I was going to bump an old topic I saw from Joao_22990 about why people believe what they believe, but ultimately decided it is better suited for a blog. Special thanks to Joao_22990 for giving me a reason to reflect on my experience :D
**************************************************************************************************************************************** I would say I am a lay-Buddhist, as in opposed to a hard-core one. I was born in Hong Kong and Buddhism is a very well-received religion over there, though as I was growing up I found myself question the practice of many self-proclaimed Buddhists. For example, when there is a religious holiday it is common practice for people to bring up offerings to the Buddhist temples and worship through prayers. I understand people led busy lives and it is difficult to practice religion in a place such as Hong Kong, but I thought the way most folks go about it were, quite honestly, incorrect with what little I understand of Buddhism. Buddhism, in China, generally practices vegetarianism. When people place their offerings to the deities (sorry for the lack of a better word) often I see there's roast ducks, roast pigs and a whole variety of meat-base dish. At the time I thought to myself, Isn't that against Buddhist's belief? When people are praying to the deities figures in Buddhism, they are really not praying but instead, ask these deities figures help them to achieve some goals in life. Things such as winning the lottery, good health, getting promotions, get married with the perfect guy/lady, have babies, get good grades at school... etc. I mean, really, that is literally asking for blessing from these deities and how is that a prayer? That is really borderline paganism at best. Does anyone really understand what Buddhism stands for? How would one make a proper prayer to the deities? Different Buddha or Bodhisattva have different meanings and for people who choose different paths of achieving enlightenment, what are those differences and how to choose among them? I certainly didn't know anything, and I highly doubt there were many people who did either. I was always curious about Buddhism but never really turn my curiosity into a motivation to study it.
Later I acquired some books about Buddhism. I agreed with mostly what these books said, but all they did essentially were just to tell people "do good and avoid bad deeds" and something about Karma while completely neglect what Buddhism essentially is. I am not bashing these literature and I am sure the intentions behind them were for good. However, I can't help but think that such literature will further add to the mystery of Buddhism, instead of debunking common misconceptions about it. If the goal of Buddhism is to achieve Nirvana, mere teachings of "do good and avoid bad" might be insufficient in that regard.
At this point I am still trying to learn more about the religion, from what I learned so far it makes sense to me on an intellectual level. For example, the concept of impermanence makes perfect sense to me. Let's say I bought a new game today and I am completely euphoric about and wish I can play it all day,everyday , and pretty much forget about everything else. Is that realistic? It doesn't matter how good a game it is, there will come a point in which I will get tired of it and look for something new, something more exciting. Take this and apply it to everything else we know of, what inanimate object or human emotion can stay in the same condition forever and never changing? Love? Lust? Happy? Sad? Object wise, water? Fire? Air? Closest thing I could think of is diamond, but for it to exist in the first place there has got to be a process in which it was created. It could exist for a long time, but since it has a point of creation its existence is certainly finite. As of now I couldn't think of anything that has always been, and will always be.
Having established the concept of impermanence, it is logical to conclude that having an attachment to anything, be it material objects or emotions, could lead to sufferings. Let's talk love, for example. When we see someone we are infatuated with, we literally feel butterflies in our stomach and couldn't quite control it. Then we get to know that person and been out on a few dates, though that butterflies feeling is still there I would say at this point it is less severe, and happiness is probably a more appropriate term for this stage. Fast forward to two people getting married, many would agree their love is at its peak, while the couple is very happy together, they also have a strong sense of hope and are definitely looking toward time spend together from here on out. Once they settled down and the honeymoon phrase is over, love is being put on the back-burner and life is fill with mundane task such as when to do the laundry and clean the house and how much to spend on groceries and paid the mortgages and bills... you get the idea. When the couple has kids, their lives are pretty much dedicated to the little creature for a long while. All romance between the couple has gone out the window and, besides all of the daily chores, now you have to make room for the baby. Life goes on so on and so forth. The point is, even the couple still "love" each other, it has gone through different stages and evolve from mere feeling the butterflies in your stomach to footing the bills on dates to letting your partner decide every little details about the weddings to doing the laundry to feeding the baby at night so your partner can get a good night sleep to insert what loving couples would do for each other. This is only about love, you can take it and apply to every other emotions.
Then it leads me to think, if nothing is permanent and attachment to things in life is detrimental and ultimately futile, what really is the goal of life? While I like to dedicate myself in finding the truth, is it possible that maybe someone had already figured it out? Maybe someone had already discovered the truth and it can be found in one of these religions?
This is really when I became interested in Buddhism. I am still at the novice level and is learning more about it through some of the books I purchased years back that delved deep into the religion itself. I remember when I tried to read it back then I just couldn't get into it, at all. The time and condition wasn't right, or as an old Chinese adage goes, When the student is ready, the teacher will be there. So far I am learning about the history of Buddhism (I took a course back in college... clean forgot about most of it) and some basic principles of its teaching, just connecting the dots for now essentially.
Sorry, no dramatic personal experiences here... only intellectual curiosity so far, I think. Can't say I have too much of a conviction yet, and I'm not necessarily sure such conviction is a good thing, especially in regard to getting to know the truth. I like to think it is a direction and not a destination. If my conviction is too strong, it'll probably cloud my emotion and judgment and I'll become more resistant to new knowledge, especially if they conflict with my conviction. I say having an open mind is more difficult than what many people believe it to be.