To the Editor:
The month of April brings two anniversaries to our household: the passing of my father and the birthday of the great teacher Gautama Buddha. You might be asking what all these have to do with each other? The answer to that question is nothing ... and everything.
I felt compelled to write in response to the recent article promoting a speaking engagement to discuss whether science and the Bible conflict, but debate would be futile as religion is such a personal matter that input into the matter would only serve to further alienate me from my community. Instead, I will relate my personal view and hope that it can be met with tolerance and compassion.
My parents raised me as a Christian and a Lutheran Protestant at that. Yet among the many great things I inherited from my parents was a fiercely independent streak and a need to follow my own path. My father followed his own path, which frequently meant hours, even years of hard work. Sometimes this meant we were at odds with each other, but despite our differences, I respect my father for being the man he was. My father walked the talk when it came to putting family first.
Religion was frequently discussed at our kitchen table and made for some heated arguments. No matter how much debate ensued, I could not make peace with the religion I grew up with. Christianity has much to offer, as do most religions, but given the experiences my parents provided me it was impossible for me to stay a Christian. There were many reasons for this, but among them was not being able to personally reconcile the conflict between science and religion. I finally found a faith that suited me, but it took me 20 years of soul-searching and research.
Becoming an adherent of Buddhism in Thompson presents some unique challenges. There is no temple here and as far as I know there are only lay practitioners in the city. Buddhism does not have or require the frequent gatherings and social bonding in the way one would see in the Church. Buddhism is mostly an introverted religion and that is unfortunate, as it has suffered because of that. Our Christian brethren have much to teach in that regard.
Yet Buddhism has its strengths as well. Buddhism is exceptional in its embrace of science. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as the truth, but to put the teachings into practice in order to come to their own conclusions. In this way each adherent is responsible for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism a philosophy that each person uses in his or her own way in order to determine what is the truth. This allows for the embracing of science and science is confirming many of the core teachings of the faith. As we dive into the science of the mind, Tibetan and Zen Buddhist monks have provided science with interesting mediums with which to experiment and the results are amazing and confirming. Experiments in physics, such as the double slit experiment, have shown that reality is changeable, which in so many ways supports the core view of Buddhism that reality is not to be found using the five senses. Buddhism stresses interconnectedness and everything we are learning about the world confirms this.
Buddhism differs greatly from the other world religions in that the concept of an omnipotent god is entirely lacking from the faith. It focuses on concepts such as cause and effect (Karma), meditation and the search for truth through thought and practice. Buddhism teaches that the problems in life are internal and not to be found in the world around us. Most importantly however, Buddhism teaches tolerance and compassion for all things in this world.
As April slowly melts away I am thankful for the opportunities provided me as a result of my father's hard work and sacrifice. I reflect on my time with him and am grateful. I am also thankful for the teachings of the Buddha as I now have some spiritual direction in my life that suits me. As springs approaches I am comforted in the thought that while individuals walk different paths, ultimately most of us have the same destination in mind.