Tolerance of the Temporary

As a religion minor, I get the great pleasure this semester to learn about Buddhism. I think what may have piqued my interest is the image of the Buddha as a fat, bald, and happily barefooted icon, which is a complete contrast to the bearded, long-haired, thin, sandaled and somber Jesus Christ I grew up with. Of course I hope it’s not as simple as that though.

Either way I’m really getting into the course and in the process of applying some of the teachings to my life. The main ideal the Buddha encouraged humans to strive for was a balanced life. He was a born as prince, given everything he would every need in life and then was exposed to disease, old age, and death. He then left that life to live as an ascetic (wanderer of religious truths) where he starved himself, practiced intense yoga to achieve meditative trance states, and basically was a baller at life. But these two extremes didn’t bring him any pleasure and he came live The Middle Path, in which he balanced the extremity of his two lives.

Then he came to realize the 4 Noble Truths which go as follows: The disease is suffering, the cause of the disease is desire, the cure is nirvana, and the path to nirvana is the 8 Fold Path which includes “right truths” such as morality, livelihood, and meditation to achieve mindful awareness, and compassion.

Still with me? Great.

Well the cause of all suffering is our desire for permanence. Buddha taught that the inevitability of life is death. Attachment to pleasures or pain causes suffering, because we are attempting to cling to the conditional things, like the security of permanence, but that everything is constantly going to change, regardless of our attachment or desire, time continues onward. We will never be constantly in a state of pleasure or pain, every emotion is temporary. True happiness comes from the ability to get beyond temporary happiness to a sense of freedom, tranquility, and internal serenity.

I’ve been meditating on these concepts with the help of incense, this radio station, and the insatiable desire to understand this concept of balance. So I pondered, contemplated, speculated, and mused over these teachings. When I finished I had a sense of clarity, an insight into how this affects my life.

I’m emotional. I feel the extreme joy in life’s moments, but I’m also insanely affected by the perception of others and the stress that creates in my life. I’ve come to accept the temporary nature of a thought – negative or positive – but I want to choose to feel more moderately and balanced with a tendency toward happiness. I want to allow my feelings to move through my in a fluid motion of mild detachment, ultimately knowing they cannot affect who I am.

I was recently put to the test when I was hit hard by a new crush. I was so excited about the potential in this new guy, his intelligence and wit were awe-inspiring and challenged me to think critically during our conversations. Oh and did I mentioned he had the chiseled body of The David? Which is ironic because we talked about Michelangelo’s famed statue.

But seriously, how do I get this lucky sometimes?

Ahem, back to my point. I was so incredibly excited at the idea of someone who could actually keep up, if not top me, so I let that excitement get the best of me. Against my better judgement I tipped the scale in the favor of an attachment to the idea of perfection that could possibly come from this individual.

Only to get stood up. Yes. Stood the fuck up for our third date.

As you can imagine, infuriating doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings. Outraged, vengeful, and murderous are some of the emotions that coursed through my veins along with disappointment and embarrassment. I had allowed my emotions to overwhelm me in the beginning and in the end they once again bested me.

So this morning I woke up. Did some yoga, drank my coffee, and realized that my life is going on, regardless, because that’s the only way that time moves – forward. This miniscule person has no effect on my personal well-being.

I am the captain of my soul, the sole author of my story, and the only owner of my sense of self.

And for that, I am grateful to that lying bastard. (I’m still working on the compassionate nature the Buddha also encourages. Baby steps.)

God, Religion, and Other Views

So this semester I am taking a class called Documentary Film and Religion. Although I’m at a Christian university and we are required to a religion course, this is my second one. I may not be the most devote Catholic or Christian but I absolutely love hearing and learning and questioning religion and what it means to society.

In class tonight, our professor Darren Middleton, had us watch a film called Oh My God. It’s a film that takes a journey around the world and asks several different people of all ages and races and cultures to define God or their idea of a sacred power.

You should definitely watch the trailer, if not even watch the film. I wanted to write down some of my favorite quotes and ideas from the movie.

  • Truth has been diluted by too many voices.
  • God has created one race and that is the human race.
  • Does God give validity to lost souls who want to belong?
  • An ocean can contain a drop, but a drop is not an ocean. (talking about how one view cannot describe the power and mystery of God)
  • The space between sound is God.
  • Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Muslim, Buddhism are peace. The people and followers are conflict.
  • Is religion just the search for something greater that the sum of humanity’s parts?

All of these things considered, we had a discussion about the movie afterwards. Some of the things we discussed in class were just as interesting as the movie.

Our environment and culture affect our view of God. Our understanding of religion is directly related to our understanding of ourselves. It reflects more of our own personal beliefs than it does about th deity in question.

Although God created humanity, humanity continuously creates the idea of God.

Ruldoph Otto explained God as “mysterium tremendum et fascinams” or mysterious, terrifying, and fascinating.

We also examined how and why violence and religion seem to be intertwined. I personally thought about in the way that since religion is interpreted based on your understanding, if you want violence and interpret religion or God as being your justification for violence then you can potentially “get away with it”.

Even though there are so many different religions and different cultures around this great big world, all of them just want something to believe in. They just want to know that there is some rhyme or reason to this life we live and essentially a belief in a God helps them to understand their purpose in life.

A large thing I took away from the film (besides the many, many definitions of God) was that while I’m abroad I really do want to experience a culture so vastly different from the Westernized world. While they showed images of Bali and India I kept picturing myself there and what it would be like to actually be surrounded by these people who could literally not have a single thing in common with me besides the fact that we are both living and breathing humans. I want to be stand next to the ancient shrines and temples and the ruins of a civilization that I will never get to truly experience.

To me, the whole point of travel to see a different side of the world and to take a part of that culture with you. While visiting the Maori villages in New Zealand we learned a lot of their beliefs and sayings. Although I couldn’t exactly say them correctly or even fully comprehend some of them, I do know how to do the traditional war dance, the Haka.

Overall, there is a big world out there with many different ideas about every subject and I can’t wait to find out first hand what they are all about.