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On being an adult and wanting to be a "Buddhist"

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"?



  • FinnTheHumanFinnTheHuman England New
    edited August 22

    All labels confine. If we are not the same from one breath to the next. If we are constantly in the flux of impermanence. What’s the use in clinging to labels for who we are at one moment. We cannot even confine the world to labels never mind our selves.
    Being is the teacher, doesn’t matter what it comes through. (For me anyway)
    Strip it all down

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    And how about you? What is your relationship to "Biddhist" and "Buddhism"?

    In my day to day life I really don't give it much thought...but when necessary I do use the label for conventional convenience, it gives people a rough idea of where I'm coming from when they hear the label/word Buddhist or Buddhism...

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I’m not a great fan of labels, I’m always reluctant to say “I’m a ...” because it’s pigeon-holing, it creates a certain expectation, whereas I’m a unique human being and can be quite original. It’s tricky, sometimes I’m tempted to let the label do the talking for me when I’m in a quiet mood.

    I like what Osho once said, which was to learn from the Buddha but not to be a Buddhist. I don’t so much feel the need to belong, but I am always looking for tools to further illuminate the inner world.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    And how about you? What is your relationship to "Biddhist" and "Buddhism"?

    I aim to be 100% Buddhist of 100% Buddhism. =) Labels only confine when you make them confine.

  • I am a Buddhist. Buddhism is a very big umbrella. basically, whichever school or teaching you espouse, follow and/or practice, they all trace back to and claim a foundation from the Historic Buddha (Sakyamuny aka Sidhartha..). Our specific traditions and core sutra(s) differ. The Tantric Buddhists hail through Tibet and Nepal. The Thervadic lineage went primarily through the route of Indo-China. The various Mahayana hail through China to Korea and Japan.
    I apply oneness of person and environment, unity of mind and body, karma is not fixed but mutable, the source of enlightenment is within each of us..Unlike Zen and others, my meditation is with a "mantra" (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo) and my practice is interactive and proactive with the world around me.
    Time and temperment dictate I conclude at this point, so...

    Peace to you

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I am a Buddhist

    Me too. 😌🦞💗

    "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".

    Me too.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    I believe in authenticity. If you find value in the teachings you receive from Buddhism try to internalize them and incorporate them into your being rather than hold them as ideas or labels to build a personality with. IOW let Buddhism, or any wisdom teaching, shape your character rather than your personality.

  • @person said:
    I believe in authenticity. If you find value IOW let Buddhism, or any wisdom teaching, shape your character rather than your personality.

    I really like that, @person . That is quite helpful, even though initially I didn't get what you were saying. Thank you.

  • ajhayesajhayes Northern Michigan Veteran

    I am a Buddhist. It is a label that fits me better than some others I've had.

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