We never really consistently attended a religious establishment when I was younger. We would try, sometimes. Because we have moved several times in my life, we didn’t have our good ol’ family church that generations have gone to or any of that. We attended a synagogue at one point, and we’ve tried several different churches (I was raised half Christian and half Jewish–there’s some ambiguity as to what denomination of Christianity, but I think my favorite and what we settled on is Quakerism).
So when I was younger I thought a bit about religion and decided that Buddhism was a great religion because it taught peace and kindness–things I kind of lacked. I found myself eager to get into arguments (but because of my lack of friends I didn’t really have much opportunity to), and I wanted to be happy and find Enlightenment, because it was a lovely concept to me and also lots of other good, nice reasons.
We went to the Peabody Museum (which I still pronounce “muse-am”, not mewseeum) in New Haven, CT to see a Mandala exhibit there. I was really enthusiastic to go because I had never actually met Buddhist monks before and though I was really shy I was hoping I could talk to them about converting (I didn’t know anything about what Buddhism entails, what the beliefs are, or anything like that, I just wanted to be happy and nice to people).
The Mandalas were really beautiful and they had even made a pretty nice little velociraptor out of sand (if you didn’t know, Mandalas are made of colored sand grains). I, of course, was too shy to speak with the monks and didn’t get around to getting converted. I did see them two months later in the Apple store at a mall though.
After the exhibit was over, they picked up the Mandalas and started a procession from the museum down to a little cement bridge over a bit of water, at which the monks flung the sand into the water.
I started to cry.
It was probably because, being an American child, I didn’t understand detachment due to having been taught materialism from infancy.
I think after a few existential crises (right now they’re occurring almost daily), I’ve gotten better at understanding detachment, but I don’t know if I could be a Buddhist. I’m still pretty ignorant about their beliefs and their holidays and such, but you can be sure I’ll do a very extensive research session taking up hours on the internet, staring at the screen of an Apple computer and thinking about life some more. (As if I don’t do enough of those things already.)