Teaching and Learning Buddhism: Refuge is Not in Where You Go, but in What You Know and Practice
Having spent the last twenty years in Asia, I am somewhat amused by the intense questioning I get at times from people regarding my life and intentions.
I experienced this again yesterday, when in making a brief stop at a neighborhood pharmacy, I was questioned about why I had not returned to live in America as yet.
In trying to give the best answer that I could, I just told the shopkeeper that “it is the same everywhere”.
Of course such an answer is not entirely accurate, as different physical, social, political and economic environments do affect us and how we think and act in different ways.
But for one who is interested in bringing either the Yoga or Buddhist teachings and disciplines into their life in such a way that they make a positive and meaningful change and difference, it is understood that it is not where we go that is the defining and motivating factor in bringing about change, but it is instead what we know and practice.
We can be mindful about, reflect on and attempt to weaken and abandon the hindrances in our mind and life in Bangkok, Brooklyn or Belgium.
We can work to access and cultivate the seven factors of enlightenment in Chicago, Connecticut or Cambodia.
Meditation and a daily hatha Yoga practice can be practiced in a hotel room or one’s home in Detroit, Florida or Indonesia.
Through the understanding of Yoga and Buddhism, we bring certain ways of thinking, speaking and acting, both alone and to others into our life and it is these disciplines that provide us with the refuge, that meaning the enlightening and strengthening solitude and wisdom that we need and seek as human beings.
Sometimes the places that we associate with being the most difficult and uncomfortable ones to stay and live, such as a prison or forest, are many times the places where we can learn the most, because of our inability or the lack of opportunity for us to engage in the sensual and mental wanderings that the modern world bombards us with or leads us to.
Our physical, social, political and economic environment of course influences and conditions us to think and speak in various ways, many of which are based on greed, ill – will and other unskillful and unwholesome intentions, but for those of us who are fortunate enough to live a reasonably convenient and comfortable life, Yoga and Buddhism can offer us the refuge that we seek within with which to grow as human beings.
©2007 John C. Kimbrough