Going along with the -ish suffix, I’ve decided to call myself “Buddhistish”
I want to be able in one word to give the impression to others of my philosophy and beliefs but also instill a sense that there is something different so that they cannot just assume that they know what I believe.
Although I have practiced some Zen and have riddled my way through some koans, I am completely non-sectarian and also identify as an atheist and a skeptic. I believe in none of the religious or supernatural aspects of sectarian Buddhism including reincarnation, karma, spirits or deities. I find no evidence whatsoever of any of these things and so find no reason to believe in them. In fact, I find concepts such as reincarnation and karma quite disgusting in that it gives reason to accept inequality under the premise that you are reaping the benefits of or paying the penalties for something that you did or have done, possibly in a previous life – which of course is impossible to prove. I don’t find that dissimilar to the belief that one can be born noble or better than another.
Spirits and deities play very little role in sectarian Buddhism, certainly nothing like gods or spirits in other religions, especially the Abrahamic religions. They have no real power and are more to be pitied than revered since they are outside of the cycle of life, but have not and cannot achieve enlightenment – which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism – to become buddha (I have written this explicitly without a capital because it means “enlightened”, which everyone has the capacity to achieve).
I do believe in the core philosophies and practices of Buddhism – The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path. Aspects of this path that most people will know include meditation and compassion. Interestingly though and also frustrating for many who are new to Buddhism and are looking for a way to end their suffering is that there is no one single way to follow this path. It is a prescription for what to achieve, but does not prescribe how to achieve it. It is for each individual to find their own way and come to their own understanding. It is why a Buddhist monk cannot give you answers, but can only offer to help guide you to find your own answers.
So, I am following this path towards enlightenment. I stumble. I step off it. I trust that I know within myself when I have done so and I endeavor to take ever more certain steps on this path. I have no mentor. I am doing this for myself and my own inner peace. I follow no doctrines and am part of no political organization. Although I admire some people, they are not my idols since I also live by the principle, “the message, not the messenger.”
It is the path of Buddhism and is core to all sects of Buddhism, but other stereotypes such as shaving my hair off, reciting mantras, eating only vegetarian, abstaining from all intoxicants, wearing hippy-like clothes and burning incense all do not apply to me.
That is why I am Buddhist-ish.
This is inspired by and dedicated to Gwen.