Buddhist Thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions

As I’m getting around to reading some other Buddhist blogs, every day I learn something new and have to reflect on how I’m pursuing my Buddhist practice.

Today I took a few minutes to read Wildmind’s blog post on making New Year’s Resolutions stick. Article is here. My thoughts:

  • I’ve been told at Buddhist meetings that determinations last about 3 days, so it’s natural to re-make those determinations accordingly. We’re at the end of January so we should really be making those determinations 10 times already this year!
  • As one of our themes, SGI members have been encouraged to be youthful by harnessing the Spirit of Challenge, Spirit of Learning, and Spirit of Open Dialogue. Personally I’ve been putting my challenges first and foremost every single day.
  • There’s no substitution for prayer. If you’re serious about a new resolution, then you need to battle it spiritually on a daily basis. If the goal is to chant more, then obviously this applies 10x.
  • Keep your goals in front of you. My altar has a goal sheet so I can reflect on some important challenges before and after I chant. And I also carry my goals on my phone so if I ever start sliding into the lower worlds, I remind myself of all the reasons I need to change my life in 2017.

I hope this has been a helpful list for you, and that you’ll also share some ideas below – let’s achieve our resolutions this year together!


Buddhist Next Door


Google Search Does Not Like Buddhism

Google, I’ve been with you since the very beginning – eschewing search engines like Lycos and Yahoo. And everyone except Microsoft and Bing have learned to accept that you absolutely dominate web indexing and searches.

So why is it that when I search for “Buddhism,” a world religion with at least a couple hundred million believers and practitioners, I’m greeted with a dreadful list of results. Your algorithm is so good at producing results for other searches, but this is not what I’d have in mind if I’m just trying to learn about Buddhism in general for a class project:

Buddhanet – a very old website with out-of-date information. It’s not mobile friendly and I doubt the site is even maintained anymore

Slate – Why I ditched Buddhism – Now admittedly Slate is a somewhat trusted publication and the title is provocative. But all I did was search for Buddhism and I’m getting a hate job from someone that practiced Zen for a hot minute and decided it wasn’t for him. You can’t possibly tell me that this is a good or useful result for someone interested in Buddhism.

Tibetan Buddhism – all the results direct from Google that are presented as representative facts are referring to Tibetan Buddhism. I get that the world knows of the Dalai Lama, but the actual number of people that practice Tibetan Buddhism is miniscule (certainly not a representative amount). Google’s essentially spitting out results that paint Buddhism as a “dead” religion for people living in the mountains.

Google, please give us Buddhists some love by indexing useful sites that are current and maintained. I can’t wait for the day when I can say that Google Search Likes Buddhism.


Buddhist Next Door

Appreciating Struggle

Appreciating struggle can sound a lot like what you would find in a fortune cookie: Thought provoking but ultimately useless.

But my understanding of Buddhism as I practice it does emphasize an appreciation for the current moment and the current situation as it is. For example, if you move to a new city and find that you’re hating everything about it (I’ve been there), the most direct solution is to see the new city as the best place for you to develop yourself.

I’m not saying that Buddhist practice is like a self-induced Jedi mind-trick of “I will appreciate the struggle”. It’s a life philosophy that puts the impetus on you to create value in the current moment. Struggle presents an opportunity to strengthen your practice and break through in a way that you formerly could not imagine.

Case in point – I was reading an experience from an SGI member in Australia, Elwyn Lan. The short version is that a young man appears to be an everyday university student but he’s got deep gambling issues that reverberate in every other arena of his life. Through chanting and taking action, Elwyn overcomes the addiction and shares the experience with others. He writes:

However, when I look back on my experience I think of how much I actually appreciate going through this struggle. Not only has it allowed me to experience growth in life, it has given me an experience that I can share and encourage people with. Which is why I can now think of struggle as fortune. I see it as part of life and as an opportunity to grow that can inspire others.

How encouraging! How wonderful!


