Buddhism. The word calls to mind serene-faced statues, chanting shaven-headed monks half-hidden in clouds of incense-smoke, and vegetarians who would, literally, shrink from hurting a fly. But what's it really about...this least-understood major religion?
First, Buddhism really isn't a religion at all. It's a way of approaching life, a way that is intended to bring the practitioner closer to God.
Second, Buddha (commonly identified with Gautama Buddha, the Indian prince Siddhartha) was not, and never claimed to be divine. He was a man who lived, and a man who died. He's not worshipped; he's revered, in much the way a Christian might have great respect for Paul, or the Virgin Mary.
The heart of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths:
- There is suffering
- There is a cause for suffering
- There is an end to suffering
- There is a way to end suffering
- Right view
- Right intentions
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right concentration
- Right mindfulness
Well, that's part of it. But the Eightfold Path is a mechanism, a practice, rather like the Golden Rule applied to everything you do. It's commonly thought of as the spokes of a wheel, those hub consists of the Four Noble Truths. Turn the wheel.
The "rim" of the wheel, to continue the analogy, is the elimination of attachment and desire. This is where misunderstanding kicks in.
The problem, as Buddha saw it, was that people wanted power, above all else. Not power over others, but the power to hold onto people, things, and feelings, without which they could not be happy...and which they can never keep forever to ensure happiness.
Everything we have in this life, we're going to lose. We will lose our parents, our friends. We will come to the end of our career. We will lose our health, and eventually the body in which our soul resides.
Let it go. This doesn't mean, don't care. On the contrary, it means love what you love with all your heart, but with the knowledge that you'll be separated from all of it. Treasure it all the more, but recognize this:
Your blessings were given to you by God, and one day they will return to Him. As will you. They'll still exist in God, and with God, once they pass from your life.
You don't need to worry about them, and you don't need to grasp them tightly to your chest, because they're in good hands.
Let go, and let God.