The Pull to the Dharma
Many of my friends are not Buddhists. In fact, I think that it is safe to say that I only have two friends, Nathan and Jason, who are Buddhists.
On the other hand, many of my friends are Thelemites, Wiccans, or similar things and I find myself standing astride these worlds a lot. My background is varied and confused. My background easily marks me as a spiritual dilettante and it is probably not an unfair criticism to make. Like many Westerners, I have difficulty knuckling down and committing to a tradition and staying with it for a decade or two. One portion of that is that when everyone around you seems to be making it up as they go and there are no real guides, you fall back on yourself and subject desires in order to find your way. This behavior does not necessarily lead to the best results and your own neuroses are easily tied into your direction.
I’ve been a Wiccan though I only strongly identified as such for a couple of years between eighteen and twenty or twenty one. I’ve worked with Wiccans since then but my own practice had moved on a long time ago. I was Asatru for a similar period of time and then I wound up involved in Hermeticism. I still find myself at home there but I am not as drawn to it as a spiritual practice much of the time. It is not that it is alien or that it does not work for me, though there is a certain dryness to it as it is normally practiced and it is a lonely path, but that I keep being drawn to Buddhism.
I’ve been a Buddhist practitioner for four years in two weeks. I took refuge on June 30, 2002 at the Sakya Temple in Seattle. In three weeks, I take refuge again in the Jukai ceremony used within Japanese Buddhism. I’ll be flying out to Ohio to see my teacher there in order to do this.
I flirted with Buddhism in my early twenties and kept coming back to texts on it and such. It took me being exposed to intelligent and interesting Buddhists who practiced to finally pull me in but it was something always on the horizon. I am not a big proponent of seemingly ossified spiritual paths but Buddhism, as a whole, is a big tent and has a lot of room for individual beliefs (or no beliefs) and practice. Even individual traditions have a lot of room. In retrospect, the same could be said for Catholicism or much of Christianity but it is only apparent in retrospect. If I was more of a theist and had had an earlier connection, I could have easily wound up a convert to Judaism but for as much as I work with and accept a certain level of reality for deities, I’m not very theistic, especially in the monotheistic sense. The biggest thing that kept pushing me away from much of Hermeticism and all forms of Gnosticism that I encountered was that they were either monotheistic in implication in an implicit manner (though Thelemites and others do a dance around this while still practicing an emanationist, neoplatonic kabbalah) or were explicitly theistic.
When it comes right down to it, while I believe in a Mystery which is in life and I practice to attain a certain experiential knowledge that is not rational, I just don’t believe in a Western style theism. I can work with Powers or Archons but it becames complex or nonsensical in turn to discuss what they really are when people try to ask. I think that there are things that cannot be communicated in language but which can only be understood by other, more direct, means.
What this means for me is that the practices that I seem best attuned with, leaving aside questions of orthodoxy or fitting well within the strictures of a specific path, are Buddhist. I avail myself to a tradition that is thousands of years old and which survives in an unbroken tradition from mouth to ear. I believe more and more over time that the latter, along with a certain amount of conformity or at least structure conveyed by the former, is necessary for real spiritual realization unless one is a natural genius for this sort of thing (which I am not).