To Buddha or Not to Buddha

Buddha obtained enlightenment. And if you study hard, practice hard, and devote your life, you can obtain the same. But is that the right path for you?

Very few people answer in the affirmative. But for those who do, such devotion is the right path for them ... at least until it’s not.

For most of us, myself included, The study of Buddhism isn’t to seek full enlightenment, or Nirvana, or anything of the sort. For me, the goal is to seek a better understanding of myself and the true nature of reality.

For me, I’ve become a better person; more understanding, more patient, more kind, loving and forgiving. I’ve lowered my stress level, I think more clearly. I’m more creative. My “enlightenment” comes in drips and drabs of self-awareness, raindrops of “a-ha” moments, trickles of inspiration.

I’m happy with my progress. I have no desire to reach Buddhahood. I like being a layman and not a monk, a bookseller and not a bodhisattva. I like me, my faults and all.

The old me couldn’t say that. The old me — before I started my Zen studies — was filled with anger and resentment. I made rash decisions. I ruined relationships. I valued things that had no value and set my priorities accordingly.

I first learned about Zen when I was young. I loved Alan Watts. I read all his books and listened to his lectures on cassette tapes. Then I read all the “classics.” The whole idea of Zen and Buddhism intrigued me — at least on an intellectual level. It all made so much sense.

But I was too busy with other things to actually discipline myself, to actually apply the teachings. I pretended I did. I often bragged about the books I read, the retreats I attended, the talks I listened to. It was all a facade. Deep inside I didn’t like myself, I wasn’t happy, and my constant need to boast proved I had nothing to boast about.

I was insecure and disillusioned. But then as Alan Watts would say, we all are.

The turning point comes when you decide it comes. For some people it comes early. For some late. For others, it never comes. And how deeply and devotedly you pursue the journey is up to you.