From Survivor to Buddhist

A transformation of life, identity, and reason for being


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glaring….

In two weeks I will have taken my refuge vow.   Which makes me a Buddhist.

Now, since a short time after I started studying Buddhism, I considered myself to be Buddhist.  Having been raised a Christian is of no consequence here.  I have questioned, for years, the beliefs I grew up being told I had to believe.   To this day I believe Jesus to be a great teacher.  For years, I have not believed him to be a savior, or what I hear about not being saved after death if I do not embrace him as the savior.

I won’t go into detail about that, but the question is always there.  Do Jews go to hell?   How about Muslims?   How about Native Americans?  How about Hindis, or Buddhists, or those who are members of some indigenous tribe in Africa?   I could go on.  To me, it is laughable to say that if you do not embrace Jesus as the savior, you will not be saved after you die.

Back to where I am today.

According to my Lama, one does not have to take the refuge vow to be Buddhist.  But, the distinction is that the refuge vow signifies a serious commitment to living according to the Dharma.   To embracing Buddha as an example of living the noble eightfold path.  To doing all I can to help those in need.  And to being a part of a sangha.

To me, I can no longer consider myself Buddhist without taking the refuge vow.

However…..

I have such glaring afflictions.  Maybe it is good that I am aware of them.  I can work on them.  However….

I feel so…crappy, for lack of a better word….to describe how I feel when my afflictions take over.  I try so hard to be mindful.   My anger, my ego, my ability to be so negatively judgmental.   When I fail to be mindful, I feel the remorse afterward that I shouldn’t have to feel if I could just be mindful to begin with.

I know that no one is perfect. And I know that it takes many lifetimes to reach enlightenment.  Since I have been healing, I have had to come to realize that I am not perfect, and to give myself a break.  I must remember that.   At the same time, I must be more mindful, and train my mind to work to rid myself of my afflictions. I do want to be a good Buddhist.   Funny, one of the first books my Lama gave me to read is all about training the mind.

Ha!

But this all feels like a war inside of myself.  How is it that I can be a good Buddhist with such glaring, flared up afflictions?  What can I say, I am a work in progress.   But at least I am mindful of the work I need to do.  Maybe that is what is different about this life time, as opposed to my past lives.

As I have said before, Buddhism is a beautiful faith.  I so look forward to taking refuge, and to learning all I can, while I, at the same time, work to rid myself of my afflictions.

Namaste

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Wow.  As I was looking to change something on my blog, I ran across this, that has been a draft for over 3 years.

I usually never go this far back, because what happened then is not what is happening now.  But, it is interesting to see how far I have come, and also to remember where I’ve been.  Remembering is important, in many ways.

 

 

“The basis of shame is not some personal mistake of ours, but the ignominy, the humiliation we feel that we must be what we are without any choice in the matter, and that this humiliation is seen by everyone.”
— Milan Kundera

I struggle with shame.  I find it affects every part of my life.

And that includes my healing, and my journey on my path,

and my study of Buddhism.


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essence…

Essence.  The essence of Buddhism.  The essence of Buddhist teaching.

I have been thinking about that lately.  Today, at the shrine, we watched a talk as part of our video learning.

The 17th Karmapa gave a talk at Harvard, called, “Caring for life in the 21st century.”  It was a fascinating talk.  The 17th Karmapa is very personable.  His passion for compassion was remarkable.  He spoke of interdependence, compassion.  As a child, witnessing for the first time what the animals being slaughtered for food went through as they were killed.

That I should meet the man some day would be a wonderful thing.

But one thing he said, that I have been thinking about, was his definition of the essence of Buddhist teaching.  He said that the essence of Buddhist teaching is that everything is interdependent.

Which led me to what I have been thinking the past couple of weeks.

The essence of Buddhism.

I strive to, and am working toward, becoming a Buddhist nun.  Since I spoke my intention to Lama, and have been attending Shrine on a regular devoted basis, I have learned something.

I think that most people approach Buddhism because it is touted as a way to find inner peace for yourself.  Which is so, so true.  They feel that through meditation and learning to be good, decent people, they can feel fulfilled, be at peace, and be genuinely happy.

Which is so, so true.

But I have discovered that it is really so much more than that.

To me, the essence of Buddhism is in all of my energy, my devotion, all of my living the life I do, all of the chanting, the prayers, the meditation, all of that being done and given for the welfare of others, in order that their suffering might end and that they might be happy and loved.

And to me, that is beautiful.

And the clincher is that, every time I do those things, and every time I dedicate the merit to all sentient beings….THAT is where I find my inner peace.  That is where I feel fulfilled, and at peace and genuinely happy.

And THAT is beautiful.

It is amazing how it works.  It is amazing that I have learned what I believe the true essence of Buddhism to be.  Amazing, and beautiful.  How can I ever repay that gift?

Namaste


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today…

I don’t think I blogged last night.  I have been extremely tired, and I knew I had to be up early this morning.

I had no problem getting up, for I was very happy and excited to be going to temple.

I find that practicing as a group is so different than I thought it would be.  In a much better way.  I also find that chanting has changed something inside of me.  In a wonderful way.

I met with Lama after Sadhana.  He gave me instruction in meditation, and a routine of morning chanting and meditation for me to do every morning.   I so look forward to starting that tomorrow morning.

I find the chanting and prayers for the welfare of all others to be so fulfilling.  I feel I am very much where I need to be, and I definitely know that what I felt to be a calling turned out to be a true feeling.  A true calling.  I believe that becoming a Buddhist nun is where I am supposed to be.

