So, I’m finally feeling comfortable enough to call myself a Buddhist when asked by others what religion I am/belong to. It is a little weird at first, and even saying “I’m a Buddhist” shifts my awareness to a place I’d rather be. But Buddhism doesn’t define my entire belief system, and I thought I’d explore that a little bit here. So here are a few other beliefs that I hold:
1st “-ist”: Pantheist
As far as a deity is concerned, I consider myself a non-traditional pantheist. Pantheism has many definitions and people apply it to beliefs that range from strict atheistic-naturalism to new-age conscious-energy to a concept of a pantheistic Christian God. None of those really fly for me personally. For me, I realize (not fully, obviously….) the inter-connectedness of all beings, as well as all non-living matter. We are all star dust. The fact that the Universe is conscious of itself and is able to observe itself is astounding and profound, and I believe worthy of some sort of reverence or respect. Not necessarily worshiping existence, but respecting it, because it means respecting ourselves. Likewise when we respect ourselves, we respect all beings.
I also tend to believe in a bit of the supernatural. However, my scientific side throws a bit of a monkey wrench into this line of thinking. What I’ve come to terms with is that not too long ago, we thought that women menstruated because of their karma or that a woman ate an apple 6,000 years ago, thereby making childbirth painful as well. (on a side note, if Eve never ate that apple, how would childbirth have NOT been painful? what kind of physics would be involved in that one?) We’ve since learned otherwise, and realize that the supernatural explanation we once had is outdated and a scientific explanation based on facts and evidence has replaced it. I realize that someday, my supernatural beliefs may not be so supernatural, and I’m okay with that.
I 100% believe in ghosts. I’ve witnessed them, seen my glasses fly across the room in front of me, and witnessed their presence in the company of others. Now what they are exactly, I have no idea. Are they trapped souls? Probably not. Maybe something so traumatic happened and a fragment of that person’s conciousness somehow became stuck in the collective Universal conciousness? Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t even know if there is such a thing. Knowing how truly interconnected we are, coupled with new findings in the field of quantum physics has me thinking there might be. Maybe science will have a better explanation for it someday, maybe not.
There are a few other “supernatural” things I believe in, such as the power of attraction, though I don’t know if it works quite the way in which those people on The Secret DVD™ sell it as. Again, there might be a rational explanation for these things, and I honestly try not to cling to them too much, but they are there heckling me in the audience that makes up my mind. I belive certain minerals and gemstones have certain properties. Maybe it’s due to their vibration aligning with ours in some way, I don’t know. There are a few other pagan (thanks to my beautiful wife) beliefs I hold as well. Again I don’t rely on these things to get me through the day, rather they are passive beliefs that intrigue me and keep me searching for answers in life, which I love. I think it is in the struggle and the challenges we face within ourselves, that’s where we find who we really are, and find a path to betterment. In my life now, Buddhism is the engine that drives those struggles and challenges. I’m forced to examine myself, my thoughts, and my actions more closely; though usually it comes after the fact. I fail at this constantly, but at least I’m able to realize it. But I digress.
I also belive that there might be some underlying force, will, or universal energy that connects us all as well. There is so much in the Universe that remains to be seen and observed, I simply can’t discard such an idea, knowing how profound our interconnectedness is. I liken this to something like the Tao in Taoism or Om in Hinduism or the World Tree/Tree of Life in certain Native American religions. A unifying force or energy that connects all things in this world (and possibly the next).
Okay, next “-ist”: Ignostic
Basically, I think most of our definitions of God suck. None have been updated to include present knowledge (except for the really crazy cult-like ones) and instead rely on old, outdated mythology that was written for a specific set of people. I personally find it ridiculous to cling to these outdated models and myths, though I do see the point in the beautiful symbology present in just about all religious texts, but only when treated as metaphor used as a literary device to convey a deeper message.
Final “-ist”: Apatheist
As far as a creator-type personified deity is concerned, I’m an apatheist. Though my scientific side tells me to embrace atheism, I don’t want to be defined by what I don’t believe in. Also, I don’t wish to polarize myself any more than I already have. Instead, I embrace the idea that whether or not a god exists doesn’t really matter. If it was proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that one did exist, that god is obviously not concerned with the welfare of humanity. Because if one does exist, and it doesn’t do anything about the suffering, disease, and poverty in the world, it isn’t worth my time to worship it. And if there isn’t a god, I’m still going to go to work in the morning and do my best to be a good human being. It really doesn’t affect my life in the here and now, so I really don’t care to focus on it.
So for now, that’s a little about my -isms and -ists. I’ll be posting one more on New Year’s Day. A bunch of the Buddhist Bloggers out there are going to be posting a New Year’s resolution type post on the 1st, and I have something planned for the next year that I’ll talk about more there. And I’ll be posting my thoughts on karma and rebirth eventually, as soon as I’m able to catch up with samsara.
Also, you should know that my point in posting this is simply to share what I believe, and why I believe it. If you believe something else, great! Variety is the spice of life. Just don’t knock on my door and try to get me to buy into your view, be mindful to keep it out of my (and all of our) schools and government, and I promise to do the same.