Word Mandala

Him:  I also hate [being] an artist and musician, because everything is so precious to us. I’ve seen Buddhist monks work on a sand mandala for 24 hours straight and then pour it into the ocean.

Me: Those darn Buddhists and their non-attachment. I used to call myself an ersatz Buddhist – until I realized just how difficult that really is. I’ll admit it – If I worked 24 hours bent over a sand mandala, I’d have to take photo – maybe even parade it around the room a few times – before I could dump it in the ocean. That’s an etch-a-sketch on a monumental level.

Him:  I’d say that nurturing a dish in the kitchen, and then consuming it, is as close to pouring an un-photographed etch-a-sketch into the ocean as you can get.

Touché.

Transitory Clouds

My Buddhist friend calls the myriad of possessions, relationships, events and beliefs in our lives “transitory clouds in an illusory sky”.

I’m a dabbling Buddhist at best, but this statement has resonance. 

If we think of these “things” as clouds – changing, disappearing, migrating – it makes the rollercoaster of life essentially bearable.

When unwanted or unexpected change rears its head, our first reaction is often to cling or clutch for what we know, for the comfortable.  If we see the absurdity in this grasping at clouds, it allows us peace with these things we cannot control. 

It’s perceptive to find delight in a cloud’s formation and just as foolish to mourn its passing.

Snowflakes falling on Buddhists

“You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake” – Fightclub, 1999

What do you believe?  I’m asked that question often about my spirituality, especially since I live in a very Christian part of the country.  My beliefs and I are not easily labeled or explained – we defy a simple categorization.  Often, though, I don’t want to get into a protracted dialog with some mooncalf about my very personal theories and convictions. Consequently, I began classifying myself as “essentially subscribing to the Buddhist theory, although not a practicing Buddhist”.  I agreed with general Buddhist ideas and believed this was as overarching theory that would encompass a good portion of my beliefs – simply put; it was an easy answer to a difficult question.

 

Recently, I began studying Buddhism more ardently and realized that I cannot continue to proclaim that I subscribe to Buddhist thought.  Buddhism possesses some powerful, truthful tenets – and I still have a high respect for Buddhism and Buddhist thought, but the ideas of reincarnation, non-dualism, non-suffering and non-attachment do not settle well with me (You’re probably wondering at this point what’s left).

 

Nondualism, in particular, has caused me much consternation.  My understanding of nondualism (My beloved Buddhists out there – please correct me if I’m wrong) is that it can be viewed as the understanding or belief that dualism is illusory. Some examples of dualisms include self/other, mind/body, male/female, good/evil, active/passive.  Most of these items on this list can be viewed as “two sides of the same coin” or two extremes on one continuum.  Mind and body are absolutely the same. We cannot have good without evil.  I practice a blend of activity and passivity every time I step on my yoga mat.  However, I have difficulty accepting there is no difference between “self” and “other”.  Are we interconnected? Absolutely!  Is there an interconnectedness between all energy in the universe? Yes!  Does that mean that “self” and “other” are the same?  I don’t think so.  Why would we be created and blossom so differently if no individuality really exists?  It doesn’t make sense to be given this very human, individualistic body and mind if our goal is to transcend it.  What other creation in nature is as individual as a human being?  Snowflakes.   A snowflake is part of the snow, but does a snowflake try to become like every other snowflake? Try to hide its particular pattern? No.  A snowflake is a completely distinctive, not-another-like-it-in-the-world expression of the snow.  Both are real – both have value.  A snowflake is not the snow.  We too, as humans, should be our own individual expression of humanity and the pulse of life.  I don’t taste, smell, see or experience the world like anyone else.  I believe we should value, express and exalt our uniqueness – not suppress it.