Spiritual faith unfolds on Buddhist path.
During my adolescence in the early 1970s, my parents gave me a poster with the famous quote by Thoreau about stepping to the music of a different drummer, "however measured or far away." They recognized that I was being called to something outside the conventional opportunities offered in the rural South where we lived.
I believe that we all hear a call at some point in our lives. If we stay true, or return, to that inner calling, eventually we will find a path.
My own spiritual longing had not been fulfilled in my family's religion: My faith was not sustained by a practice of prayer or meditation that could help me weather the storms of doctrinal prejudice and disappointment in others. So I began searching.
Eventually, I encountered Buddhist meditation in the Serene Reflection/Soto Zen tradition. This path intuitively seemed right for me: I started meditating daily. In retrospect, the teaching "nothing is wasted" helps me understand how each attempt at purpose or meaning, love or community, was but a step to finding an appropriate path to which I could dedicate my body, mind and heart.
I was then doubly fortunate to encounter a master who taught this practice specifically for Westerners. With her I sensed an immediate affinity, a heartfelt conviction that what she taught was true, and a wish to train with her as a monastic disciple. When mortality knocked at the door two years later - I faced the possibility of an early death - I rushed in high gear to the monastery.
There I learned the hard way that a spiritual vocation, a teacher, a community - none of these could give me what I sought. Genuine spiritual practice, whether in a formal setting or in daily life, clarifies that we are responsible for our suffering. Looking deeply, the pain and grief spur us on to find an answer.
Like an astute physician, Buddhist teaching points us to examine the cause of suffering, or dissatisfaction, and to not just treat the symptoms (`I want to feel better'). The Buddha discovered that suffering's cause is craving, or attachment: wanting, or not wanting, things to be a particular way.
The Buddha also offered a cure, proven by himself: Sit still, grounding oneself in compassionate meditation, and turn the light of wise discernment on every detail of our lives - thought, speech, actions, livelihood, views, effort, understanding.
Eventually a path necessitates commitment and faith. Faith in Buddhism translates more closely as trust or confidence. In what? The Three Treasures or Refuges: 1) Buddha - historical person, one's master, and the Buddha nature of all things; 2) Dharma - teachings of the Buddha and masters down the centuries, and our own direct experience; and 3) Sangha - a community of dedicated practitioners who offer their advice so that all beings might realize the never-ending end, Nirvana, the perfect peace and joy that patiently awaits us all.
The Rev. Oswin Hollenbeck is an ordained monk in the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. He serves as the prior (resident teacher) at the Eugene Buddhist Priory. This column is coordinated by Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, a network of more than 35 religious traditions in the Eugene-Springfield area. For more information, visit www.interfaitheugene.org or call 344-5693.
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Feb 4, 2006|
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