The Truth About My Attachment to Buddha.
Lately, when I’m standing in Tree Pose, trying desperately hard to hold still despite being permitted to sway (I mean, trees sway, right?) I notice my eyes gravitating towards one of several Buddha statues situated around the Yoga studio.
I used to fixate on imperfections on the wooden floor, but not now. For reasons I can’t explain, I’ve developed a growing attachment to Buddha.
When I focus on these Buddha statues, a sense of peace washes over me. I feel love and gratitude rise to the surface, both of which are directed towards this spiritual guru. Oddly enough, though, I know very little about Buddhism. Still, the draw is strong as if Buddha himself has beckoned me.
But he hasn’t. He is simply a statue of a man I barely know a thing about. Yet I seem to have granted him some sort of power. He, in this particular instance, is actually an it carved from a piece of wood that I have chosen to idolize.
Given my attachment to Buddha has no substantial meaning, there’s no reason I couldn’t feel equal love and gratitude rise over a less revered bottle of dish detergent, or empty shoe box, or indeed an imperfection in the wooden floor. So what’s the attraction?
Buddhist icons pave the path to enlightenment
Clearly that’s why Buddha sculptures can be found everywhere from Yoga studios, Yoga-wear and Yoga mats to necklaces, bracelets, travel mugs, keychains, phone cases… and paper plates? Yep. I found disposable Buddha plates online. True story.
As I contemplated my growing attachment to Buddha, I reflected on just how shallow my knowledge of Buddhism is, and how shallow I subsequently am for holding in such high esteem something I’ve taken such a low interest in, until now, that is.
I began to question whether I should actually be entitled to use this globally adorned icon for my own selfish fulfillment without putting in the worship. As I explored this further, I learned two things that took me by surprise:
Lesson #1: Buddhists don’t actually worship Buddha
They don’t pray to Buddhist statues or seek out Buddha’s blessing; they show him the respect one would show a wise elder. And they don’t bow down before him as if he was some almighty god; they look up to him with respect for his wisdom.
Those who have consciously embraced the teachings of Buddha no doubt know this. Others who, like me, have been swept up in the wave of Buddhist materialism, probably do not. I certainly didn’t. While I knew that Buddha was a man whose name was Siddhartha and who came from India, I also assumed he was a deity to be worshiped.
Lesson #2: Buddha isn’t that round, happy guy with the big, fat belly.
As it turns out, that statue of the jolly, laughing man sitting beneath a tree in my backyard isn’t Siddhartha; it’s a monk called Pu-Tai. An enlightened master, yes, but not the guy I assumed he was.
As my attachment to Buddha grows and I feel myself becoming more and more inclined to bow before him, I have to wonder, what is it that I’m searching for?
Do you remember that famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, when Sally fakes an orgasm to teach Harry he may not be the lover he thinks he is? Do you recall what the woman at a neighboring table says after witnessing Sally’s performance? She says:
“I’ll have what she’s having.”
That’s precisely how I feel when I look at Buddha. I’ll have what he’s having, please!
Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy way to find out if the path Buddha took towards enlightenment is the path for me. All I can do is dabble. I began dabbling by listening to an Oprah Winfrey interview with Jack Kornfield, a trained Buddhist monk. According to Jack:
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice Buddhism.
When I heard this, I thought, “Yippee!” He’s essentially saying we can all enjoy the perks of the club, without having to subscribe. In other words, practice, explore, take what you will. Nothing says you have to be all in.
This inspired me to pick up a copy of meditation teacher Lodro Rinzler’s book, The Buddha Walks Into A Bar: A Guide To Life For A New Generation. Catchy title aside, Lodro had me at the introduction:
“This isn’t your grandmother’s book on meditation. It’s for you. That is, assuming you like to have a beer once in a while, enjoy sex, have figured out that your parents are crazy, or get frustrated at work. It’s a book that doesn’t put Buddhism on some pedestal…”
Hmm, like the one I’ve been putting Buddha on. Gotcha!
As I write this, I’m sitting on the sofa, legs crossed, wearing a sleeveless, blue cotton t-shirt with an image of Buddha on the front. When I bought it, I was driven by an attachment — not to Buddhist principles, but to the notion of being perceived as someone on a path to enlightenment. I wear, therefore I am.
That’s a pretty empty attachment, don’t you think? So, I’ve decided to let it go. Not the tank top, of course. Hell, no — it’s one of my faves. So I shall continue to wear it. Not because of the Buddha on the front, but because it’s soft and flowy, with hints of pink and gold.
Viv Singer is a dog-loving, Yoga-practicing personal-growth addict. When she’s not making her living as a freelance copywriter, she’s striving to understand her own motives, actions and responses so that she can learn from them, lead a more authentic life, and do a better job at living for today. To avoid boring her loved ones with her incessant Aha! moments, she launched vivfortoday.com where she regularly blogs her heart out. By sharing personal experiences and thoughts about her own daily life, Viv hopes to inspire others to make peace, feel joy, and find a little humor in theirs. For more from Viv, you can subscribe to her newsletter, or get social with her on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.