It was a beautiful Sunday morning and as usual, I arrived at the Buddhist centre to do some voluntary work. I was surprised to find an unfamiliar face waiting for me when I arrived. Sitting on a chair was a young man and I recognized him to be one of the many youths who attended a 2 days Dharma Camp a couple of years back. I was one of the teachers then.
He was that mischievous boy who constantly wore an expression of contempt or defiance. He was dragged to the camp by one of his friend. Thus, not one of my ‘regular’ faces. A couple of years had since passed and he had already graduated.
He told me that he had fallen in love with a Christian girl and she was the right one for him. However, she wanted him to convert. Otherwise marriage is impossible. He wanted my advice about leaving Buddhism.
Buddhism is not a gang and Buddha is not a mafia god. No one is going to suffer divine retribution for leaving Buddhism. If enlightenment is of no interest to you, then probably Buddhism is just a lifestyle practice. More importantly, can a Christian practice basic Buddhism?
You can choose not to harm any living beings, steal, tell lies, speak harshly, be unfaithful to your spouse, take drugs or abuse alcohol. All these are Buddhist precepts that anyone can practice. You can even do breathing meditation because Buddha doesn’t want you to think about Him during meditation. And if it suits you better, you can even use Amen or God as your focal point to train your concentration skill.
Once again, I assured him that there will be no bad luck or divine repercussion for not going to Buddhist temple or offering incense. Hearing that, he showed a sign of relief. I was very touched and humbled because I never expected that kid to take Buddhism seriously.
My only parting advice is for him to refrain from indulgence in wine or being unfaithful in marriage.
Having said the above, there is also something more.
If we are really keen to experience the enlightenment taught by Buddha; then we cannot embrace most of the beliefs in other religion.
For example, Buddhists are taught that there is no eternal soul or a permanent self.
We are taught to view everything as impermanent. Including the various heavens.
We are taught that there is no true happiness in any rebirth. Including births in heavens.
We believe that our karma causes various situations in life; not a higher being pulling puppet strings on us.
We believe that nirvana or enlightenment is the only goal worth pursuing.
All the above are critical for us if we wish to understand and experience nirvana as taught by Buddha. This is because such beliefs condition our mind to be conducive for attaining enlightenment. Thus, a Buddhist who is keen to experience nirvana cannot hold non-buddhist beliefs. That is what makes Shakyamuni Buddha special.
Before Buddha, there simply wasn’t a manual for enlightenment.
Can anyone simply walk away from Buddhism?
Of course you can. It is simply a choice of what you want in life.
May all be well and happy.