I really do look forward to all of the learning I will do.  For as many years as it takes to become a nun, I imagine I will learn so much.  Both about Dharma, and about my self.

Lama gave teaching on The Way of the Bodhisattva, by Shantideva.  It was very interesting.  The book is good sized, and could be seen as overwhelming.  Lama was so wonderful in his explanations about the book, and he broke it down into the different sections and what they dealt with, and then with each chapter.  I don’t think I ever realized just how important a piece of writing it is to Buddhism.  It seems I can learn much from reading and studying it.

I look forward to doing so.

After my meeting with Lama, he took my hands in his, and told me I was doing well.  I am pleased.  I don’t know if it is right for me to appreciate his opinion of me?  I know that praise is one thing that could feed my ego if I am not mindful to keep it in perspective.

I met another practitioner who actually lives in my town.  Right now she is out of the area, but eventually will be back home.  I am almost an hour and a half away from temple, and once she comes back into the area, we will look to each other to ride share when we can.   She is very nice.  All are very nice.

Bonus to my day….when I arrived home, I got to cuddle with my 5 year old grandson for a while.  A very nice ending to the day.

Namaste


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the reason…

I don’t think I’ve ever shared here, the reason why I decided to follow the Buddhist path.

I have a history of depression.  Suicidal depression.  I am also a survivor of trauma.  Child sexual assault, attempted rape, the trauma of bullying (yes, that is traumatic), and military sexual trauma (MST), in other words, rape, and stalking by the man who raped me.   He was a superior of mine in the US Navy.

But my depression started for me as a young teen.  In my later teen years, I attempted suicide, and spent time in a locked mental health ward.

In January of 2014, I found myself once again in a locked mental health ward.  Suicidal depression.  It was at my local VA hospital.  The staff and my docs there were, and continue to be, wonderful, amazing, very caring and thoughtful.

Now, when you spend time on a locked mental health ward, with no smart phone, no tools of creativity, none of what you would normally occupy your day with, there leaves a whole lot of time for thinking.  So, that’s exactly what I did.  A whole lot of thinking.

I thought about where my life had been to bring me to where I was.  I thought about all the junk in my house.  I thought about work.  I thought about my dog.  I thought about my failing marriage.  I thought about my daughter, and my new grandson.  I thought about all the crap I’d bought over the years.  Including a mala.

A mala is a set of beads, 108 in a full mala.  They are used in more than one religion, Buddhism being one of them.  People have called them Buddhist rosaries, but that is not what they are.  More on malas at some other point.

I had bought a mala off the internet.  I got thinking about that mala, and if I could use it upon my discharge from the hospital.  I knew I needed to do something different than what I was doing to work through my trauma and alleviate my depression.

So, I determined that when I arrived home, I would search for that mala and see if I could use it for my own good.

After I found the mala, I decided to research it some on the internet.  I love looking up information, and learning something new.  What I found was that a mala is used by Buddhists, among those of other religions.  So…..I decided to research Buddhism.

Now, growing up Episcopalian, I had had no contact with any information about Buddhism.  The only thing really highlighted in my life up to 2014 was a book my daughter had bought about Buddhism.  At the time that she bought it, I briefly flipped through it and left it at that.

However, things were different upon my discharge.  And the reason I chose the Buddhist path is this:

I read that a wordly, rich prince, whose father tried to shield him from all the bad in the world, stepped outside his palace walls.  That he saw suffering.  That he could not rest after seeing it.  He could not just step back behind the safety, comfort, and luxury behind those walls.

I read that that prince searched and sat until he reached enlightenment and an answer on how to end suffering in the world.

I read that The Buddha created the Four Noble Truths.

Everyone suffers.  It is in our human nature.

Suffering has a cause.  There is a reason for our human suffering.

Once we find the cause of our suffering, we can work to end our suffering (in a positive way).

Following the Noble Eightfold Path will guide us toward ending our suffering.  It will also aide the end of suffering of all sentient beings.

Note:  I am paraphrasing the Four Noble Truths some.  But what I have written is the gist of those truths.

I think I read the Four Noble Truths over twice.  And then…

This light went off inside of me.  It was like a veil of darkness fell away from my eyes and my heart.  Hope filled me.  For the first time in my life since the first depression I suffered as a young teen.  And I knew.  I just knew.  Buddhism was my path.

Today, suicide and self injury are off the table for me.  They are not options, which is huge,  because I always held that, if things got as bad as I imagined they were.  And the feeling that nothing would ever get better that permeated my soul for most of my life.

I could go on, but for me, that is, in a nutshell, the reason.  It’s also the reason I am on fire to devote my life to helping other humans as a Buddhist nun.  Sending compassion out to the Universe is what I feel is my need to repay for the gift The Buddha has given me.

Namaste


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changing me….

Today I took in a stray cat/kitten.  I don’t think this beautiful creature is even a year old.

He seems to have settled a little.  Ate quite a bit, slept quite a bit.  I do think he will need a few days to get into the routine of being an indoor cat.  And I don’t know if he’s been fixed.  The urge to roam may be with him for awhile.

One of the first readings my Lama sent me was on the ransom and release of animals.

I think I’ve taken that to heart.

I’ve also become vegetarian again.  Come to think of it, I don’t know why I ever stopped being vegetarian.  This time, however, fish is off the menu.

As are eggs.

I believe this journey will change me in many ways.

It has already started.

Namaste