I had a chat with a friend this morning. The subject of truth-telling came up. I advised that since I took Buddhist vows I have not lied. The Buddhist vows or “precepts” are as follows
1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from the taking of life.
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from stealing or taking that which is not freely given.
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct.
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from lying or gossip.
5. Suramerayamajjapamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from intoxicants.
Since I declared my intention to practice Buddhism I have tried to adhere to these vows. I fail at times but not for lack of trying. Neither I nor anyone in my immediate family has purposely violated the first precept and so much as killed an insect since we formally took the precepts.
Why would a Jewish-American choose the practice of Buddhism? Why would a man with my history undertake any religious practice? I heard the Buddhist pronouncement that life was suffering. As Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote “The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.”
I experienced this and now I confine myself to behaviors and undertakings which increase the likelihood of success without regret. That would be success without the accompanying dissatisfaction at having had to harm anyone financially, psychologically and emotionally. I live with those very type of regrets as relates to my 2 former spouses and anyone else who drew close enough to my flame to get burned.
It is 20 years ago today that I was wed to now ex-wife Laurie. I would have to look far and wide to find someone more deserving of great kindness and happiness. Despite believing that, I let myself slowly drift from the straight and narrow and into a spiritual abyss which I did not escape from for many years. I can say with certainty that she gave me every opportunity and resource to live a normal rich and rewarding existence. She offered solid ground upon which love could thrive. So here is what I learned. I had demons which lurked, waiting always to undermine good choices. I had unresolved issues which were always waiting to manifest in my behaviors. I had mental-illness ready to unravel any progress I might exercise.
And but for 2 little girls, now my daughters, who needed me less than I needed them, I would have spun out. But God gave me strength of character to protect the weak and needy. While my attributes were inadequate to bring me salvation, my resolve to act honorably was resolute enough to bring me to a place of willingness to take the actions needed to protect them.
Thus is born the seeds of sobriety and Buddhism in my spirit.