This I Believe

Bryce - Gilbert, Arizona
Entered on January 17, 2008

I believe that it doesn’t really matter what we believe because, in the end, everything will be okay. I didn’t always feel this way. For a long time I lived in darkness not believing in anything. I was angry at this pointless merry-go-round called life. Angry at all the suffering in the world and all the greed. To me religious belief was nothing more than giving up. I did not understand the strength and power of religious belief. I did not understand how people of greater intellect than myself could cling to simplistic religious idealism. After all, I was no match for their sharp minds. I was burdened with the darkness of nihilism, neo-platonic philosophy and the atheism of cold hard science. I’m just a guy, an engineer by degree, a nobody who had found suffering. Anything can happen; death or loss of materialism or the loss loved ones, or illness. This uncertainty of the future was destroying me. I have simple suffering of change: a deep desire to embrace an answer that might explain the true nature of existence; a wanting and hunger for an answer that does not require blind faith; an answer that is clear and without elaboration or contradiction. I don’t have any terrible disease or money issues, or family problems whatsoever. I’m just a normal happily married guy living life with ease. Yet I am suffering. Why? There is something positive about disbelief: my mind was open to entertain new ideas. I discovered that Buddha first taught about suffering. He called his first noble truth: the truth of suffering. The second noble truth he called: the truth of the causes of suffering. Finally, I had found a possible answer to my mental anguish. I studied Tibetan Buddhism for a year by reading books and contacting Buddhists on the web. Then one day I decided to travel to Chino Valley Arizona, a few hours from my home, to attend mediation practice at a Buddhist institute hidden in the mountains near Prescott. It was exciting to see all of the prayer flags and Tibetan writing on stones while I drove for miles up a perilous dirt road to the hidden temple in the hills. I parked my car and walked up the steep path to the temple and noticed the stupa with the eyes of Buddha painted near the top as if it had been taken from Tibet or Nepal and plopped down in the Arizona wilderness. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, as Dorothy said as she found the path of golden bricks. It was here that I began to understand the depth and wisdom of Buddhism. I met the Lamas and it was as if being in the company of the last of the Samuari or the last Geishas. I was in the company of beings who are rapidly disappearing from our planet. What a fantastic opportunity I thought ! Tibetan Buddhism had thrived for a thousand years in peace until Mao cast his dark mark upon Tibet. In response many Tibetan Buddhist monks and lamas came to America in the hope to pass on this ancient tradition to Americans. Lamas don’t speak English so interpreters are always needed, yet there seemed to be no sense of a language barrier. I continued to visit the temple for many months, then years, and on one occasion I was walking on a dirt path and looked up and found myself face to face with Garchen Rinpoche: the Lama of highest rank at the temple. He looked into my eyes and grabbed hold of me and held me in a strong embrace for a full minute as if a bear was crushing me, all the while laughing like a child. I bowed to him and we continued on our way. He continued to laugh as he disappeared into the desert hills. Garchen Rinpoche spent 20 years in a Chinese prison camp because the Maoists capture and torture those who embrace religious freedom in Tibet. Garchen Rinpoche knows real suffering but he laughs at it. The hug that he gave to me taught me that he takes away the suffering of others, doing so by means of selflessness. The bear hug was a strong teaching given to me; a precious gift from Garchen Rinpoche. Without ego he can transfer the suffering of others onto himself. Then he simply casts aside the suffering. He taught me that we are all connected and that we really were never born at all and we never really die at all. Birth and death are relative only to how important we think of ourselves. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; when a being dies another is born. Take ego out of the equation and the idea of reincarnation can take root. I learned that it’s more important to embrace others and to take away their suffering than it is to worry about my own short life and unimportant trivial problems. And I learned how precious all life is; most of all human life. The Lamas taught me how to attain peace of mind in each moment. They taught me how to practice unconditional love for all beings; especially for our torturers. And most of all they taught me that it doesn’t really matter what we believe because we all find our way home in the end anyway. It reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day.” We all learn from our mistakes eventually and we have eternity to get “it” right. One day we wake up and it’s not Groundhog day anymore. Everything will be okay in the end for all of us. This I believe.