A few years ago, I was just another confused girl who was about to enter her 30’s with a lot of questions but few answers. I was never raised with any particular religious standards or practices. I grew up knowing there was a “God” in “Heaven” but not much more. I had many friends of all different faiths, Catholics, Christians, Mormons, and those who practiced Judaism, but none of what I learned from them ever sat well with me. The idea of a man in the sky who protected us, and who would answer our prayers seemed distant to me. I was a young girl who lost my father before my fifth birthday and knowing that he was “watching over me” helped me through it, I guess. I avoided a belief system beyond that. But what about some of life’s most intriguing questions: What happens when we die? Why are we here? Nothing answers these questions to an extent that we can all collectively accept or understand. I don’t think we need to know the answers to these questions. We need to concentrate on the present, how to live our lives now. I think that some people use Religion as a crutch for when they are scared of the unknown. When they need something to “go to” when they are in doubt, or face a new crisis that they’ve not yet handled, but that is the wrong approach. We need to rely on ourselves. We need personal wisdom. The teachings of Buddha, even at the most basic level made sense to me. The journey was easy because when you are actively seeking answers to questions, you eventually find them. Following the teachings of Buddha remind us to be kind and lead a good life, to be aware our actions and thoughts, and that life is suffering, but also how to avoid such suffering.
It was in my teen years where I had given up on any thought of Religion, a rebellious, outgoing girl with a good heart, who loved people. I was a good kid, with morals. Even though I knew little about “God”, and wasn’t sure if I actually believed in such a being, when times were tough in my life, I sought out to speak to him. I listened in on my inner monologue asking him to keep people safe, to give me strength to overcome my fears, and pass messages to my loved ones no longer with me. I was always asking for something, but never once did I thank “God.” Maybe, it was because he never delivered or perhaps that when it came down to it, I was left to act upon things I could control or forced to sit by idly. We’ve all heard the saying “Do unto others…” as the bible teaches, and the same stringent rules that help us do just that. I was being a good person, but bad things kept happening to me. Something didn’t add up.
As I grew older I suffered through even more loss. I was confused. I was extremely unhappy working a dead-end job, thankfully my marriage was good and my family support unit is most excellent, but I was still searching for happiness, for meaning. I visited a Buddhist Temple with a friend, in Tampa, she went there for the donation based Thai food they serve on Sunday mornings. I loved the ornate design on the exterior of the temple, it wasn’t at all like the stained glass I was used to seeing. I nervously, slipped off my sneakers so I could take a peek inside. At that exact moment, staring across a crowd filled room at a huge golden Buddha surrounded delicately by intricate jeweled items, and other offerings did something finally, “fell right.” I couldn’t explain what it was at the time. I was in awe. There was service going on, in Thai and I couldn’t understand a word, but I could feel something. It was unexplainable. I had never imagined that I would be so attracted to such a thing. I felt the energy of those people in the room. The spoken words started to gradually turn into a hypnotizing chant inside my head. I needed to learn more.
I started reading about the teachings of Buddha online. I used some of the best resources I could find. I read, and read, and read. I learned about the power of meditation, the four noble truths, and the 8 fold path. I searched for other Buddhist Temples in the state, I wanted to see them all. I wanted to be apart of this. I bought a book titled “The Introduction to Buddhism” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. I read it from cover to cover within a few weeks. This only fueled my interest more. It all seemed to start making sense to me. It blew my mind that we weren’t all living by this philosophy. The world would be such a great place. I imagined peace. Knowing that other followers of different belief systems thought the same of their own convictions, I, for a brief moment finally figured out why so many people “believe.” Since, then it has been about two years. I have changed my outlook on life for the better, I am happier. I have a thirst for knowledge. I meditate almost daily and find it one of the most relaxing methods in which to collect my thoughts, or have no thoughts at all. Knowing that life, and desire and having attachment to things, and people is what causes great suffrage in our life and how to compete with those thoughts. Understanding that we can’t change the past or predict the future, we are forced to live in the present. The teachings of Buddha have helped me find what’s important, and that is to lead a good life, to choose kindness, and to live and let live.