My Front Pages

Yesterday, Sept. 25th, marked the 28th anniversary of the day I became a Buddhist. I received gojukai (“receiving the precept”), the equivalent of going for refuge in the Nichiren tradition, on a bright and warm Sunday morning in 1983 at Myoho-ji in Etiwanda, California. I do not mark the occasion as the day I took faith in Buddhism, but rather the day I made a determination to practice Buddhism.  Although, to be honest, at the time, I wasn’t too sure what I was doing.

The reason I put such a great emphasis on practice is because, and this may surprise some people, practice was the drumbeat of the Soka Gakkai. The motto was always: Practice first!

I wouldn’t try to tell anyone that my practice has been perfect. And I wouldn’t trust anyone who tried to tell me the same about their practice. I learned early on not to look for saints, or try to be one.

I call myself a Buddhist. It’s just a label but I’m proud to wear it. If asked to expand on that designation, I will say that in general I follow Mahayana Buddhism or that I am a non-sectarian Buddhist. Otherwise, I’m not too interested in labeling myself further.

Since leaving the tradition I joined all those years ago, I have thought that the non-sectarian approach was a very good thing, and perhaps even the wave of the future. I envisioned Buddhists of all stripes coming together, transcending sectarian differences, and fashioning a sort of holistic Buddhism here in the West.

It seems to me that we’re headed in the opposite direction. That’s why I don’t have much use for Engaged Buddhism, Integral Buddhism, Existential Buddhism, Secular Buddhism, Speculative Non-Buddhism, Humanistic Buddhism, Post-traditional Buddhism, Neo-Buddhism, Protestant Buddhism, True Buddhism, Rebel Buddhism, Consensus Buddhism, Practical Dharma, Living Dharma, Buddhist Geeks, Dharma Punx, etc. More labels. More “isms” to splinter the Buddha-dharma further.  It’s far too splintered already. Why is simply being a Buddhist not enough?

I think it’s great that Buddhism comes in many flavors. I just don’t feel it’s necessary to give each one a brand name.

I don’t see Buddhism as a faith, a religion, or psychotherapy, although I recognize it has elements of those things. I see Buddhism as a path, a Way (Ch. tao, Jp. do), something we do not have a category for in the West, something that inevitably embraces all the “isms” listed above, if you are open to it.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to provide an alternative to some trends that bothered me. I wanted to show people that there is a way to view Buddhism that doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, ala Stephen Batchelor, and that it is possible to introduce change and innovation without redesigning the dharma-wheel. I didn’t intend to make a big splash, and I haven’t.

I also wanted to use the blog as an outlet for expression. In that regard, it has served its purpose. Nevertheless, as much as I have enjoyed blogging overall, occasionally it has been a chore, and it’s taken up time that should have been spent on other projects, or practicing Buddhism. Lately, I have not felt much like blogging.

Tomorrow, I go into the hospital for several days to receive chemotherapy treatment. When I return, I will put up a post informing anyone who is interested how it went. Sometime after that, I may resume regular blogging, but maybe not. Who knows?

I am not looking forward to this treatment (understatement of the year). This past week, I have revved up my meditation and chanting, and tried to get myself into a peaceful and confident state of mind, but without a great deal of success. I thought maybe my practice was too rusty. Maybe I was not determined enough, not trying hard enough. I couldn’t stop obsessing on my suffering.

Then, Saturday, I read this post at Ben Harper’s blog, One Time, One Meeting. It was one of those V-8 moments. All along, I had been missing one critical ingredient. So focused was I on my own suffering (or the prospect of it) that I had forgotten about the suffering of others. You can read the comment I left in which I explain to Ben how his post turned me around.

The two most important things I have learned in my 28 years as a Buddhist is that to find the real value of Buddhism you must practice, and that means practice for oneself and others. After all these years, I still need to improve in both departments, but I’m trying, and being a “lifetime beginner”, I am still learning.


In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

– Bob Dylan

Joan Osborne and Jackson Brown sing “My Back Pages”:


12 thoughts on “My Front Pages

  1. Best wishes on the treatment. As for blogging, even I, who loves to write, find it a chore sometimes. And that’s always a call to slow down and let go of the writing – even if only for a day or two.

  2. Best of luck with chemo David. I’ve known a few people that have gone through it, and it sucks. I wish you continued strength during this difficult process.

  3. Hi David, I hope all is well. Buddhism is a journey and what it is, is pretty different for each individual. Like you I also believe it does not have to be categorized. Wish you all the best settling in when you get back home.

  4. Thanks for this sensible and intelligible blog and your blog in general, David. I am glad to see too that Seth in the on-going saga at his blog in his latest comment in reply to Frank Jude describes Buddhism as a way of life. This should be no surprise because that is what, I believe, the Buddha said and drew me to Buddhism. Also, I have always liked Thich Nhat Hanh’s statement: “It is not a matter of faith but a matter of practice”
    May your treatment go well so that you can continue on your Way of practice and help others along their Way too,
    With metta, Terry

    1. Thanks Terry. As was said in one of the other comments, everyone sees Buddhism differently, and there is really nothing wrong with that. It just seems to me that some folks in the attempts to free Buddhism from dogma and whatever else they think is wrong with it, they just end up limiting it. If that makes sense.

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