Lately, I`ve been having a lot of discussions with one of my colleagues about Buddhism. He`s somewhat of a practicing Buddhist, even if he`s officially Catholic (I think, something Christian at least).
I am nonreligious myself. I have been raised without religion. In fact, I`d go as far as to say I`ve been raised anti-religious. My parents had some bad experiences with their church and they both left theirs when they were young. This, combined with my love for science, has led me to sometimes finding it hard to believe people can put faith in, what is to me at least, a fictional being. I am not against religion, let me make that clear. If you want to believe in something, I won`t stop you. I won`t laugh at you, I won`t try to disprove your beliefs. But I will ask questions, because I want to know the why and how of things.
Compared to other main religions, Buddhism strikes me as more realistic, in a strange way. Buddhism doesn`t have gods. It has teachings, a community. Everyone strives towards being a better person, towards being calm. Enlightenment is the phrase, I believe. Mindfulness, is another often used word. Sounds very nice and good, doesn`t it? So much promise and potential here.
But I do wonder if this is only the Western version of Buddhism. Do we Westerners only interpret Buddhism this way? Do we only see the good, calm, wise side of this religion? Is it because we connect it to Asian wisdom? Is it because of the current fascination with mindfulness?
Because look at the news. Look at the Buddhists starting riots and wars. Look at the Buddhists not behaving at all like what we know of the religion. It makes me wonder if this means we have our own interpretation of the religion, or if maybe we`re all headed in the same direction, too. And isn`t Buddhism in a way just as preachy and, truth be told, obnoxious, as other religions at times? How many Buddhists do you know, who tend to proclaim their religion as the only one, the right one, the best one? Because I know a lot of them.
It`s really quite a gimmick around here, something “all those new age-y” people love, with their statues of Buddha`s and meditating and yoga exercises and mindfulness. And I still haven`t quite made my mind up about it all just yet. On one hand, I admire Buddhism for what it stands for. In many ways, I am a Buddhist and I am one of those new age people. On the other hand, I can`t help but question some things, like the sincerity with which people follow it, and how much they actually listen to what is being preached. How many people just follow it blindly because the magazines tell them to do so, and how many people actually really stand behind it? How many people are only a Buddhist because they were raised one? How many people really, truly, try to reach enlightenment instead of the approval of their peers? How many people even realise they`re doing this?
I do know that, for me, the gimmicky feeling around Buddhism is kind of ruining the whole thing. Silly, I know. But for me, the image connected to Buddhism is no longer one of wisdom, calm and peace, but one of all the material possessions you need in order to be Buddhist. It`s a feminine image, with a lot of pastel colours and lotus flowers and loose fitting clothing, of organic foods and yoga. It`s commercialised, and it`s not an image I like, mostly because of how many women are mindlessly quoting the numerous magazines without actually properly acting on it.
All in all, I`m quite undecided about Buddhism. I`d love to be able to proudly proclaim that I am a Buddhist, I`d love to be able to say I stand fully behind it. But for now I just don`t feel like I know it well enough, nor do I feel much for being associated (whether only in my mind or not) with this image.
Silly, I know. But still.