D – Dharma

Posted: 28 May 2005 in A-Z, writing
Tags: ,

D

I was raised Presbyterian. While not Scientologists or Charismatics, it has its fair share of dogma. I fought the VVM regularly every Sunday morning until I was 15 as she tried to force me into an Easter dress/Christmas velvet/Sunday best in order to sit on a hard pew and listen to a stodgy, white, straight man tell me all about God (when I turned 15 I developed a crush on a boy in Sunday School and changed my fightin’ ways). The worst years were the ones when there was no Sunday School and I had to sit through the whole sermon, thinking about my father at home mowing the lawn and everything I could be doing while I was supposed to be admitting sin and pleading forgiveness.

About the time of the crush, I got shipped off to confirmation classes weekly, a chat time with the pastor in which I was supposed to search my soul for god’s light and subsequently become a member of the church. You could describe my devotion to religion as ambivalent at best, but the reverend did nothing to help me along the path of righteousness, providing half and canned answers to my questions about sin and acceptance under the cape of Christianity. I got confirmed, but mainly because I didn’t care enough not to. Eventually, the VVM let up on demanding I go pray every Sunday.

In college, I went to mass with my Catholic friends, mostly because I liked the singing, but also because the Catholics on campus were more laid back than the Presbyterians. I flirted briefly with the idea of converting, oddly enough because I appreciated the Catholic way of confession (accounting for actual sins committed) rather than the Presbyterian way (admitting a huge range of general sins in a group recitation each Sunday, committed or not). But the rigors of converting were too daunting and I resigned myself to being a religious floater.

But, the idea of Buddhism brought me instant peace. The fact that I could practice privately, as much as I wanted, in a quiet way was appealing to me. I explored and studied it, casually as opposed to fanatically, and tried to bend my life into its principles. On a day to day basis, I consider whether I should give in and find a local center where I can practice with others. I cope with the recognition that my wife doesn’t think my tilt to Buddhism is anything other than a convenient excuse for my laissez-faire approach to religion. I accept my family’s gentle ribbing (at least they didn’t disown me). I know though, with certainty, I am more Buddhist than I am anything else.

My wife has a cozy, personal relationship with God. She appears comfortable within religion and is able to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic church with her own life and emotions, carrying on conversations that guide and comfort her. I often wish I felt comfortable in a religion with a cadre of holy beings, ones that I could pick to pray to, light candles to, wear emblems for. But nothing compares to the peace of meditating and the lightness of acceptance and release that I reach my way.

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