Buddhist Next Door

Thoughts on Why I Don’t Practice Engaged Buddhism

If you’re interested in reading about Buddhist perspectives from different schools and teachings, I highly recommend taking a minute to check out Tricycle. They’re a well-known Buddhist publication and I came across a provocative piece on an always-provocative subject: Politics

In the article, “Why I Don’t Practice Engaged Buddhism,” the author points out:

What is a Buddhist response? Some see a Buddhist response as the taking of some kind of political or social action—engaged Buddhism. For these people, Buddhism is a religion. Many centers have now established participants and teachers who function in ways that are similar to the congregations, priests, ministers, or rabbis in Christianity and Judaism. While the resources in these Buddhist congregations are not on the same order of those in Christianity or Judaism, they are probably sufficient to exercise serious influence.

He continues:

My own training was more about how to use whatever circumstances we encounter as a way of waking up in our lives. I was never taught that the practice of Buddhism was about making the world a better place. It has always been about coming to and giving expression to a different relationship with life—essentially a mystical path.

Full article on Tricycle

My own initial reflection is that I’ve never been in the business of telling someone how to live their life, whether that person is a Buddhist or not. I’m a practicing Buddhist and I know scores of people that lately have felt the need to participate in rallies or movements to speak up for values and generally, good. I’m not one to get involved in big marches because I would rather use that time to reflect on myself or to have a quick chat with a friend on the subject.

I was taught that Buddhism is about making the world a better place, and the best way for me to do my part is to be the best version of myself that I can be. I feel empowered as a Buddhist because I’ve experienced breakthroughs in personal struggles, and I believe that helping other people feel and harness this empowerment is how we tackle larger societal issues.

I don’t know if that means that I practice “engaged Buddhism” or not, because my priority is not to be a walking billboard for Buddhism and I don’t go out of my way to talk about Buddhism with every person that I meet. But every now and then when I start talking with someone that I think would be interested in Buddhism, I do my part.




One Definition of Buddha

What better way to start off a Buddhism blog than to ask the question: What is a buddha?

Here is one definition of Buddha provided by the Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism Library:

One enlightened to the eternal and ultimate truth that is the reality of all things, and who leads others to attain the same enlightenment. In India, the word buddha was originally a common noun meaning awakened one or enlightened one, referring to those who attained any kind of religious awakening. In Buddhism, it refers to one who has become awakened to the ultimate truth of all phenomena. In this context, the term Buddha at first was applied exclusively to Shakyamuni. Later, however, with the development of Buddha as an ideal, numerous Buddhas appeared in Mahayana scriptures. These include such Buddhas as Amida and Medicine Master. Expressions such as “the Buddhas of the ten directions” and “the Buddhas of the three existences” communicate the idea that Buddhas, or the potential for enlightenment they represent, are omnipresent. The state of perfect enlightenment sought in Buddhism is called Buddhahood.
  Various definitions of Buddha are set forth in Buddhist teachings. In Hinayana teachings, it means one who has entered the state of nirvana, in which both body and mind are extinguished. Mahayana teachings generally maintain that one becomes a Buddha only after innumerable kalpas of austere and meritorious practices, by eradicating illusions and earthly desires and acquiring the thirty-two features of a Buddha. The Lotus Sutra views Buddha as one who manifests the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent, who is enlightened to the true aspect of all phenomena, and who teaches it to people to save them from suffering. The Buddhism of Nichiren, which is based on the Lotus Sutra and regards it as Shakyamuni’s most profound teaching, recognizes the potential of every person to become a Buddha.

For my own purposes, I’m most interested in the last sentence and this “potential of every person to become a Buddha”.

That means I can become a Buddha.

That means my next door neighboor can become a Buddha.

That means even the person I hate at this moment can be a Buddha.

In that case, one of my goals as I continue to learn and practice Buddhism should be awaken to this eternal truth and lead others to that enlightenment. This point alone is taking some time to absorb, so I’m going to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo about this and revisit at a later time.

Any thoughts on the definition of a Buddha?