Coming into this new way of thinking, I wanted to investigate spirituality, and faith. I have already done this on a basic level, having taken a world religion class and having an overview of many of the worlds living religions. Based on this, I chose to investigate Buddhism first.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
This is one of the first quotes I came across, attributed to Siddharta Gautama, who would in his life become the Buddha. I can identify with this. He’s saying in the first parts, that we should accept nothing at face value. Be a skeptic. In the last part, he is the scientist, who after observation and analysis decides if what he sees is real, using logic and reasoning.
This is how I’ve lived my life mostly. Skeptical, always questioning, never accepting unless there was a legitimate reason to do so. It’s why I’ve struggled with religion my whole life. It’s why I can’t believe in even the concept of a god. People say faith comes from within, and perhaps it does – but if so, then I’ve always had faith that the whole idea of God in the modern Christian sense was bunk.
Please though, let me clarify. Before I lose half of you as ‘Damn heathen spreading the devil’s work’ – I believe in much of the bible’s teachings (and for that matter, the quran, and the talmud too), in that they are early blueprints for how society should interact with itself and keep itself safe. There are also countless notions in the bible that are hopelessly outdated and in some cases, flat out wrong (and even evil, depending on your interpretation). If you remove the word and concept ‘God’ from the bible, it’s not as hard to accept as a historical document on how to keep a society of people alive. I digress.
Buddha isn’t a god. He isn’t equated in that sense to the christian God. He is a man, enlightened through thought and action to become a paragon for society. This isn’t a bad idea, and in fact, most of us tend to try and be ‘good’, I’d figure. I do (even though I’m as flawed, if not more so, than most).
What really hits home with this quote for me is in the last sentence.
“..But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
This is the part I haven’t been holding good court with. What does ‘conducive to the good and benefit of one and all’ really mean? How does that sentence change the tone of everything he said earlier (the don’t believe this, and that stuff)? I’ve changed the emphasis from what I first heard in the message, to what I hear now, as most important.
What I’ve come up with is the reason why I’m going to try and live the Buddhist principles for a while. Take this religion for a test drive, so to speak.
Don’t believe in anything you can’t prove through your own observation and analysis. Do your own thinking! Make sure that you know what you’re saying! Don’t blindly regurgitate other’s thoughts, for then you may propagate error, not only in your thinking, but in other’s, through cognitive dissonance.
Most importantly though, your thoughts should focus on the greatest good. Your actions should work for the benefit of all. Shouldn’t they? Isn’t that better than the alternative? I think I’ll start small to right my own ship. My thoughts and actions are for and with my family, for the greater good of my wife and children.
I‘ve been thinking of things in my life. obviously. Surface changes are first, but true change will come from true understanding. A prison is only a prison if you don’t understand how to escape.
It’s time to look, understand, and figure out a new way.