Tara Allan Stewart - How to convert to Buddhism ?
Saturday 19 September 2009
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TARA ALLAN STEWART : HOW TO CONVERT TO BUDDHISM ?
Buddhism is a wondrous way of understanding the world around you and your place in it; however, I do not believe one can convert to Buddhism. My spirituality is the most important aspect of my life, but I never "converted." My personal journey to Buddhism has been as natural as breathing.
Originally, I wanted to become a minister. My theological studies delved into many religious and spiritual paths, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Ba’Hai. I even delved into physics and the Universal Field Theory. Religions and belief systems have more in common than not; however, Buddhism is different. It is not a "religion."
Buddhism is incorporated into one’s life through meditation and study. Meditation helps one begin to look at life with more love and compassion. For many, this grows into a process of self-education, reaching into the teachings of Buddha to simplify life by following certain precepts such as:
- 1. Right Living (respecting and protecting all life);
- 2. Care of Self (avoiding drugs and intoxicants);
- 3. Right Speech (not speaking against other people); and
- 4. Karma (understanding that what we do to others will return to us).
There are many paths of Buddhism, born of different cultures and places (India, China, Tibet, Vietnam, and other countries). Perhaps the student will delve into these different paths toward enlightenment a complicated-sounding word that simply means "to make lighter." Yes, most Buddhists meditate, but this is also a simple idea that seems difficult to new practitioners. One can meditate by listening to a beautiful piece of music, thinking of something special while taking the bus home, going for an early morning walk and perhaps counting steps, or counting one’s breath and inhaling the positive and exhaling the negative.
As one learns to meditate and becomes comfortable with the feeling of not sleeping, but fully aware of the universe around him or her, there can follow a feeling of oneness with all people, all living beings, oneness with the air inhaled or exhaled, even oneness with the universe as cells seem to separate to become a part literally of something greater than just oneself. There have been many names for this, like "the force," "the web of life," or "the universe."
There is not a real conversion to Buddhism, but there is a slow, gentle change of thinking. With a change in thinking comes a change in action and a sense of responsibility for the world around us and worlds beyond that. I do not have to ring a gong, sit cross-legged on a pillow, and wear special robes to give honor to Buddha and to all life. The Buddha lives inside me, around me, in the birdsong that awakens me, and in the words I write to give me hope.
To know there need not be a moment of "non-Buddhist" and "Buddhist" will make life easier for those who want to explore the possibilities within Buddhism and the Buddhist community (sangha). To look more deeply into a different way of thought can only expand the mind and be good for an individual.
We are all made of the same energy, and energy never dies it simply changes forms. A gentle exploration of other ways of life may be the first steps on the path toward love and peace.