Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Let Others Find Their Path

For a long time, I considered myself a practicing Pagan with a bent toward enlightenment. I studied Hindu philosophy and mysticism, but reworked them into a Goddess-centric context. I had studied Buddhism on and off, and stole from it as I thought warranted. I had attended my monastery years ago, but never made a commitment to attending regularly. For me, Buddhism was stuffy, restrictive. It was too harsh on samsara. Not all of the world, I thought, was impure; you could indulge in the good, sensual things that this life had to offer and still be a spiritual person. After all, didn't the Goddess say that "all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals"?

Last year, my life took a dark turn. My pursuit of pleasure , fueled by psychological baggage from my past, spun out of control. I had forsaken my religious practice and abandoned myself to drinking, taking drugs, and engaging in sexual misconduct. After one particularly shameful act, I went on a 48-hour Ecstasy binge, using the uninhibited high of MDMA to stay up for three days straight cruising the dark holes of the Internet.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, everything blew up in my face. My marriage was nearly destroyed.
Blessedly, my wife and I recognized that there was something greater going on in our lives. There were issues and problems within both of us that we both had refused to address. Ignoring those issues were what led to our mutual meltdown. It was at that point that I remembered the monastery, and remembered everything I had read about Buddhism. It was like a thousand karmic seeds ripening simultaneously. I found myself thinking, with a certainty beyond words, "I have to go to the monastery. I have to take up a Buddhist practice. Buddhism is what I need in my life right now."

My path to Buddhism was long, arduous, and highly specific to my own soul's journey. Where I am now feels like where I needed to be; I had to exhaust my fascination with samsara, however, before I was willing to accept that. Everybody else has a similar spiritual journey that is very unique to their own lives and mindstreams.

I've been very dogmatic in my beliefs up until the present day. I've bought into thought systems that believed they were the One True Path, and that it was my duty to spread the Word. I realize now that this was nothing but my own ego, clamoring to be right. It's not my place to say what someone should believe, as that's intimately connected to their journey. All I can do is lend a helping hand or some soothing words of advice when someone else is in pain, and asks for my help.

This is my goal as a bodhisattva: not to make others into what I want them to be, but to be what others need.
As long as diseases afflict living beings
May I be the doctor, the medicine
And also the nurse
Who restores them to health.

May I fall as rain to increase
The harvests that must feed living beings
And in ages of dire famine
May I myself serve as food and drink.

May I be an unending treasury
For those desperate and forlorn.
May I manifest as what they require
And wish to have near them. (Shantideva, Bodhicaryavatara, Chapter 3)
May we all come to enlightenment here and now!

I came here through the Buddhist blogosphere roundup. This gives me a bit of inspiration and solace for your goal is something I aspire, albeit imperfectly, in my life as an educator. Thanks for giving me some food for thought as well. Best, and keep on blogging.
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