2 experiences bombarded me as I arrived home from Sri Lanka…. The first, turning on technology for the first time in nearly a month I see the whole world on fire, how we are leading with hate and fear versus love and peace, how the problems of the world seem insurmountable and devastating. The second, everyone I know is curious why I just traveled to Sri Lanka, why I’m hanging out with monks and am I now a Buddhist zealot or becoming a monk or have I lost my mind or what?
I consider answering the second question by pointing to the first.
A noble friend I met on the trip then asks me to summarize something about “Sri Lanka and Buddhism” in what she requests is a “short and sweet” paragraph for her church to help increase awareness. hmmm. I accepted not noticing the part about the short and sweet paragraph. Once I realize the limitation of her request, I imagine writing a single paragraph to describe this pilgrimage and experience and quickly look up how long a paragraph can actually be.
I’ve just spent some time crafting an outline for a book that my friends and I are jokingly calling “Buddha’s backyard… exploring Buddhist holy land in my $300 sandals…..” and it’s a collection of stories from travel to sacred places… it’s the opposite of a short and sweet paragraph…. but the cool thing about her request is I get to ponder what, if given only a paragraph, I could possibly say about Buddhism and Sri Lanka that would inspire people and increase awareness and compassion. This could be a curious exercise for defining what really matters…. turning down all the noise and getting to the heart of things is a worthy endeavor and I quickly see how the focus and clarity could penetrate and make a sustainable impact in the hearts of our world at a time when we need it most.
I’ve now probably attempted 10 paragraphs, none capable of sharing the essence. Then my writing partner, seeing my struggle, says “when you are 85 years old, what one thing will you remember from these experiences?”
My answer, in the requested short and sweet paragraph, came instantly:
“I’ll remember discovering that loving-kindness is universal and what we believe is not relevant, the how we believe is… and the how shows up in our actions, the way we treat each and every person, it shows up when we remember God’s in the people and to help anyone else, which is a requirement for happiness, we must first be our own best friends…. I could write on and on ( and I have, check it out here!! ) about Sri Lanka and Buddhism and what I learned and observed and why I love this country and these people so much… however to narrow it down I would say that the people I observed and met, the collective and society as a whole seem to live their spirituality and their spiritual path nearly identically to what Jesus taught on “The Sermon on the Mount”. Thich Nhat Hahn says, If you are a Christian, you’re already a Buddhist. The people I observed don’t necessarily talk about it, they live it:
- Be humble
- Be compassionate
- Live simply
- Be ethical
- Be merciful
- Be pure of heart
- Be a peacemaker
- Do not live in fear to do what is right
- Be an example to others (“the light of the world”)
- Do not murder (the Buddhist First Precept)
- Do not commit adultery (The Buddhist Third Precept)
- Sin is not only found in action but in intention (the Buddhist concept of volitional action creating karma)
- Keep your promises (The Buddhist Fourth Precept)
- Turn the other cheek (The Buddhist concept of compassion or karuna)
- Do charity because it is in your heart to do so (the concept of dana)
- Do not judge ( The Buddhist concept of the three poisons: hatred, greed and delusion)
- Always be seeking and questioning ( “seek and you will find .. “)
- Beware of false prophets and judge them by the fruit they bare (the sutta of the Kalamas)
( thanks to the Reverend Sumita Hudson for this awesome list! )
I witnessed that those who live by these universal principles are our only hope to putting out the fires in our world and within our selves.
Thich Nhat Hahn also says “Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive” and I look around our world and realize that is no longer a choice for me.
For the record, I’ve researched this, a paragraph, followed by a list, is still just a paragraph. _/\o_ ….
First, I can’t ever express how much a single book has changed my life and since I’ve just admitted to quoting Thich Nhat Hahn hundreds of thousands of times, I should point you to the book that for me, is priceless: Living Buddha, Living Christ. Stop everything and go get it. I promise it will be worth it.
also check out: