In 2000 I visited Hawaii. The island of Oahu was beautiful, especially once out into the countryside. The drive all the way around the island and a helicopter sight-seeing flight the next day are highlights I recall clearly. Another clear memory was finding a Buddhist book in my hotel room along side Gideon’s Bible. The former was called “The Teaching of Buddha” and is provided to hotels by the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism, a nonprofit group started by a Japanese business man in the mid 1960’s.
The Buddhist book caught my curiosity and I began reading it each morning on the balcony of my room overlooking the ocean. The 11th floor view just after sunrise was inspirational to begin with, but combined with a first cup of coffee and reading about the teachings of Buddha made those mornings memorable in a unique way. It was then through pure chance that my interest in Buddhist teachings began and later grew into a morning meditation practice. Admittedly that habit has waxed and waned in the last decade, but remains something I either do or intend to do regularly.
Never have I seen Buddhism as a religion as one might view Christianity, Islam, Judaism or other such religious followings. The term “practice” is the best fit for what Buddhism means to my life. Within that context a Buddhist Practice simply means I am dedicated to doing my best to follow the principles I have learned about and believe in.
Within my copy of “The Teachings of Buddha” a Post-It note marks a half page containing:
To worry in anticipation or to cherish regret for the past is (to make one) like the reeds that are cut and wither away.
The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live wisely and earnestly for the present.
Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
It is worthy to perform the present duty well and without failure; do not seek to avoid it or postpone it till tomorrow. By acting now, one can live a good day.
That half page in “The Teaching of Buddha” allowed me to begin to see things very differently. Within a few months an accidental discovery in a hotel room lead me to “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle which broke me open to a whole new way of seeing. In turn that lead to finding the book “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das which, combined with what I had learned already, put me firmly on a path of a new way of being.
The essence for me of Buddhist teachings that I try hard to follow in my daily life is called the “Eightfold Noble Path”. In my daily practice it is my intention to live within these tenants. I am not always successful, but striving to such a standard has brought a slow but continuous improvement to my life.
Eightfold Noble Path
Right View – We are owners of our actions and what we do, good or bad, shapes our life
Right Intention – Do good and cultivate love for others within
Right View – Speak kindly and gently. Say what I mean and mean what I say
Right Action – Think before acting. Rely on wisdom within to do what is appropriate
Right Livelihood – Make a living helping others or at least not hurting others
Right effort – To do one’s very best and apply one’s self fully to what is undertaken
Right Mindfulness – Keep most active in thought helpful and positive things
Right Concentration – Focus the mind as much as possible to things that matter most
I am grateful that our President chose to meet with the Dalai Lama a few days ago in spite of the objections of the Chinese government. It has continued to be outside my full grasp to understand why those in power in China see a nonviolent spiritual leader as such a threat. It seems they fear most what they do no understand.
For all the goodness and growth discovering the teachings of Buddha has brought to my life I am deeply grateful. Finding this path has opened me, taught me and helped me to become a better person. The difference is not so much that I am not what I used to be. Rather it is I am so much more than I was before.
All major religious traditions carry basically the same message: love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives. Dalai Lama