When people ask me if I’m a Buddhist, I try so hard to not cringe. God I hate labels so much. Even if the vast majority of my practice lands within a Buddhist label, I simply can’t accept being categorized and to limit me to one path is like caging a wild beast.
I often really struggle with what to say, how to define what is totally personal, unconventional and without many boundaries.
I once heard someone asked a similar question and they responded, “I’m a student of whatever I see grace within”.
I came across this forward to a book I’m reading ( Indie Spiritualist, A no bullshit exploration of spirituality by Chris Grosso ) and it just so happens to be from a guy I love, Noah Levine. His description of his spirituality is just beautiful to me:
“All beings have taken birth to experience healing and freedom from suffering. This is the universal and undeniable truth. We wander through the realms of existence, states of mind, cultural conditions, and generations, seeking a reliable refuge. Some find comfort in religion; some find comfort in material success. But neither religion nor material success offers a reliable shelter. The Buddha referred to both religion and materialism as “dead ends”. He found a path that led between these two extremes, the “middle path”, the path of awakening and healing, a personal path that has little do to do with religiosity or materialism. The healing we took birth for is attained by those who reject the norms, reject the world’s false promises of pleasure-based happiness. It is not by reliance on external conditions, but by becoming independently committed to truth, kindness, compassion, and wisdom that we find what we have always been seeking. The Buddha was an “indie spiritualist”; he walked away from the spiritual and religious circles of his time and found his own path. The Buddha urged his students to reject all blind faith and cultural traditions based on what was written, spoken or believed by others. He encouraged personal and independent investigation of spiritual matters. He basically said “Try it for yourself and trust your own direct experience. if the path you are on leads to suffering and confusion, abandon it. If the path you are on leads to freedom and well-being, follow it to the end”. Later my teachers have summed this up as “Don’t become a Buddhist, become a buddha”
As I read this I couldn’t stop thinking of my dear friend a rebel Buddhist monk, Bhante San. He lives this teaching more fully than anyone I have ever known.