“First of all, Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and the world. It looks at things objectively (yathābhūtam). It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool’s paradise, nor does it frighten and agonize you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. It tells you exactly and objectively what you are and what the world around you is, and shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness.”
Out of the many things I have learned in my Buddhism class this semester, one major thing I would like to point out is the difference between Buddhism and other religion and philosophy. Buddhism itself does not accept the notion of labels, allowing it to be whatever you want it to be. Buddhism also allows freedom of thought, which is rare in many other religions. The purpose of Buddhism is to show man that he is supreme, his own master, and no one person or thing is in control of their destiny– only man himself. Buddhism teaches you to disregard the notion of soul and notion of self, to ultimately avoid suffering. To truly know oneself, you must understand that everything is constantly changing and nothing is permanent, including yourself. Although these teachings may seem a bit far fetched for many, the more I study it, the more I clearly understand the teachings.
I have learned that we often put labels on ourselves as humans, creating an image for ourselves that doesn’t really make up who we are. Everything in life is impermanent. We humans are not permanent, fixed entities, neither is anything else around us, so why focus on things other than ourselves? Everything is always changing. Letting go is key to becoming mindful, and accepting of the notion that there is no self. Yes, you are here, and if you punch a wall right now you will feel it. However, we are always changing. The Buddha’s teachings allow us to have a sense of optimism, and hopefulness, and although he does not tell us what to do, he guides us to becoming mindful and completely aware, happy, and at peace.
While studying Buddhism, as complex and confusing as it may seem, I feel that I have become a better and much more understanding person throughout this journey. During my studies, I have taken an even greater interest in Buddhism than I had in the past. I constantly find myself relating Buddhist teachings and notions in my everyday life, and see myself following a path to happiness–all on my own. Although Buddhism may be a foreign and unfamiliar religion to many, the teachings of the Buddha are absolutely beautiful and can be applied to everyday life. With Buddhism, I have come to understand myself and the world around me much better, and I notice myself looking at things with a different, much clearer lens.
The practice of mindfulness and disregard of the self is vitally important, and after reading Walpola Rahula’s book, “What The Buddha Taught,” I came across many quotes that stood out to me, and keep coming back. Taken straight from the book, here are four Buddhist teachings that I believe will help you become more mindful, patient, self understanding, and self aware. While there are many other paths to becoming mindful, mediation being one, I thought a few quotes would be a good way to start. Who knows, maybe this will inspire you to begin your journey to purifying your mind and attaining a good life–all on your own terms. For me, paradoxically, I’m finding that the more I begin understand the Buddhist notion of no-self, the more I notice myself becoming who I really am.
“Real life is the present moment—not the memories of the past which is dead and gone, nor the dreams of the future which is not yet born. One who lives in the present moment lives the real life, and he is happiest.”
Every single moment is a new moment. After a moment occurs, it dies, and is never seen again, so why dwell on it? We as humans constantly hear stories of people mourning the past, or dying for the future, who often end up suffering because of their thoughts. Thinking of things that have already happened or have not even occurred yet is just one way to set yourself up for disappointment, failure, and sadness. By living in the present moment, one is able to take everything they can get out of a single moment before it slips away forever. Not to say that you don’t learn from the past, however, you need to think about how those things are manifesting you right now. Next time you find yourself getting caught up in the past, think about right now. Where you are. What you’re doing. Accept where you are now, and change what you wish in the next up and coming moment. Forget about the past, and don’t focus on the future. Live for yourself, while you can–right now.
“All great work—artistic, poetic, intellectual or spiritual—is produced at those moments when its creators are lost completely in their actions, when they forget themselves altogether, and are free from self-consciousness.”
Having a passion is similar to having an addiction– and I mean that in the most healthy terms. Whether it’s exercising or writing or painting, everything done is done best when you get lost in what you are doing. Being lost in what you are doing at a specific moment in time will help you block out all other energies in the world, and help you focus on your passion. Often, humans are self-conscious of themselves or what they are doing or where they are going, and this tends to lead to a rut, or a plateau in life. Delving deep into something with all of your might will help you to give it your all. Drop what is going on, and think about what is happening right now. Whether it’s painting or writing, next time you are doing what you love– forget everything else and just do.
“What is necessary is not anger or impatience, but the understanding of the question of suffering, how it comes about, and how to get rid of it, and then to work accordingly with patience, intelligence, determination and energy.”
When something negative has an impact on our life, we often immediately think of who or what to blame. We ask how this happened, or why this happened, or what we did to cause this to happen, etc. Instead, it is necessary to understand and accept the current moment of suffering that you may be in. The first step is accepting, and the second step is overcoming. Once we accept that we are in a state of suffering, rather than dwell on it, the only thing left to do is to overcome it. After we are able to overcome our suffering, the third step is maintaining. Next time you are put in a state of suffering, remember my three steps– accepting, overcoming, maintaining. Pushing away negativity will ultimately help you become more aware of yourself.
“One may conquer millions in battle, but he who conquers himself, only one, is the greatest of conquerors.”
Although the notion of self is disregarded according to Buddhists, the goal of Buddhism is accepting that there is no self. Conquering yourself is the only way to conquer the biggest battle– that being your life. To purify your mind and have a much more clear understanding of reality, accepting yourself should be priority. While living, there are many little things that we are able to conquer along the way. However, conquering yourself is number one. Conquering who you are at every single moment in every single day will help you grow a stronger connection with yourself, and help you better understand the world around you. Conquering one big battle is better than conquering a million tiny ones. Remember: quality over quantity.