My path to Buddhism

Buddha

When I started to write this blog a year ago, most of my focus was on various aspects of creativity, including creative leadership. However, soon I found myself writing more and more on issues concerning personal development, often reflecting on how our ego and obsession with the material aspects of life get in the way of our growth as human beings. I cannot explain this shift in writing as it was non-intentional, but I found myself more and more making references to Buddhist ideas, as the ethical and philosophical aspects of Buddhism have always had a special appeal to me. However, I had never made any serious efforts to go beneath the surface of Buddhism.

I have for many years been meditating off and on, and besides getting more focused and less stressed, I have sometimes during my meditation practice experienced short glimpses of a higher transcendental reality – a connectedness to a universal bliss that I cannot describe in words, but very similar to the all-absorbing feeling of awe that I sometimes get when being in the nature. It could happen when looking at the star-specked sky at a dark clear night or when watching a beautiful sunset over a lake or the ocean.

These have been experiences of a spiritual nature, but I have never been able to put them into any meaningful religious context, neither in relation to a monotheistic almighty creator God nor to the concept of a human Son of God that has died for the salvation of mankind. When exploring Christianity my logical mind has always clashed against the dogmas of that religion. I have been searching, but not really found any answers that could appeal to me.

Reflections arising through my writing and my curiosity, eventually made me decide to consider Buddhism more seriously. In the last year, I have visited the Stockholm Buddhist Centre regularly, including taking classes in Buddhist meditation. I have also been exploring the various aspects of Buddhism not only through discussions with my teachers, but also by reading as much as I could – both translations of original Buddhist scriptures and more so the various interpretations and reflections by various Buddhist scholars and spiritual leaders.

This has been a kind of epiphany to me. Most of what I have learned has appealed to my scientific background and my fascination for modern neuroscience and psychology. 2,500-year-old insights from the Buddha is being increasingly confirmed by modern science, including how our actions and habits manifest themselves as physical alterations and new neural circuits in our plastic brains, which later deeply affect the way we interpret and relate to the world around us – a concept described by the Buddha as “karmic seeds”. Likewise, it’s fascinating to see the evidence of the profound positive effects of Buddhist meditation on our bodies and brains.

Unlike, religions based on creator Gods, Buddhism, with its introspective path to personal growth and eventually enlightenment has never had to change and adapt in the light of any new scientific findings about our planet and the universe. On the contrary, its focus on not doing harm, and respect for the nature and all living beings has never been more relevant than it is today.

According to the Dalai Lama, happiness is the ultimate purpose of life, and Buddhism provides the tools to achieve it. Not through craving for pleasures and material things, but through compassion, generosity, non-attachment, acceptance, humility, care in the way we communicate, kindness and being helpful. This is cultivated through meditation, mindfulness and an ethical approach to interactions with other people in our daily lives.

Living a life according to these ideals is of course not always easy, but when we fail, Buddhism is never pointing finger. Buddhist ideals are not built on commandments, guilt and shame, but on “training principles” and an understanding that our intentional actions always have consequences and are thus more or less “skilful” on our path towards true happiness.

Illustration: Pixabay.com – JohnHain

svensk_flagga   Detta blogginlägg på svenska

Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

3 thoughts on “My path to Buddhism”

  1. Dear Karl welcome to the club! It never fails to amaze me how the 2500-year-old teachings of the Budha are still more than relevant today. To hear your words confirm that is a wonderful thing indeed. The Buddha Dharma certainly can do so much for us in the subject of personal development, I myself have been practising for over 8 years now and my happy surprises of things that no longer disturb me or upset me are almost never-ending. I am a changed man, I cannot imagine my life without the Buddha. Your comments on the Christian Dogma are also well received. When one does find logic in the Christian teachings it is often a circular logic that in itself does not stand up on its own. Not to mention just how many Christians are absolutely so negative about the Buddha Dharma and tell outright lies about our teachings and practices. I have never found any teaching where a Buddhist was asked to take the low road and attack any other belief. Now you mentioned Science and Buddhism this is something really inspiring how we are just rediscovering the hidden truths of the Buddha Dharma in the non-dogmatic and impersonal approach of modern science. It is really interesting that many if not all Buddhist teachers agree that if science can prove any Buddhist teaching false then we need to change the teaching, however, this has not happened as of yet if anything as you have said the teachings of the Buddha Dharma and science go hand in hand.

    Thank you so much for expressing this so eloquently and succinctly,

    QP

    Like

    1. Dear QP,

      Thanks for your long and wise comment. Indeed, already the Buddha had the mind of a scientist exploring the human reality, and I’m impressed by his humble advise: “Don’t believe anything just because I say so, test it and embrace it only if it works for you”, which is in stark contrast to “You must have faith because these are the words of God”.

      That said, I do believe that all religions ultimately are expressions of a deeply human ability of life-changing transcendental experiences, which is then explained and shaped out of a historical and cultural context. This then goes hand in hand with an ethical framework that has been more or less emphasised, and too often abused.

      What I find unique in Buddhism, is the deep insights into the human mind and psyche, and that any change towards a happier and more fulfilling life needs to start with working on yourself to be a better person. Loving kindness appears in the core of most religions, but is often not the most striking feature when looking at the totality. With the sad exception of the Rohingya conflict in Myanmar, history clearly indicates that the world would be a better place if Buddhist ideals had been prevailing.

      Kindly

      Karl

      P.S. Had a quick look at your impressive blog, which I will now dive deeper into.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Please do dive deeper, and I of course would be happy to read your thoughts on my thoughts 🙂

        As for the Rohingya it is clearly not a cut and dry problem with Buddhism. The Bangladeshis are also not without fault in this. And it stands to reason that even the best ideals and intentions of good people can sometimes be used by the truly deviant to inflict great pain. Also worth noting is that there is some very difficult history between Buddhists and Muslims in he area that goes back a five hundred years or so when India was invaded. I think we can agree that we all have the Buddha nature, but we are not yet realized Buddhas.

        Talk to you soon,

        QP

        Liked by 2 people

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