature of reality. By the time you are in your 60s and have lost grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, children, siblings, cousins, friends, co-workers and colleagues you begin to realize that we are temporary manifestations of energy in an unending dance of cosmic energy. We wink in and out like lightening bugs on a summer night.

When I grasped the nature of reality, and accepted the nature of birth and death I found a visceral sense of being at one with the universe. I think that is what is referred to as enlightenment. It's not some sanctified state of bliss, or any kind of holiness. It is knowing to your core that this is the only moment you have, and with it you build your life as a carpenter builds a house with wood and a box of nails. It is the knowledge that we create our own reality. We find what we look for.

You can fret over past hurts, wrongs and anxieties or worry about what tragedy may come tomorrow. You can spend your time struggling to control others or in amassing things which mean nothing. When you bang your life together with greed, despair, disinterest or resentment the character you build is as plain to the onlooker as is a house thrown together by a disinterested carpenter. The character of the craftsman is revealed by the work. Even a simple house is beautiful when crafted with care.

I've come to feel that the more you talk about the peace that comes with living in the moment the less understandable it is. You cannot absorb it from someone else, buy it or attach yourself to it. You can only learn by practicing. You practice by attending to the moment, and by letting go of your expectations that it is someone else's responsibility to provide you with happiness. You practice by bringing your thoughts back to the now and living in the moment at hand with discipline and responsibility.


travis said...

Isn't what you describe closer to Taoism than to Buddhism?

Deb said...

Hi Travis,

There are lots of different "Buddhisms", like there are many Christian churches. My own practice is based on Nichiren Daishonin's teaching. Taoism certainly stresses living in the moment, but Daishonin's Buddhist teachings are much more active and focus on becoming a self-aware and compassionate person - on recognizing the value inherent in every life. He was one of the few who taught that one could obtain "enlightenment" in this lifetime. There's a nice explanatory booklet in pdf form here: