Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why I Left Zen Buddhism

by GU
Because I believe that you need a teacher if you are meditating, and because I had seen Thich Nhat Hanh once in San Diego and had felt his peace, I went to Deer Park. I had only visited Deer Park a few times before I noticed some monks that walking around that were dressed differently than those at Deer Park, and so I asked who they were because there was just something about them--a peacefulness. (Not that those at Deer Park didn't have this quality.) I was told that they were from a different monastery. I called this monastery, that I don’t wish to name, and then I went for an interview that very same week. After that I began going to their meetings. The first time I showed up a few female lay members came up and greeted me; showed me around and basically took care of my needs. They also gave me presents and food, which left me often overwhelmed. This kindness continued for the next 3 1/2 years that I was there. But most of all the peacefulness there was incredible. I learned to love them all, and while they didn't believe in God; it didn't matter. But just as in SGI, I found most of the Buddhist books to be boring, not the monastery’s but the books I had been reading by various popular authors, so nothing held my interest. Most of all I didn't understand what I was reading, but if I did, I was bored by it. I stayed because I loved all the people and because the abbots practiced equanimity and were filled with peacefulness. How much I needed to be around people with these qualities. I also loved and still love the teachings of loving kindness, mindfulness, and the precepts.

But I had had an experience of what I called "God" while meditating in SRF when using a mantra technique. My mind had expanded, and I was enveloped in Love. This Love was not conditional; It just Loved. It seemed like a much larger extension of what I had experienced when chanting along with the Siddha Yoga tape years prior. But it was not just a mild altered state of consciousness like it was back then; instead it was one in which my consciousness kept expanding in waves of Consciousness, going higher with each wave. I can explain it no other way. And then when it stopped expanding, I was enveloped in Love; no judgment; just Love. After all the years of not knowing whether there was a God or not, I felt I knew that there was a God, and that I was not "dead in God's eyes." I don’t know what to call this Love now. It is Consciousness; that I know. It certainly was not the Christian God. And yet I still do not believe that prayers are answered, except to say that this one was. Whether it came from within as the Buddhist's say, or from without as the Hindu's believe, or as Ramana would say, "You are That," I don't know. What matters is that it was healing to me.

After those few years at the monastery we moved from California to Oklahoma, where the people are basically Christian. I had decided before moving that that was okay to go because on the day that I left the Vedanta Society, I had awaken with the feeling of a numbness inside and knew in that moment I would never return to the Vedanta Society. (The day before I woke up feeling numb my own guru had shunned me. Perhaps he did this in an attempt to control me or maybe he wanted me to leave; I don't know. But basically he said that he did not wish to teach me, nor did he wish to hear any of my own problems and after making those two comments, he laughed and hung up. He was at least supposed to have taught me. Vedanta.) That numbness that I felt was actually felt towards all religion, and to this day it has never left, but it is not as strong. At first the numbness gave me a certain type of peacefulness that stayed with me for six months before fading. I had hoped that by being at that monastery my feelings would return; they didn't, but the people there gave me so much more in so many ways. But even so, I don't know if I could ever fully connect to Buddhism, nor could I accept all of the teachings--not that I would have to do so completely. And I am not saying that Buddhism isn't without problems, because I have investigated Buddhism in general; they have problems. Perhaps I want perfection, but it is not to be found, not even at that monastery. Still, to me they were perfect; it was a wonderful experience.

I have not joined any religion since leaving the Buddhist group, not until 4 years later. I miss them and would still be going there if we still lived there. My core beliefs now are to just love others and help them whenever you can. I also believe in enjoying life in a simple way: I enjoy my husband, my dog, our home, and I visit with my friends, garden, and do volunteer work in the small town in which we now live.

I also remembered reading Siddhartha while in college and always remembered how he went down many paths and at the end of his life he just sat down by the river. I sit by that same river, but for him it meant one thing; for me it just means resting and enjoying life, and realizing that there are no real answers out there, so basically, just being.

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