Thursday, May 23Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Embrace your inner Buddha

Embrace your inner Buddha


Many people carry the misconception that religious life is somewhere up there in the clouds and that our everyday life is too dull. Often people think that to be a spiritual being, we must ignore or neglect our everyday lives, and go into some spiritual realm in order to be accepted. Others perhaps ignore religion completely and see it as a pile of mumbo jumbo.

I personally have never been one to abide by a religion or believe that there is one ‘maker’ and that is because I wanted to choose what I believed. It took me 19 years and a whole lot of ‘soul searching’ but finally the locals of Siem Reap (a Cambodian province) taught me to embrace my inner Buddha.

Now I don’t mean I became a Buddhist on my travels and experienced a cliché ‘Gap Year’ change, I mean my eyes were opened to a different way of life and I accepted it. I learnt that Theravada Buddhism is the religion of almost all the ethnic Khmers, who constitute around 90% or more of the Cambodian population. Not only is it a religion, but to many Cambodians it exists as a peaceful way of life that all religions accept; with no spiritual extreme expectations.

I’m not saying that in order to embrace one’s inner Buddha you have to go and take up Buddhism or reach one of the three levels of becoming a monk like the Cambodian locals, but rather you include specific Buddhist beliefs into your daily life because it isn’t an ethereal or mystical reality, it is just a simple few ways to ensure happiness.

For example, Theravada Buddhism teaches that everybody; no matter your status, size or colour, will experience pain and weakness in some form. So next time you’re upset don’t think your life is over or you’re so hard done by, because you’re not. Pain and sadness is part of life, the same as happiness and love, it happens to everyone as nobody’s life is as perfect as it may seem. Accept the feeling and move on; think about your next holiday instead or focus on your work load or how many VK’s you are going to consume at Toast this Monday.

A big question for Buddhism is: How do we cultivate a kind heart? My answer isn’t “just be nice.” My answer is simple and taken from the Vinaya Pitaka: abstain from all kinds of evil, in order to accumulate all that is good and to purify your mind. It is no use thinking “I should be nice today”, because ‘should’ will get you nowhere. Instead avoid being self-centered think positively and say, “Today as much as possible I am going to help others. Today I want to do all I can so that all living beings can attain the long-term happiness of enlightenment, not just me.” Setting a positive motivation is the first step to embracing your inner Buddha. It is especially good in the morning to remind yourself of your positive motivation as this is when your mind is vulnerable and delicate. It is recommended also to meditate.

Now, meditation is another action which causes misconception. Meditation is not just for those who see themselves as a spiritual being, it is seen as a way to obtain wisdom. We all have time to watch TV or snack or go shopping or even nap so why don’t we have time to meditate for five minutes a day? I’m sure it is a huge inconvenience to lose precise TV time, but if we have time to eat and nourish our bodies then we have time to meditate and nourish our minds. It isn’t even difficult to do; close your eyes, sit quietly and just breathe. Some people chant their positive motivations aloud to get rid of any evil thoughts in the brain but it’s as effective to simply sit still and think to yourself for a while. Who doesn’t like a bit of me time?

Even if you don’t want to cleanse your mind, you can embrace your inner Buddha by being mindful of living in an interdependent world. It becomes so easy and automatic to ignore what is around us and if we pollute our environment, we are affecting ourselves, our future children, and other living things. Try carpooling to Uni or picking up litter when you see a kit kat wrapper on the grass, because every little thing helps.