I realize that I've been Buddhist for several years now. I’ve done much with my Buddhism (meditating every day, starting my blog, incorporating it into my work as a writer and an artist, and so forth). And this all reached a high point when I got in touch with a counseling intern at my old high school who is in a master’s program for Social Work. She Facebooked me saying she wanted to do a project on Buddhism for her class in cultural diversity, and thought I would be the perfect person to consult on that, asking me if that was alright with me, and of course I said yes. Afterwards she messaged me to thank me for my comments and said her classmates really enjoyed them. Below I have transcribed the questions she asked (copied and pasted) and provided my answers to their respective questions. For many of my Autist Dharma fans this information will probably be review, as it will for fans of my other blog, but there’s plenty new information, so keep your minds open because it’s all here at autistdharma.blogspot.com. Enjoy!
1) How long have you been practicing Buddhism?
I have been practicing Buddhism for nearly nine years, since I was sixteen.
2) What originally drew you to Buddhism?
I loved Buddhism’s peaceful and practical philosophy. I liked the artistic and cultural prowess of the Buddhist culture, which I was introduced to from books and the Buddha statues that I would see at grocery stores, and something about that let me think there was something about Buddhism that would be good for me.
3) How has this made a difference in any or all aspects of your life?
I have been meditating regularly for a little over two years and because of that, I notice I am much more relaxed, creative, and feel much closer to the people I care about, whether about work, school, or relationships.
4) Do you attend services, or practice individually, or both?
Since I live in a small town without a Buddhist temple for most of the year (my college town of Warrensburg, Missouri) there aren’t a lot of chances to attend Buddhist services, so much of my practice consists of my morning meditation alone in my dorm. However, when I’m not at school, I normally go to a place called the Pathless Land Center for Mindfulness, Meditation, and Magic (I know that’s a mouthful). It isn’t strictly Buddhist and it draws ideas from other philosophies, but is generally compatible with Buddhism and uses Buddhist meditation and other practices that are similar to Buddhism in its practice, and is open to people of all belief systems. It used to be called the American Buddhist Center (ABC), but it changed its name to attract people of other belief systems. I have been going there regularly for five years.
5) What is important for people not familiar with Buddhism to know?
What I would think is important is that Buddhism is a belief system that has had a profound influence on the diverse cultures of the Asian continent and in the West as well. Many if its tenet are compatible with other faiths, and it really isn’t about what you believe, but how you live your life. It is in fact very alive in the West, though I tend to think it hasn’t had as much of an audience among the younger generation of Westerners, but truly it is compatible with people of all different cultures. Many of its practices, such as meditation are much easier to learn than some people may think.
6) How can social workers be more sensitive in working with Buddhist clients?
One thing that is probably a great thing to know is the psychological and spiritual impact that Buddhism can have on a person’s life. It is also important to know that even with that, good Buddhists can still feel anxiety, frustration, grief, and other unpleasant things. Buddhism is something that really takes a lot of time to truly get the hang of and even I still struggle with it sometimes.
7) Tell us more about your blog and how Buddhism and being an advocate for people on the spectrum intersect.
My blog The Autist Dharma is a blog I started after my first blog Ben’s Blog. Ben’s Blog deals with my experiences at college life and from it evolved The Autist Dharma (Dharma is a word for Buddhist practice). The Autist Dharma deals with my work for people with autism and my own experience as a person with autism, and also talks about how Buddhism has had an effect on that. There is a long-time Buddhist trend called Socially Engaged Buddhism, which applies Buddhism to social activism. An example would be how Buddhism can help lessen greed in people’s mind and therefore mitigate the exploitation of people throughout the world for profit. I also believe meditation can help us be more aware of what is going on in the world, such as how people with autism may be treated by others due to their disability. The Autist Dharma deals a lot with socially engaged Buddhism and how it relates to ways of thinking that can be detrimental to the welfare of others and may also show up in the world of autism. Buddhism also helps me to love myself for who I am as well as others, and to be patient with other people, which in turn is positive towards my ability to reach them and work with them, and to accept people of diverse abilities, which in turn has given momentum to helping to create a more welcoming world for people with autism. Buddhism is also beneficial to my writings and other creative works that I do to help change the public’s view of people on the spectrum. Ben’s Blog is idea I had to help show the world what people with autism can do with the right schooling and supports, and it also talks about Buddhism in both the ups and the downs of my daily life. These blogs can be found at benledwardsblog.blogspot.com, and autistdharma.blogspot.com.