What is Buddhism?
In Australia, Buddhism can be found in a cup of coffee. So waste no time and start your journey to awakening at Buddha Espresso, a cafe in Perth. If you haven’t reached enlightenment by the end of the cup, accept this with equanimity. And try a double shot of macchiato next time.
If even after a double macchiato you haven’t found Buddhism, or the Buddha, at the bottom of your cup among the general coffee silt, then the next step is to try eating Buddhism. Over at the Zen Kitchen in Ottawa, Canada, they offer gourmet meals created with healthy, environmentally friendly foods prepared in a “flavourful, healthful, manner.” A gastronomic version of Zen.
If you’d prefer to skip Canada altogether and go straight to enlightenment, I urge you to head over to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where a restaurant called simply Zen has as their mantra, “When you eat from our range of delicious Japanese meals at Zen, we want you to reach enlightenment.” So, enlightenment can be attained through indulgence? Meditate on that one for a while.
If imbibing Buddha espresso and indulging in Zen food hasn’t brought you to Buddhist enlightenment, I’m very sorry. That was a lot of plane tickets. I suppose it can’t be expected to work for everyone. Or maybe you’re more of the type who prefers bald guys in ocher robes who look like the Dalai Lama.
This kind of Buddhism can be attained through practice: retreats, teachers, one-year courses — with certificates — in mindfulness, and subscriptions to Mindful magazine. You can attend the Buddhist Geeks conference, “where dharma and technology meet” in Boulder, Colorado or join a plethora of Buddhist groups including Women in Meditation. Searching for someone special to share your life and your dharma? Dharma Match could be for you. And don’t forget to enroll your partner in some training in Mindful and Compassionate end-of-life care. You’ll be glad you did.
Oh, and did you know that, for just a dollar a day, you can sponsor a Buddhist nun? Contact the Tibetan Nuns Project.
Would you sooner stay at home to find enlightenment rather than seeking a path of clarity and focus with life-changing experiences amid the possibility of foul weather? Perhaps you have experienced some mind whispering that every year millions of people find their Buddha Nature at home. Or maybe you yourself are one of the lucky ones who find yourself newly awakened without having used an alarm clock.
Yes, you can meditate at home, practice compassion at home, and read books about Buddhism at home. You can even play Buddhist-inspired music at home to love your children by. Everything else can be done online.
Participate in Skype Therapy at the Center for Mindful Change: “Connect via the Internet for therapy from the comfort of your own home.” (Be sure to read the small print: Some people may feel a slight increase in stress due to Skype dropping out of Buddhism every few minutes or so). Furthermore, online you can contact your roshi via email and dabble in a bit of Buddhist astrology when you’re not “liking” your roshi’s posts on Facebook.
Which brings us to one of the major Buddhist koans: Is mindfulness the opposite of mind-boggling?
Don’t forget that you can also find Buddhism and possibly attain enlightenment through reading books about Buddhism and attaining enlightenment. There is “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” “Zen and the Art of Making a Sale,” and now, “The Dude and the Zen Master.”
There are books on Buddhism’s connection to sports: “Snowboarding to Nirvana” by Frederick Lenz (who, incidentally, died from a drug overdose), and “Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea” by Jaimal Yogis. Even I wrote a book on running and Buddhism, “Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage: 900 Miles to Enlightenment,” except that while most sports books focus on their connection to Zen, I chose Shingon. What’s Shingon? Indeed, what is Buddhism?
If all this has brought you into some deep meditations about the meaning of life, and you find yourself asking “How would Buddha have occupied Wall Street?” then congratulations, you’re getting closer to being a Buddhist!
If, however, you feel no closer to Buddhism than when you started reading this article, I’m very sorry. Under no circumstances should you feel dumb. I suspect you just need a little bit of attachment to some small material things. Don’t worry, many of us find ourselves wanting a little more religious iconography than that guy on the cross.
So how about some Buddhist home furnishings? The latest treasure vases and stupas? Online stores can help you set up sacred spaces in your home. Start with something simple, such as a mediation cushion that matches the décor in your home. From there, you can move on to buying more pricey prayer wheels and gongs on eBay. If you’d like something authentic, many online stores these days sell “temple quality” sacred artifacts. Prayer beads come in rosewood, sandalwood, Bodhi Seed and Rudraksha seeds. Go ahead — buy the most expensive one — treat yourself! Who said the path to enlightenment was cheap? If it were, everyone else would already be there.
You can even buy a rare tree resin that has been used since ancient times to calm the mind and cultivate a state of deep inner peace. Accompanied by incense, bells and a special bench for more ergonomic meditation postures, I bet you’ll reach enlightenment way before any of your friends.
“What is Buddhism?” This is Buddhism as told you by those who think they know what Buddhism is. But the truth is that everyone must follow their own unique path to Buddhism and enlightenment. Some involve espresso, others don’t. You must forge your own way. Only when you find it yourself will you understand that the answer to most of life’s questions is, “The cypress tree in front of the hall.”
Follow Amy Chavez on Twitter @JapanLite.