Sunday, November 30, 2014

Buddhism, My Fierce Passion, by Eric

Shang Rinpoche
Eric Canzano, USA

Michael Jordan was one of my childhood heroes. In the days when I envisioned myself, like every other boy on the block, as the next basketball superstar, I would stare up at towering #23 in the same cardboard cut-out pose every morning when I woke up. I still remember descriptions of Jordan’s early days, when he would go out to the court and make 1000s of shots over and over like a machine, practicing into the night until his mother would drag him home. The title of Jordan’s little black book still sticks with me – I Can’t Accept Not Trying.
Buddhism gets cast as a haven from the desires and passions, as a way to find inner peace and calm through long sessions of quiet sitting meditation, smiles and gentle words of Asian masters and theories about letting things go. You can almost tangibly feel the longing to be that glossy, photoshopped silhouette sitting cross-legged as they stare into a valley on the bottom of the magazine cover. You try it out and keep at it, but are puzzled when the mental tranquility starts to slip away. You wonder why you still get so upset when your partner teases you; why your chest still closes up as you race to complete yet another impossible deadline; why sitting alone in your room feels empty and uncomfortable; why the tears will not stop when your grandfather dies.
The kind of Buddhism I thought I wanted was no more than a high, a buzz that drowned out the mental noise and the struggle of existence. As soon as reality hit, I was flat on the floor, again.
In the stories of the achievers – whether they are Buddhist practitioners, presidents or Michael Jordan – not one of them makes it without constant struggle. Is it possible that anyone could walk the spiritual path without facing these same struggles that make them uncomfortable, prideful, confused, doubtful and attached? When those difficult situations march over and make quick work of us, where does the drive come to get back up and throw ourselves in the ring again?
Shang Rinpoche often asks his students, “Do you want it?” I ask myself often if I really want to study Buddhism. Does it burn within me as much as Jordan, who endured endless years of repetitive practice, criticism and discouragement from his friends and family, and countless failures? As much as Rinpoche himself, who sacrifices health, sleep and all the comforts of this world to dedicate himself to teaching his students?
If I want to feel light and free, there is no need for Buddhism; I could take a flight to Fiji and float on the waves. But inevitably we must all come back to face the battles of life. Buddhism simply gives us the tools to gain calm in the calamity. I ask Rinpoche for the guidance to keep fighting with a fierce, unwavering passion for the enlightened mind and the happiness of others.

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