Recently I stumbled upon a post by UU blogger Peacebang
titled Humanists, or "Vague Buddhists?"
In this post, she proposes that "Unitarian Universalists are actually embracing ... a 'vague Buddhism' as their most common theological identity" because
Buddhism, though non-theistic in the strict sense, is concerned with spirituality and the inner life, which are subjects of tremendous interest to today's UUs, especially recent come-outers. UUs, who may shun the concept of prayer as uncomfortably theistic and supernatural, have no compunction whatsoever at being invited to "meditate" during their worship services.I don't have statistics to back this up, but I am guessing that our clergy include readings or sayings of Buddha and Buddhists at least as frequently (if not more so) than they include Bible readings or other offerings from religious traditions.When they look for spiritual guides and devotionals to study and reflect on at home, I am again guessing that Unitarian Universalists choose Buddhists such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh at least as often as they choose Christian or Jewish sources, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rumi, or Mary Oliver. Why? Because they are looking for spiritual teachers and teachings, not just spiritual suggestions, and they find inspiration, healing and direction from popular Buddhist authors.
Many people commented
on her post, and she wrote a second part
addressing some of the comments. I don't profess to know a lot about either UUism or Buddhism, but I've been thinking about both "faiths," separately and together, a lot myself lately.
For starters, I've had a hard time identifying as a UU for over a year now. I just don't know what it means to "be" a UU. I don't know what it's about, if it's about anything. At worst, it is a religion about nothing
; at best, a loose collection of spiritual seekers unified by a rejection of "traditional religion." Ironically, that's what brought me to UU -- finding a place for spiritual community without hearing the word "God" all the time -- but now it's the lack of any central theme that gives me pause.
In the last year I've become more interested in Buddhism, in a practical sort of way. I started meditating
while I was in Iraq, and over the last year I have completed the Heart of Warriorship
series at the DC Shambhala Meditation Center. Shambhala training is a sort of "secular Buddhism," introducing participants to shamatha and vipassana meditation and some Buddhist concepts. It is all about practice, about discovering what it means to be human, about overcoming fear, stepping out of the cocoon, and letting the world into an awakened heart. It's really helped me live with presence and intention.
As I've learned more about Buddhism (and realized how much more there is to know), I've developed a growing longing to "become a Buddhist." Ironically, I think it's an egoic desire to "be" something -- to have a religious identity, because I don't identify as a UU -- that produces this longing. This paradoxical desire to identify with a tradition that labels desire as the root of suffering gives me pause.
I also am challenged by the concept of rebirth. I just can't believe that a modern Buddhist teacher is "discovered" to be the 18th reincarnation of some great lama or another. I don't accept this idea any more than I do the divinity of Jesus. I just don't know enough about Buddhism to say whether this belief is common to all branches, or just to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition on which the Shambhala trainings are based.
So that's where I sit for now (pun intended) -- practicing life, being aware of my environment and my state of mind, and not committing to any belief system. I don't claim a religious identity as either a UU or a Buddhist, but my journey for now consists of Buddhist practice in the framework of UU community.
So call me a Buddhitarian.