Anyone who knows me, and you know who you are, knows that I have been searching for something for some time now. If I knew exactly what I was searching for, I suppose that I would have found it by now. But apparently I haven’t.
When I read the Tao Te Ching a few years back it really struck a chord with me and resonated on a pretty deep level, but still something was missing. In fact something was missing in pretty much every aspect of my life. I am not sure, but I think maybe I am starting to put the pieces together.
For most of my adult life my spiritual life, such as it was, was in complete conflict with my intellectual life. It went something like this: I was raised Catholic and pretty much everything I was told only raised further questions in my mind. And as George Carlin once said in a routine about why he is no longer a Catholic, the answer usually was “It’s a mystery!” Well, I am not much on mysteries.
A few years ago, I saw Garry Wills’ book “Why I am a Catholic.” Considering that it was his writings that raised some of my questions, I eagerly devoured the book. Unfortunately the short answer was, that Jesus said some good things and that as an organization Catholics were a pretty nice group. That may be enough for Mr. Wills (no disrespect intended, I think he is a wonderful author) but it was not enough for me.
In my next couple of posts I will go into what I see as the shortcomings of not only Christian theology (at least from my point of view) but also the shortcomings of a Catholic education as I experienced it.
I have recently turned to Buddhism not because it is exotic or foreign or even pretty much atheistic. I have turned to Buddhism because it has a concrete method of doing things. Jesus told us to love our enemies, but frankly he did not say exactly what he meant or how to accomplish such a remarkable feat.
The Buddha on the other hand operationally defined what he meant by compassion, and gave a concrete plan of how to achieve a state of loving-kindness. Not only that, but there is good evidence (which will come in later posts) that the advice the Buddhists offer squares almost perfectly with modern psychological studies.
Now it is true that the methods described by the Buddhists are actually found pretty much in every religious tradition. Every faith prescribes ethical living and loving kindness. Every faith has a tradition of meditation. But it seems to me that it is only Buddhism that emphasizes this method first and then allows one to apply it to whatever metaphysical beliefs you might have. In fact, the Buddha himself refused to discuss metaphysics at all, such as speculating on who or what even if God is.
Most other faiths have the metaphysics first, and then, perhaps if you are lucky you may find someone who will teach you the methods.
So, I will be going back to method and invite you along for the journey. But hang on it will be a bumpy ride, I am sure.