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