Though I was raised to be a Christian, my understanding of God/Nature/Universe and how to live my life does not come from the Bible. When I reached the point in my life where I recognized I had no control over anything or anyone but myself, I came to understand that the God of my understanding was in everyone and everything.
In college I began to explore other religions, I learned how to meditate and I found my path. Once I freed my mind from grasping and following every transient thought in meditation I awakened.
The universal laws of nature are impersonal
The universal laws of nature are impersonal. Reactions are outcomes flowing from natural law (karma) ie. the result of past actions and present doings and not punishments or rewards doled out by a supernatural being.
Karma is simply the universal law of cause and effect that says every thought, word and act carries energy into the world and affects our present reality. The word karma means action, specifically, it means “to do”. It is dynamic. But it is more than simply action because it is not mechanical action that the term can be properly applied to. It cannot be correctly applied to unconscious or involuntary action. Karma is intentional, conscious, deliberate, ie. willful action. Consequently, the usefulness of the concept of karma is rooted in the intention or motive underlying the action.
Our lives are not pre-programmed
Our lives are not pre-programmed. They are not in the hands of a deity. There are no preset rules of action that determines the course of your life or mine. The concept of a supreme Creator God is rejected or at least considered irrelevant to Buddhism. Buddha, “the Awakened One,” is revered above all–not as “God” but as supreme sage, model of a fully enlightened person who extinguished ego.
Believe nothing on the faith of traditions,
even though they have been held in honor
for many generations and in diverse places.
Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it.
Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past.
Do not believe what you yourself have imagined, persuading yourself that a God inspires you.
Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests. After examination, believe what you yourself have tested and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto. — Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama )
Suffering is the result of ignorance
The fundamental philosophical principle of Buddhism is that all our suffering comes about as a result of an undisciplined mind, and this untamed mind itself comes about because of ignorance and negative emotions. It’s our attachments and aversions to specific outcomes in circumstances and in relationships that are the root of our unhappiness.
Unenlightened life is suffering. Suffering is a result of attachment to wrong thinking that results in greed, hatred, and ignorance, which return as suffering (karma), while compassion toward others who suffer reduces the effects of karma. Cessation of this suffering through meditation and mind training is the primary goal of Buddhism– to reach Nirvana (a state of wherein the craving desire within is extinguished), to end cycles of rebirth through enlightenment.
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” — Buddha
I learned that I am responsible for where I am in life at this moment – what I think about myself and others, how I feel and whom I choose to share my life with. My thoughts create my feelings – My feelings trigger my emotions – My emotions give rise to my speech and behavior, and my behavior produces the results I have my my life.
Finding my path was really that simple — taking responsibility for my thoughts, words and actions. I continued to meditate, I re-examined all my core values, replaced those that were no longer useful with those that I knew to be true, and I began mind training.
In Buddhism, the idea of self or soul is merely an illusion. Man wrongly identifies perception, consciousness, mind and body with what he calls self. In reality, there is no abiding entity that could be identified with a self, because the states of perception, consciousness, and mind and body constantly change.
The body is mortal and when it dies, all mental activities cease. That is why there is no soul. The idea of soul is simply an extension of the self; in fact it is an immortal version of the self that supposedly survives physical death. Buddhism denies the existence of such an entity. Instead, what we call self is just a stream of consciousness that draws identity from concepts and memories, all of which are impermanent. — The Big View
The purpose of the Noble Eightfold Path is becoming a better person. Karma is what the Buddha taught. You control your Karma, you lead a bad life, you can change it. You are not stuck in some sort of cycle where you have to keep repeating your actions over and over. The reason to comprehend and care about karma is your ability to change your karma.
It took years for my Christian friends to accept the fact I rejected the faith they embraced. Some still think I’m angry at a god that I do not believe exists. I was fully aware that the choice I made between my ears could evoke either suffering or freedom from it and I made the latter choice.
“There is really no right or wrong action, only skillful acts and unskillful ones,” said Buddha.
Skillful means for conscious living
We always have a choice of undertaking skillful or unskillful actions. In all our actions, it is the underlying reason, the intention or motivation within that determines whether they are positive or negative. Unskillful acts cause harm. Hence, it is important to be mindful of what we really intend so that we don’t deceive others, and we don’t deceive ourselves. If our true intention is to live a sensible, wholesome life, when we have a choice to make a change in direction and continue on a different path, we make the skillful choice with good intention focused on causing not harm.
We all have choices when we experience the negative emotions our attachments and aversion give rise to. Consider a brief list of skillful means for re-training one’s thought sequences and dealing with negative emotions in a healthy way:
humility — the antidote to pride
generosity — the antidote to greed
sympathetic joy — the antidote to envy
clear seeing — the antidote to anxiety
Once I took responsibility for my life I made some changes. I aimed to live consciously and simply in the present moment – the now moment. I committed to continuing my mind training (meditation practice), extinguishing my ego and dying in peace. I am learning that the more I love and understand myself, the healthier my relationships become. I do not claim that I have arrived. I claim only that I found my path.