As a Cambodian citizen, born and raised, you see, your life is pretty much influenced by Buddhism. More than 95% of the people here are Buddhist… you get the point. You are brought to pagodas in nearly every religious holidays (Khmer New Year, Bon Pchum, Bon Pisak, etc). However, just like how Christianity has die-hard believers and meh believers, so does Buddhism. You see, my parents are half Chinese, but Alas! They see themselves as more Chinese than some of my “true” Chinese friends. It gives them a proud identity to take on, i presume. Anyhow, having been raised in a Chinese household, they are not “die hard” fans of Buddhism, per se. Thus to me, Buddhism is like a far-fetched daydream- vague but always there.
I have never taken Buddhism seriously up until i started questioning “life after death”. However, that is a story for another time. After a lot of snooping about and reading, i have come to the conclusion that i will be an atheist BUT will be guided by Buddhist principles. Part of this is due to my Khmer Culture course with Mr. Diep Sophal. Gotta give props to him, he really loves what he’s teaching; that love is highly contagious.
With this new-found inspiration, i began to dig into Buddhism. I wanted to see why my professor, a highly intellectual person would devote so much of his time praising this religion and stating that “it taught him how to live”. The curiosity was too strong, i couldn’t resist even if I tired.
My quest began by reading some of the well-regulated handbooks on Buddhism sold in my country. Well. i can’t really pitch an author name here, you see, they aren’t copyright. The more i read, the clearer it becomes that in order to reach an understanding of all things (the so called Nirvana), you must drop all your passions, your life. You shall retreat, succumb yourself to the life of monastic devotion with hundred and hundred of hours of meditation.
At first, it seems appealing… Until i realized i have so many things un-crossed in my bucket list. I was just 18! i had so many things left to see. i can’t spend my life in a temple, meditating my life away!
up next, turned off by the prospect of leaving my present life altogether, i turned to a more contemporary text on Buddhism. AND OF COURSE, I LANDED TO THE ONE AND ONLY THICH NHAT HANH. After reading several of his books, i learned quite a valuable lesson: live in the moment!
Not bad, I thought to myself. At least, i have learned something to tinker my life anew.
A few months ago, I began to turn to a new direction; I began to start reading his holiness the Dalai Lama’s book on Buddhism and Happiness in general. My understanding of his approach up until now is to be grateful- to be grateful for every damn thing in the world! I found that immensely helpful, especially in this never-ending world of greed.
Three months into this new way of living and unexpectedly, I turned into a depressed mode of life (so ironic). I started to accept every single flaws/shortcomings of everything without attempting to change anything. This, in theory, was supposed to bring you happiness; however, despair was the only thing found. I became tamed, I became soft; in a sense, I became weak. This is a big identity blow for someone who identifies herself with strength and courage.
I don’t know if this depression results from me not understanding Buddhism correctly or some other factors, but I have decided I can’t take it no more. I can’t go on the remaining of my life with this passive mindset; goodness! I won’t get anywhere.
I realized yes, you should enjoy the view. However, if you are stuck at a certain point and make no effort to move, that view would no doubts turn depressing as time comes by.
My approach to life now is to keep going (keep fighting, as in the Western mindset) but also enjoy the view along the way. After all, that is really what life is about – those little moments chained together.
So for now, bye bye, Buddhism! i have no doubts i would get my hands on you again. Maybe we started on the wrong footings, maybe as time passes, I would understand you better; but for now, I’m glad we departed.