I’m an old guy who came to the Dharma late, after a checkered career and many years of searching for a path that felt right.
I like cats, birding, photography, Eastern philosophy, writing, recovering drunks, my family, computers and high-cholesterol foods (not necessarily in that order, nor all that often).
Generally speaking, I mean well.
I do not “worship” the Buddha, nor do any other Buddhists I know. I do not practice Buddhist philosophy as a religion and am, in fact, an ignostic: I don’t think it is possible to have a discussion about a god until there is a coherent definition that all can agree upon — and that will never occur. I do not accept any scripture as the word of any god, and see no need to discuss them. At best, they are useful guidelines for living; at worst, justification for unspeakable abominations.
I believe that it is wrong to have discussions that could shake someone else’s faith — for faith is a good thing, when tempered with compassion, lovingkindness and common sense, and it is cruelty of the highest order to steal it from someone without assurance that it will be replaced with something that is to them of equal value. I also believe those who have it should keep it to themselves unless asked. I think religious proselytizing is the highest form of arrogance, although I do find people who claim to have the word on the wishes and preferences of a transcendent being to be occasionally amusing, if rather alarming.
I do not quarrel with organized religions, but some of their shamans and adherents are a different matter. My mom was a Catholic priest’s housekeeper, and his influence no doubt saved me from a life as a redneck cowboy in Central Florida. He taught me to think for myself, a wonderful gift (but perhaps a mistake, theologically speaking).
To the extent that any believers use their faith as a basis for growth and for building on their human potential, I have no problem with it. But when religion is used in ways not in the best interest of humanity in general, it is no more worthy than any other harmful superstition — and its purveyors even less so, for they pervert a thing that has the potential for good. Religion provides comfort to billions of people in myriad ways but, fueled by the perfidy of those who have twisted it to their purposes, it has proven to be also one of the most powerful forces for evil in human history.
I do not believe in religious hierarchies. The search for power always leads to abuse. I believe that all of the world’s ethical systems offer essentially the same things to those who interpret them humbly, but that none work well when practiced with arrogance or an attitude of superiority.
I believe that the less a shaman gains materially from his calling, the more worthy he is to be followed. I don’t buy pomp and circumstance for the greater honor and glory of anyone. If it comforts the people, there may be some excuse for it, in reasonable measure, but I think multimillion-dollar places of worship are an ethical abomination (and that includes the $6 million temple a bunch of Buddhists have built here in the US). Jesus, Siddartha and the others found that a tree, the shore, a mountain, served nicely. A storefront should suffice for their followers. The only reason for fancy temples is to aggrandize the people who attend them, whatever excuse for excess they may concoct.
I believe that the great buddhas — Abraham, Moses, Siddartha, Yeshua, Mohammad and the rest — were teachers from whom we can all learn. It is truly a shame that their teachings are followed unskillfully by so many. Obviously, I do not believe that any of them were instructed by, nor bagat of, a deity.
I do not believe in morals, which relate to opinions, but in ethics, which relate to other human beings. I believe that the Golden Rule is the only one we need, but that sometimes it needs clarification. I believe that lawyers have clarified it to the point of uselessness, and that it is time for a return to the original.
I believe in things that are real: real lovingkindness, real charity, real brotherly love, real concern for the rights of others — including the right “do your own thing” as long as you don’t bother other folks.
I believe that unanswered questions prove only the existence of unanswered questions. Lack of an explanation is never proof.
I believe it is the purpose of human beings to take care of themselves, their families, and their neighbors, while mostly minding their own business. I believe in self protection, and in the occasional need for measured force to achieve it. I believe that your right to swing your arm ends some distance from my nose.
I believe that violence, although occasionally necessary, must always be measured as an evil against a greater evil, and that it must be applied, when needed, with consideration for the wellbeing of all concerned. I do not believe in aggression, and I do not believe that two wrongs can ever make a right — although they can, on rare occasions, prevent further wrongs.
I do not believe in the intrinsic goodness of man. We all do what we believe to be in our best interest. Those of us who are willing to stop at a reasonable point keep the world running more or less smoothly. Those who do not understand, or choose to ignore, the concept of “enough” cause immeasurable pain and suffering. I believe it is the duty of the rest of us to attempt to curb such unskillful behavior with every means at our disposal, short of violence.
I do not believe in black and white, except in photography. Even then, things look best in shades of gray. I believe that men with good intentions will make mistakes, and that it behooves other men of good will to take that into account.
Finally, I believe that the answer to the world’s problems is unselfishness, while being perfectly aware that 3 percent of the population are sociopaths who render that impractical on anything other than a local scale. But when you get right down to it, that’s all that we can control — our own behavior, and our behavior toward others.
I believe in living life as skillfully as I can. That may not impress you — but then, that’s not my intention.
Writing of possible interest