A couple of weeks ago I made it official and took the Refuge Vows, becoming Buddhist. “Becoming” is a strange word since I’m still me; I think the purpose of making a declaration in a ceremony is more of a personal affirmation. Of course, there are plenty of vows that are legally binding, although what is “legal” is more about popularity than right or wrong.
In any event, I’m glad I did it because it’s motivated me to step-up my practice, which includes meditation and trying to really follow The Eightfold Path. As a life-long sufferer of depression I find solace in trying to quiet my thoughts; as an unemployed commercial artist I do take comfort in recognizing that all compounded things are impermanent, and that craving for a sense of self as defined by the world — and how it’s perceived by the senses — is the cause of suffering. I see this to hold true when I feel envy or when no amount of money is ever enough.
Let me point out that I’m not going to try to pretend I’m a Buddhist scholar, or start talking about stuff like I’m part of some cult I think you should join. I’m just some guy looking to see through all the worldly bullshit we’re conditioned to crave.
I am, though, a big geek, and I see how living a digital life (as I have, mostly, for a long time) has not had the promised effect of real unification or making my life any easier. If anything, I find that being inundated with information from (mostly) faceless sources on a computer screen (surprise!) a bit alienating. Keep in mind that I did have high hopes for the whole online social scene, being that I live 10,000 miles from family and friends. Now, though, I see how “interacting” online really serves no purpose, really hasn’t brought me any closer to anyone. I deactivated my Facebook account recently and, although I may reactivate it one day if I can think of a purpose, I don’t miss anyone I can’t see face-to-face, in person.
Being unemployed and depressed, and checking people’s updates (which, for the most part, turned out to reveal one tiny side of their surprisingly chaotic lives), was not helping me try to detach from comparing, from craving what I think I don’t have but will “make me happy” if I did have it. These days, when I start to slide into a sense of failure and despair, I think:
I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the dharma.
I take refuge in the sangha.