When people find out practice Buddhism the first thing I hear is “I tried learning about it, but I just could not understand what I was reading.” Some ask me questions concerning our philosophy and ritual practices while others think all we believe is that when we die we come back as lower life forms. It is hard to get these people to understand we don’t come back as insects or small animals.
In the past I have struggled with an easy answer to those who truly want to know in just a few sentences what Buddhism is about but today as I read the book Einstein and Buddha, the parallel sayings, I think I found an easy answer using what is going in our country as a metaphor. First I have two quotes, one from a physicist one from the Buddha, guess who said what.
Every man’s world picture is and always remains a construct of his mind and cannot be proved to have any other existence.
The object world rise from the mind itself.
Collectively we have constructed an American life that reflects what our world picture is. We rely on our cars to get us from jobs that are miles away from our homes. Our homes are filled with things that reflect our view of ourselves. Often our view demands we buy things on credit because we cannot afford to pay cash. Now we are paying a heavy price for our views.
Buddhism teaches us that things are not who we are. Our needs for things come from our minds. If we change our view our needs will change. The person whose world view included a big suburban house, big SUV and expensive things, may be experiencing a shattering reality as the economy collapse. The person, whose world view included little material goods, may have a better reality than his or her neighbor.
Buddhism teaches non attachment as that what we are attached to are not permanent. Cars break down, TV’s go out, fad styles come and go. What is important is that our world view always includes the knowledge that reality is what we make it. No matter what happens I life, we need only to cling to our knowledge that whatever reality we are facing at the moment it is of our own making.
By the way, the first quote is from Erwin Schrodinger and German physicist, the second is from the Buddha. If you are interested in learning about Buddhism a good first book is The Buddha by Karen Armstrong. http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,0_9780143034360,00.html