Scanning the dial of my local radio stations I’ve found myself getting sucked into a religious station every now and then. Since I live in America, that religion is invariably Christian. Why, in this supposed land of religious freedom are there no Buddhist, Muslim or Jewish radio stations? I think if there were we would find very little difference in the core message and directions given in terms of how to live and behave as a good person. It would also undermine the tacit message that any is the one true religion. Most religions of the world teach love, how not to hate, and those things have to do almost invariably with one’s mental volition or disposition every day — not just in church.
The commentator on this particular radio program spoke in a Christian-specific context, but using concepts of universal happiness which is what intrigued me. She also referenced the following poem, unattributed:
Your mind is a garden,
Your thoughts are the seeds,
You can grow flowers or
You can grow weeds.
Such a simple, poetic metaphor completely reflects the core teachings in the technique of Vipassana Meditation I practice. S.N. Goenka speaks of a attendee on a 10-Day Vipassana course who happened to be the Mother Superior of a convent who accused him of teaching Christianity in the name of Buddha. Goenkaji said “I teach Dhamma! The law of nature.” In my readings I’ve found no better example of a law of nature pertaining to both nature and man than the one referenced in the poem above. Thanks Christian radio!
Sometimes that same radio station has had commentators posturing hate-related exclusionary political positions in the name of Christianity which have nothing to do with positive mental development and connecting to others. In those cases I tune out, but when they speak in terms of creating a better life for everyone, regardless of their personal lifestyle, sexual orientation or religion, it gets my attention.
Universal concepts of creating happiness like the one in the poem above are simply effective, regardless of specific rites, rituals or political positions associated with a given religion. It requires no sales pitch as it is sensible, and apparent in truth. It is readily easy to prove too.
What makes a bad day? Invariably it is having bad, negative thoughts that stress us out and cause our day to be ‘bad’. It’s not the things that actually happen to us, but how we think about them that affect our happiness. Thinking positively is not as simple as thinking of pretty thoughts and flowers, of course. It takes practice and discipline that effective and regular meditation practices supports. Going to church, mosque, temple, the movies or your psychiatrist can get you there too, but it’s likely to be colored with someone else’s biases.
What makes sensation-based Vipassana meditation effective is its focus is solely on the truth of your own bodily sensations, which are tied to your subconscious. Becoming aware of and accepting them puts you closer in touch with your own personal reality. Such perspective gives you more personal control, so as to not be taken by surprise or overreact so easily when something good or bad happens. It is also allowing you to see the garden as it is, weeds and all, and, if you’re smart, use meditation as an opportunity to pull the weeds from the garden of your mind. When all the weeds are gone, all that’s left is flowers.