When I was in my early 20s when I first became interested in Buddhism.
I read An Introduction to Zen Buddhism by Dr T Suzuki. He said, inter alia, in fact amongst many other things, cats were the next species after man who might possibly achieve enlightenment. Who knows it might be true. Cats seem to have man worked out.
It was book which many of us read. Another book was Zen Flesh Zen Bones. Some people say Zen is Buddhist, some people say it isn’t. Zen Flesh Zen Bones is full of contradictions & paradoxes.
In Dr Suzuki’s book, he puts forward the idea, not entirely seriously one presumes that cats could possibly achieve enlightenment. Right at the end of the book he compares Christianity to Zen, in this respect. He talks about the widow’s mite. In the gospel Christ praises the widow who gave all she had but Suzuki says that the Zen ideal would be that the left hand wouldn’t know what the right hand is doing.
I had been taken to the Buddhist Vihara in Chiswick. A Vihara is like a temple. Inside, you have to take off your shoes. I learned how to meditate, concentrating on the breath at the end of my nose. After that I used to do it for on average 5 minutes in the morning & 10 minutes in the evening as far as I remember.
Last week I went to the Buddhist temple at Elephant & Castle. I had a chat with the English born monk there. It seems he has been to India, been to Dharamsala in the foothills of the mountain where the Tibetan community in exile resides. If a Westerner wants to be a monk, why not? Buddhism really is the only hope for the World. In Buddhism there is respect for the environment, there is respect for other living creatures including man. There is love & compassion.
In my time I have been quite religious. I have had quite some beliefs. I could say I have no beliefs any more. But the truth is that I don’t know what I believe. Science is the new religion but a lot of what science does seem quite problematical, the large Hadron Collider for example & a lot of it just not true – parallel universes for example.
Buddhists believe in many lives, otherwise known as reincarnation. I have problems with this. After all, what is reincarnated? When you die, something that is identifiably you just disappears. This is hard to believe, in fact as hard to believe as reincarnation but harder to believe than the concept of heaven & hell which is almost impossible to believe. After all, apart from anything else, where is it located, heaven & hell, that is?
Buddhists believe that people are unhappy because they want what want what they cannot have. There are the triple evils greed, hatred & delusion. Buddhists try to cleanse themselves through meditation & practise, of bad thoughts.
The head of the Tibetan community, the Dalai Lama became the Dalai Lama by accident really. But he is a man of compassion. Arguably the most popular man on the planet if the acclaim he receives on Facebook is anything to go by.
Tibet does seem to have been an ideal theocracy before the Chinese took over. The monastic population numbered in thousands. Buddhism doesn’t the fear & nastiness associated with other religions like Christianity & Islam.
People say Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion but I don’t think this is really true. After all it has a hierarchy, monks, temples, sacred texts, rituals, Buddhas, stories, myths. Dharamsala, where Tibetan Buddhism now resides is also a theocracy of sorts. It appears that there are thousands of monks residing in monasteries there, in Dharamsala. There must be something to it.