Tuesday, August 29, 2017

'God is watching us'

A short while ago, my husband, daughter, and I were spending time with a dear friend. Ever philosophical, our friend has previously disputed the distinctions made between the myriad of deities that people call 'God' (or Goddess, as the case may be).

In fact, he goes as far as to facetiously call them 'brands'. Given the divisive manner in which many in the 'spiritual' hierarchy with a lot to gain (and a lot to lose) play the 'my god, your god' game, this description resonated with me.

But last time we spoke, he put a more personal spin on the discussion. Looking at our little one sitting in her high chair and smiling as she gummed a Cheerio, he reminded us of the truth that we know so well but don't often consider: no matter where we are or what we are doing, she is always watching us, and learning from the things we do.

Of course children have watched and learned from their parents since time immemorial, and other species do the same. But the our friend's reasoning was based on his rejection of the notion that some omnipresent 'being' is constantly checking up on us, weighing our good actions with the not-so-good. In his view there is really no need for such surveillance, because it is already an integral part of family life. "She will do what you do and say what you say; she is your conscience and a clear, pure reflection of you as a person, not just as a parent. 'God' is watching us through our children's eyes."

Whether someone is agnostic, deeply spiritual, or spiritually ambivalent, I feel this idea is an extremely powerful (and for parents, perhaps universal) reminder to be mindful of our thoughts, words, and behavior.

When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself." ~ The Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya)
What did you think of this post? Is there a reminder that you use in your daily life to steer yourself towards wholesome conduct? Please share in the comments!

Delight in heedfulness! Guard well your thoughts! ~ The Buddha (Dhammapada) 

May all beings be happy!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The most valuable thing Buddhism has taught me

On journey along the Buddhist path I have encountered valuable concepts such as impermanence and cultivating wisdom and compassion. However, I must say that of all of these lessons, the Buddhist idea of the Middle Way has had the strongest impact on my life. 

I have always had an intense personality. While I consider myself passionate and loyal, the flip side is that I am also quick to anger. Whenever challenged, my passion has kept me going, but at times has also left me just plain exhausted.

Enter my discovery of Buddhism. In the many books I read, I was repeatedly introduced to the idea walking the Middle Way. To illustrate and explain this simple yet important concept, several authors focusing on basic Buddhist concepts referred to versions a story known as the Parable of the Lute.

To summarize one version of the story, Siddhartha Gautama (who later became the Buddha) heard a fisherman teaching a young boy the proper way to tune a lute, a kind of stringed instrument. The fisherman said, "Listen, when the strings of the lute are too loose, the lute does not produce any sound, but when you tune it too tight, the strings snap. Only when the strings are tuned just right the lute can make music."

Siddhartha, who had at that point spent several years depriving his body in his quest for enlightenment, had a revelation; One can achieve true wisdom neither by a life of merriment nor mortification, but only by a life lived in moderation- The Middle Way. This realization had very important implications for Siddhartha; his change in course would eventually lead him to enlightenment and devise the foundations of Buddhism- the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.    

Over 2,600 years later, here I am, learning about the Dharma and its Middle Way. Although advocating moderation in one's life is certainly not exclusively 'Buddhist' (my great-grandfather had his own saying on the topic!), Buddhism has helped me embrace moderation and let go of 'spiritual' tactics that employ deprivation or self-punishment.    

Buddhism has taught me that things can be different, and for that I am grateful.

What Buddhist concept/s had the most impact on your life? Feel free to share in the comments!

May all beings be happy!