I recently made a decision for myself. I have decided to become a Buddhist. I decided that I was tired of the Westboro Baptist Church types, thinking that they are helping people, when in truth, all they do is spread hate. This really bothered me. Yes, I could have chosen a Christian church to help counter them, but I have never been really comfortable in a church, even when I went every Sunday for a few years. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and learned many things, it just never felt right. It didn’t fit me, like a shirt that was just a little too small.
At first, I wasn’t sure which direction I should go. I knew it would most likely be of eastern origins, so I checked out a bunch of books from my library. I read books on Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhist and Zen, which I learned is another form of Buddhism. I read a book called “Introduction to Buddhism” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. One of the first things I see is this picture:
This is called the “Dharma Wheel” or “Wheel of Law”, which is the part of the path to enlightenment. It looks very similar to another symbol I wore on my arm while I served in the U.S. Navy. It looks like this:
This is the symbol of the Quartermaster. We are in charge of a ships navigation, in other words, we are the only enlisted person who can tell the captain where to go, an not get in trouble.
I thought this was a happy coincidence and read on. I found that there was more coincidences between me and Buddhism. I took this as a sign that I was going in the direction. You see I believe 1 or 2 coincidences is well and good and most likely doesn’t mean anything, but when you have 4 or more, it’s like something is trying to tell you something, and I have learned to listen.
There are many different variations of Buddhism that you can study. There two centers here in Northern Colorado that cover Shambala and the other covers Kadampa. I studied the differences in each and chose, for the time being, Shambhala. I felt that this was a better fit for me due to the fact they incorporate Zen and Tao in their teaching, which is an interest to me as well. Also there is a Shambhala retreat north of here that has the largest Stupa in North America.
After attending a public meditation, I decided to look up the classes they had. I love to learn, but I felt like a big door was slammed into my face when I saw how much it cost to take these classes. I was truly heart broken. I couldn’t afford to drop $80+ for A class let alone lots of classes. I was so upset and I vented the fact I was as well. I was depressed and didn’t know what I was going to do. This is something I really wanted and I felt that only the rich could only do this.
Fortunately, a calmer mind prevailed and I did the math again. To take these classes is cheaper than would be a tithing of 10% a year at an other church. Since most of my family is not interested in being Buddhist, it won’t be so bad. My oldest is interested, but I think it is more curiosity than anything else, which is fine. The next beginners class is in October, so hopefully I will be able to start my official training then. In the mean time, I am getting books from my library, some I might have to buy sooner or later, and am reading as much as I can.
What is my goal. I want to help people. I want to end the suffering which is our lives and I want to help myself. Standing here at the beginning of my journey, I can say I would like to be a upsaka or lay devotee. But that is here and who knows where my path will lead. My wife is very supportive of this. She has always been worried about my Spirit. She is a believer in God, but her thoughts are very Buddhist as well, so who knows.
I leave you with the 5 vows of Buddha. I hope to keep you up to date as I go along. Pleasant journey.
The five vows to be held by upāsakas are referred to as the “Five Precepts” (Pāli: pañcasīla):
- I will not take the life of a sentient being;
- I will not take what has not been given to me;
- I will refrain from sexual misconduct;
- I will refrain from false speech;
- I will refrain from becoming intoxicated.