Tuesday, 12 May 2015
Faith, Buddhism and a Hurricane
written by Average Buddhist
The Average Buddhist has been quiet for a while. Life intervenes. Blah, blah. Yes, I’m busy, but the truth is my silence has more to do with existential angst than with my “To Do” list. I’m suffering from a serious crisis of faith.
It has been twenty years since my first crisis of faith catapulted me from the Episcopalianism of my childhood. Growing up I was very involved in the church. We attended every week and I served as an altar girl throughout middle and high school. It was gratifying and centering at the time to be so intimately involved in the liturgy. Then one day I was sitting in the choir pew reciting the familiar Nicene Creed and I realized I didn’t believe what I was saying. It seemed sudden at the time, but it really wasn't. The words were etched into my memory and I could speak them like a reflex, but my belief and my faith were long gone.
In Buddhism I found a refuge. The Four Noble Truths make sense to me as the fundamental way of the universe. One’s manner of understanding and interacting with those Truths supports a lifetime of evolution. In Buddhism, it is not necessary to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient superhuman being who blesses and damns, who prevents certain disasters but who in some undefined “plan” allows other tragedies to transpire. Even the words of the historic Buddha himself are open for proof by experiential testing. Some would say that faith is irrelevant in Buddhism. I’ve made the grim discovery that it’s not.
My my primary beef is with the teaching that the enlightened mind is the truth of human nature and that the horrible things people think and do are nothing but clouds covering the blue sky. As Buddhists, this is something we are asked to accept on faith and I just can’t do that right now. Despite that, I find myself paralyzed by the wish that I could do something more to disperse that cloud cover - something big, something heroic - that would turn the heads of the masses and wake everyone at once. Instead I am stuck with the drip, drip, drip. I am just one drop of water carving a canyon from a stream.
Merriam-Webster defines “faith” as “a firm believe in something for which there is no proof.” There is absolutely no proof that human nature is fundamentally good. There is ample proof that the opposite is true. As a person who desires enlightenment for all, where does that leave me? Suffering.
Still I should have learned by now, yes? Desire and attachment is the root of suffering. Desiring enlightenment for all is the root of an enormous amount of suffering on my part. So, what? Do I abandon it? Unfortunately to date I find that I’m unable to do that. Even if I could, what good would that do anyone else? If I become inured to the cruelty and the suffering of others, I become a part of the problem. Round and round. My cloud cover spins into a hurricane. I’m not sure how long the storm will last and the weatherman’s on break.
Anyone else feel this way too?
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