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Being a Buddhist

Frank Hotchkiss

July 23, 2013

Category: Philosophy and Religion > Belief Systems

Why in the world would a young Yalie from Connecticut become a Buddhist 40 years ago?

It's a fair question, with a simple answer. Buddhism proposes that the purpose of life is to live happily. I agreed, and still do.

And Buddhism has lived up to its promise. I have been married to the same lady since 1973. We have a wonderful daughter. I've had various careers — acting, journalism, business, and now politics. Each has been challenging and rewarding, some with more success than others.

Religion never had had any interest for me at all until I realized there were questions that couldn't be easily answered. Why are we here? What am I meant to do? Is life a matter of random circumstance or is there unseen order? What is death? In the modern vernacular, whazzup?

To each of these questions, Buddhism has provided an answer. And this is where it gets interesting. The answers aren't written; they have to be discovered by the individual Buddhist.

Buddhism provides a specific practice — meditation through chanting — that allows you to examine each of these questions and any others that come to mind, and bring them into focus. Like Einstein who intuited the truth of E=mc2, you intuit the answers to fundamental questions.

Fortunately, this is not some New Age-y creation. It's based on great insights from the distant past as to how to create value in your life. And those insights are compelling:

  • This is not a random world. Eventually cause and effect prevail.
  • All things are inter-related. No man is an island unto himself. His happiness must include the world around him.
  • Change your world inside and the world outside will follow, as the shadow follows the body.
  • Life and death are two sides of the same coin. Life is eternal.

These are all laws, like gravity, and they function whether you believe them or not.

We humans have an enlightened nature at heart. However, we mistake our true nature because of past mistakes and misunderstandings. This is what is called karma — the sum total of all past causes. (If you want to know your karma, look in the mirror.) We are deluded, and it is our daily mission to overcome this delusion and reveal our enlightened natures, and the enlightened aspect of the world around us. The more you succeed in this, the more you enjoy your life. Buddhism provides the means to do so.

So that's why I became a Buddhist 40 years ago.

Frank Hotchkiss is a realtor with Sotheby's International Realty in Santa Barbara. He is also a city councilman up for re-election this fall. His email address is frankh110@cox.net. For more information about Buddhism, please go to www.sgi-usa.org.