The Adventure: Accidentally Buddhist

When the unexpected happens…

The Buddhists have a saying about how one needs to go with the flow and accept life as it happens – without clinging to it or rejecting it – no matter the circumstance. So when something of an unusual nature presents itself, just go with it. My karma was sealed the day I accepted an invitation to partake in a 4-day Tibetan Buddhist New Years celebration.

The shrine room was a visual feast of the senses. Filled with buddhas of all shapes and sizes, the room was overflowing with colourful fabrics, flowers and food. Sights, sounds, and smells permeated every fibre of my being as I stepped into this otherworldly realm. It was all I could do not to openly gawk as I picked my gaping maw off the floor.

What ended up being even more of a surprise was that my silence would be taken as consent when it was kindly suggested to me that I could ‘take refuge’ on the fourth day. Day four was considered to be ‘very auspicious’ – it was the fat laughing Buddha’s birthday and therefore a good time to join the club.

But I actually didn’t know what taking refuge meant.

Truth be told, I was more curious about the closing ceremony. After all, it was a Fire Puja ceremony. And seriously,…FIRE…how awesome was that? My sense of reasoning, of course, was basing the whole awesome fire factor on the fact that the word ‘fire’ was actually in the name of the ceremony. Made perfect sense to me – after all, who wouldn’t want to see fire? I like fire.

Now, back to the whole ‘refuge’ thing. When one ‘takes refuge,’ it is similar in design to someone getting baptized or having a bar mitzvah [correct me if I’m wrong here]. But in this case, it is more like a rite of passage into the Buddhist way of life.

My silence, I suspect, was the first mistake.

Mistake number two was made when I mentioned the suggestion to take refuge to the sweet little old lady to who I was giving a ride home afterward. Not once did I think about the consequences of my actions…or what transpired during the days of celebration that I did not attend.

Always watch what you say. Always watch what you don’t say. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  In other words, hindsight is 20:20.

I returned back on the final day looking forward to finally seeing some sweet action fire at the Fire Puja Ceremony. Anything with fire…well, it had to be cool.

Now, I must admit to being a little surprised when I discovered the fire ceremony was more of a symbolic thing – which did explained the incense sticks everyone held between their palms in a prayer gesture. I wondered if it was a sign from Buddha himself when the incense sticks ran out before I could get one.

Alas, without pomp or ceremony, fireworks or fire – just a bunch of chanting – the Tibetan Buddhist New Years celebration came to a close.

And as I began to wonder what I should eat for lunch, the Lama called upon those who were to take refuge.

And that’s when I heard it. Quietly at first, but building to a tempo, was the sound disturbingly similar to my name being murmured across the room.

Like a deer caught in the headlights, I swivelled my head around only to discover EVERYONE staring at me with my name on their lips.

For whatever reason, everyone seemed to think I was about to join their team. My guess: sweet little old lady telling everyone I was taking refuge when I wasn’t there – and my silence as consent. The friend who suggested I take refuge in the first place, started saying ‘geeeeet uuuuuuup theeeeeere’ (as if in slow motion) while gesticulating with his hands, pointing to the front of the room where the Lama sat.

“Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow,” said the thought, popping into my head.

Where’d that come from?

Next thing I knew, my body propelled itself upward toward the front of the room as if moving of its own volition.

And as I kneeled before the Lama, my mouth popped open and I found myself blindly repeating anything he said in a language unbeknownst to me.

Throat dry and armpits soaked, I took refuge.

As a result, this ‘sentient being’ (aka. me) became officially known as ‘Yeshe Lhamo.’ Now, who would have known that you can get a nifty new name when you take refuge with the Tibetan Buddhists? But more importantly, how cool was that that my new name means Wisdom Goddess?

Yah, that’s right. Wisdom Goddess.

Granted, it’s somewhat of an oxymoron based on the situation. Maybe more like oxyMORON…but I digress.

Afterwards, I called a few select friends – not to mention my parents – and notified them how I accidentally became Buddhist that day. Giggles ensued. And from that moment on, they laughingly call me ‘The Accidental Buddhist.’

Nowadays, I hear the tell-tale ‘snicker’ whenever someone notices a particular book on my shelf – The IDIOT’S Guide to Understanding Buddhism.

Since becoming Buddhist, albeit somewhat reluctantly, I’ve come to realize a few important things. All life is sacred, even those scary looking bugs that freak me out. Also, it is best to go with the flow, and not fight it – which is a refreshing way to live, not to mention, de-stressing. Like a reed in the river of life, I now try to bend gently with the current rather than being rigid and inflexible. But more importantly, this experience has allowed for new things to enter into my life. I now say “yes” to new adventure and embrace the fear of the unknown.

To quote Dr. Wayne Dyer, “The ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about and refuse to investigate.”

Therefore, I challenge anyone to go out into the world and investigate a religious belief or practice you know absolutely nothing about. In return, you may actually discover something new about yourself – or the world you live in. An added bonus is that you will have an ‘informed’ opinion instead of following the beliefs of another.

Om mani padme hum…and all that jazz.

What is Buddhism?

  • Buddhism is a path of spiritual and philosophical development that encompasses different traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices leading to Insight into the true nature of reality.
  • These teachings are attributed to Gautama Buddha, the awakened one.
  • Buddhist practices teach you about Karma and how you can become responsible for ’cause and effect’ in your life – whether good or bad.
  • It also teaches how to let go of suffering and to go with the flow.
  • Meditation teaches how to find peace from within and to develop qualities of kindness and wisdom.

Interesting Factoids about Buddhism

  • Buddhism helped unify and civilize most of Asia.
  • The first monastic order was formed by Buddhists.
  • It gave birth to martial arts.
  • Through Buddhism, the first system of psychology and psychotherapy were formed.
  • It is considered to be the 4th largest religion in the world (even though Buddhism is not a ‘religion’).
  • Not all Buddhists are vegetarians. Even the Dalai Lama eats meat.
  • Buddha was originally a prince who lived a life of extreme luxury before he left it all behind.
  • Flowers are placed at the front of the Buddha statue to symbolize the fact that, like flowers, you will not live forever.

© Monthly Adventure, Patricia Taylor, February 2008