About Buddhism

           Buddhism is faith that is over two thousand years old and widespread in Asia as well as the West.  It has also shaped greatly how I see the world.  It has no creator god and it teaches the Four Noble Truths that 1) all living things suffer, 2) suffering comes from desire, 3) desire can be overcome and 4) the way to overcome desire is the Eightfold Path which is Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Concentration and Right Meditation.
          The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince who started out as a Hindu.  After he was born, Hindu priests predicted that he would either be a great ruler or a great sage.  Knowing this, the Buddha's father tried his best to make sure the Buddha never left the comfort of his palace.
          However, Siddhartha quickly became curious about life outside his palace.  His curiosity lead him to go explore outside his palace, where he saw a sick man, an elderly man, a dead man being carried throughout the streets, and a religious ascetic.  Afterwards, the Buddha realized that his life was subject to these hardships.  He later left his palace to seek a way people could live with the hardships that come with life.
          After living with several Indian sects, the Buddha left them to sit under a tree where he could find quiet.  He ended up coming up with the belief that human beings could find happiness through a combination of wisdom, ethics and mental discipline known as the Eightfold Path.  After realizing this, the Buddha, meaning "enlightened one," which he later grew to be called, taught in villages throughout India.  After his death, his followers spread his teachings throughout Asia and later, the West.  It has spread throughout the Himalayas, Tibet, Central Asia, China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia and has also entered the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.  Buddhism is not a religion confined to ethnic boundaries.  It has changed and adapted with each different culture it entered.  It has inspired the Zen gardens and haiku of Japan, the paintings of China and Japan, the cave paintings of India and the ecstatic poetry and thangkha paintings of Tibet.
          There are a number of different Buddhist practices that vary from sect to sect, but they all agree on the basic message of Buddhism: attaining peace and happiness through compassion and wisdom.  One of my favorite Buddhist practices comes from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and it is called Lojong.  It is making up short little pith sayings that express your spiritual path.  I have a few written down in a journal.
          Another one of my ways of practicing Buddhism is through poetry.  Reading or writing poetry about anything can help us with grasping Buddhist principles.  I write poems which I keep in a journal.  I have also read great poets such as Rumi, Hafiz and Kabir because poems are a great way to help one on the path.  For example, nature poems can help us to appreciate all life and be aware of our sensory feelings.  Religious poems can remind us that all religions share the same core values.  Love poems can help us feel appreciation and gratitude towards a person in our lives and help us be aware of our internal feelings.  Political poems remind us about the injustice others are going through and help us to be mindful of other's suffering.  Death poems can help us to let go and haiku can help us to appreciate simplicity.  Clearly poetry can help one's spiritual journey.
          Buddhism, like other religions, also has stories that teach the Buddhist principles.  One of my favorite Buddhist stories is about living in the present.  In the story, a Chinese man is being chased by a tiger in the jungle.  Over a cliff he sees a branch he can hang on.  He hangs from the branch but sees that another tiger is at the bottom of the cliff.  Knowing his death is coming soon, he sees a strawberry, ate it and savored its delicious taste.  Another favorite Buddhist story of mine is about a Zen master who goes to see a professor who wishes to inquire about Zen.  The Zen master pours the professor tea until the cup overflows.  The professor said, "That's enough!  Stop pouring.  The Zen master said, "Like this cup, your head is full of its own opinions and speculations.  Before I can teach you Zen you must empty your head of these things."
          Interestingly enough, another thing that helps me practice Buddhism is looking at a Celtic Cross that I wear around my neck.  To me the four points symbolize the Four Noble Truths.  It also came to symbolize for me the balance of permanence and impermanence in Buddhism.  For the lines represent impermanence and the circle represents eternity.  Basically I believe that this is an example of Buddhism integrating into the local culture, by adopting pre-Buddhist practices and integrating them into its own practice, it entered as it has done for so many centuries.
          Other religious practices that I had learned about from a book called Celtic Inspirations: Essential Meditations and Texts helped me in my spiritual journey.  One was a practice where one created an affirmation they would say to themselves whenever they were going into a particularly difficult situation.  I have written five so far for dating, work, driving, writing and dealing with barriers to advocating equal rights to people on the autism spectrum such as myself.  I realized these practices seemed to have a lot in common with Tibetan Buddhist Lojong practice and the Zen practice of reciting gathas, Zen poems meant to clear one's mind.  
          Another practice I learned in Celtic Inspirations was called The Power of Three where one started their day by saying three affirmations either about your particular intentions for the day or more general observations about one's life.  This three in the practice reminds me of the three jewels of Buddhism.

Note this: Buddhism has not cured me.  But with it even in the face of lacking resources I need to be able to thrive and maintain my autistic integrity, I am able to live an active successful life and I would always choose that over simply being neurologically typical.  

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