Buddhism is more a philosophy, a way of life, than religion for me. Buddhism goes beyond the religion practiced by the 300 million Buddhists around the world.
Let me share three Buddhist concepts that impact my daily lifestyle:
“You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice”
– Universal paradox
Karma is the law of cause and effect. They are actions one brings upon oneself either good or bad. I keep in mind that karma has no deadline. This belief in karma changes my behavior. Now, when faced with a decision on how to act, I think through the consequences of my actions beforehand.
The notion of karma helps me to slow down my frenetic quick decision making. Today, I make better decisions because I am more thoughtful about my choices and my evaluation process is more thorough.
Life in New York was lived in the fast lane with quick decisions and rapid-fire actions. In Bangkok, I now take life at a gentler pace and appreciate each moment life has to offer.
2. Mindfulness and Meditation
Disciplined mindful meditation, is a present-centered focused awareness that is nonjudgmental and unattached. Mindfulness and meditation have helped me to reduce emotional pain, decrease anxiety, and lessen cravings.
After several years of practice and multiple meditation retreats, I finally found a technique that helps me to meditate regularly. I use a meditation mobile app on my phone which not only helps me in guided meditations but in tracking my progress over time. I can chart out my minutes meditated per day, week, or month. I gain inspiration from the guided meditations and meditation communities online.
In the morning my goal is to engage in a 20-minute meditation to begin my day. Morning meditation centers me and pulls me into the present moment rather than let my mind wander into dreams of future plans. Before I sleep, I meditate to empty my mind of the clutter from the day’s activities. The period of time while I sleep in between meditations is the most serene time of my day.
3. The Cause of Suffering
The Four Noble Truths provides an easy understanding of the cause of suffering. The Four Noble Truths also offer an explanation of how happiness can be attained.
Four Nobel Truths
1. All existence is dukkha. The word dukkha has been variously translated as ‘suffering’, ‘anguish’, ‘pain’, or ‘unsatisfactoriness’. The Buddha’s insight was that our lives are a struggle, and we do not find ultimate happiness or satisfaction in anything we experience. This is the problem of existence.
2. The cause of dukkha is craving. The natural human tendency is to blame our difficulties on things outside ourselves. But the Buddha says that their actual root is to be found in the mind itself. In particular, our tendency to grasp at things places us fundamentally at odds with the way life really is.
3. The cessation of dukkha comes with the cessation of craving. As we are the ultimate cause of our difficulties, we are also the solution. We cannot change the things that happen to us, but we can change our responses.
4. There is a path that leads from dukkha. Although the Buddha throws responsibility back onto the individual he also taught methods through which we can change ourselves, for example, the Noble Eightfold Path.
From the Four Noble Truths, I have learned that the cause of suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. I learned that these cravings can be ceased by no longer having attachments.
To that end, I have become less materialistic and less driven to achieve recognition and accomplishments. These external things are impermanent and cannot sustain my happiness. Happiness must come from within. It is about connecting with my inner self and being comfortable with just me.
Freedom from the rat race and freedom from always wanting more has given me a more balanced lifestyle that focuses on happiness today. I am able to dedicate time and energy to aspects of my life that were neglected before – self-acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude, for example. I now know the difference between temporary pleasure and lasting fulfillment.
So much more could be said on Buddhism but those three concepts (karma, mindfulness, and freedom of suffering) ground me in a healthy, peaceful, centered life.
Are there Buddhist concepts you relate to or practice in your daily life? Be sure to reach out and connect with me by following my blog New York Brat + Bangkok Buddhist.