My friend Mark over at Marko Polo invited me to participate in his survey of Buddhist blogs. As I answered his questions, I realized that he'd given me the opportunity to take a quick snapshot of The Buddha Diaries and what it's all about. Here are Mark's questions, and my answers.
Buddhist Blog Questionnaire
1. How did you get acquainted with the teachings of the Buddha?
I grew up as the son of an Anglican (Church of England) minister, and my entire education was in Christian private schools. I was thoroughly indoctrinated in my youth, and abandoned all interest in the church—and in Christianity—by the time I was eighteen. I had no interest in religion of any kind until I was about fifty years old. At the time, my daughter was in the grip of a terrible disease (she has since recovered, thank you!) and I needed some more substantial anchor in my life. A friend recommended Soka Gakkai Buddhism—the branch that is based in chanting—and I was attracted to it because I was convinced that I could never simply sit in silent meditation, and chanting gave me something to “do”. A couple of years later, at an Esalen Institute workshop, I was turned on to Ram Dass, and soon discovered Pema Chrodron, whose book “When Things Fall Apart” spoke loudly to my situation. It was at this time that I first embarked on silent meditation, and soon joined a weekly sitting group to support my early practice.
2. What, if any, religion or philosophy do you associate yourself with currently? Could you describe your faith a bit?
I “associate myself” with Buddhism—but without calling myself a Buddhist. It’s more of a practice than a faith, because it doesn’t require me to believe in anything that I can’t actually put to the test through experience. My skeptical mind shies away from faith. I’m with Missouri: Show Me!
3. Which of the Buddhist teachings do you find most valuable in your everyday life? Why?
Breath meditation. Because it helps me train and stabilize the mind, and find some inner peace. Also the Eightfold Path (see Accesstoinsight.org.) It’s a practical guide on how to lead my life with integrity.
4. Describe your blog. What is your approach to writing? Who is your intended audience? What issues does your blog tend to focus on, be they Buddhist or otherwise?
The Buddha Diaries is a meditation on the events of my life seen through the lens of the Buddhist meditation practice. It covers everything from George the dog to George W. Bush, from books I read and movies that I see to travels and family. It’s a way of examining my life—and the life of the mind—as I continue on my journey through life, and its intended audience is anyone who shares my passion to lead an “examined life.” I’m not trying to convert anyone to Buddhist thought or practice, nor to preach the Buddhist gospel (if there were one.)
My writing, like my meditation, is a practice. I do it virtually every day as a means of remaining conscious and taking stock of where I am. The great adage that I learned years ago and have always followed is an old one: How do I know what I think ‘til I see what I say? Writing is an adventure of the mind, a means of self-discovery, a continuing journey. The fact that, through The Buddha Diaries, I have found many who want to share it with me is a source of endless pleasure and satisfaction.