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Yesterday I was at a Dharma talk in my favorite Zen Center. I asked the Teacher a question along the lines of : "you just said X but why does Buddhism seem to teach Y, the opposite of X?". His answer started with "I don't really care about what Buddhism teaches". He often says that and when he does, my mind goes "whaaaat?" and a period of intense reflection follows.
The thing is, a part of me really likes calling self a "Buddhist". It gets all cozy when exposed to Buddhist terminology and iconography, and gets quite upset when Buddhism as actually practiced is not to its liking. It craves for a quasi-family in the form of other Buddhists and for an anchor in the turbulent waters of the world in the form of Buddhism. Above all, it believes that The Answer to all that upsets and confuses me exists out there and comes from people in foreign looking robes.
Yet the moments of most openness and clarity come precisely when that teenager in me who wants to be told by someone else what the world is and how to be in it is bitterly disappointed. The adult in me knows that all humans, including those considered wise, even the Buddha himself, are struggling, often confused, self-contradictory and fragile creatures, just like me. Each and every human, including all spiritual teachers, get cranky when ill, horny when exposed to sexual stimuli, are subject to the draw of money, like some people and dislike other people etc etc. That is so obviously true and it is the acceptance of that truth that is necessary for me to feel like a mature person.
And what of "spirituality"? Since a very young age I strongly intuited that I am a part of a magnificent whole. That the only way to be happy is to trust that Magnificent Whole and to let it guide me. That the less I am focused on "me" and the more on it, the better for everyone. I knew that when walking my dog in a big forest, when listening to Beethoven or when receiving love from my elders. God (or was that Buddha Nature?) is as simple as it is necessary, like air. When my teenage need to attach some label to myself and for others to give me answers is not met, only God remains to fall on. And I feel like I have finally grown up.
As you can see, I am really unsure of this whole idea of being a "Buddhist" and holding too tight to any words "Buddhism" teaches, be it Karma, Nirvana, Emptiness or Dharma. I guess there is usefulness to framing one's mind in a consistent way and focusing one's effort. And I do think that of all major attempts of Humanity at teaching Wisdom, Buddhism has the least amount of extra stuff in it. Yet how easily that too can become a prison! My Zen Teacher with his "I want to teach you to be you" message really keeps me out of that prison, even despite the immature parts of me wanting to be in it.
And how about you? What is your relationship to "Biddhist" and "Buddhism"?