Jun Dishes

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Losing My Religion

By Guest Blogger: Ryan Abbott, 20, he lives in Detroit, Michigan (yes, actually the Detroit).  He is a junior, pre-med at Wayne State University and is majoring in Spanish. He wants to one day become a cardiologist and fittingly, loves to golf. You can find him on Twitter at @_abbottr.

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That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion…

It’s kind of a weird thing if you stop and think about it.  How does one exactly ‘lose’ their religion? Tempers, maybe, but actual religion? I lost my religion once, or whatever religion I thought I had.

Growing up, my parents never made a big deal about religion and respected it as a personal thing. But then my dad suffered a grade 5 subarachnoid hemorrhage caused from a ruptured brain aneurysm and was in a coma for a month, and survived. Religion and faith – in God and my dad, then played gigantic roles in my life.

“Thank God,” was around me every single day.

“I’m praying for him,” seemed to be the new way for someone to say goodbye to me.

While the majority of my family clung onto their relationship with God, I pushed mine away. Whatever shaky ground I had stood on before with my faith and religion, at some point along the road, collapsed underneath me.

In high school, my dad was pretty popular, a stereotypical jock and incredibly social. But, when prom rolled around, he asked one of his friends outside of his normal friend circle. He knew she didn’t have anyone to go with, and he didn’t want her to be left out or feel bad. This is how my dad has lived his entire life. He cares for people more than I can actually fathom.

I felt stuck in an abyss. I had nothing to hold on to.  How could this have happened to my dad?  He is such a phenomenal person. If God is real, how and why did this happen?  I was devastated by the idea that I may never “have” the same dad, or life, again. These questions consumed me. I fell to new lows in search of answers. I was a sophomore in college…perfect timing for a ‘quarter-life-crisis.’

I found my answer, in Buddhism. Karma is a big part of Buddhist belief and was essential in my struggle for answers. It was exactly what I needed, a religion that’s more about myself and how I live than it is about my devotion to something greater. I could finally understand better why my dad had survived, despite the 2% chance. My dad is the best person I know. Karma.

LosingMyReligion

It has been 11 months now since I discovered and converted to Buddhism, meditating, and committing myself to living a better life. It works for me. It’s the most liberating feeling in the world. I feel confident, clear, peaceful and most of all, I finally feel happy.

But, as a white guy that grew up in a small, semi-rural town in Michigan, I experienced mixed reactions. Half my family thought I was joking. Well, no, all of them did. Do. My mom is confused. My brother? Who the hell knows what he truly thinks? My dad talks to me about God like he’s ignoring the fact that I’m Buddhist.

I don’t blame any of them but like it has always been in my family, religion will always be – just for me.

 

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21 comments

  • Great read, I’m glad you found answers and confidence in something!

    It’s cool to read about Buddhism in a different perspective because I was raised “culturally” Buddhist,my parents are Buddhist and it’s a big part of their culture. But I never really understood it from a deep spiritual/religious standpoint because like I said, it was more cultural for me and no one ever really explained anything about it to me.

    As I grew older I was more curious about it, so I finally delved through it and learned about the teachings. I practiced Buddhism HEAVILY for a while. But for me, something didn’t resonate with me, so I kind of eased out of it all together and left the “practice” behind. I only say practice because I never really dumped the essence of what I learned. It helped me become an, ummm….., more “stable” person than I was previously, lol.

    If being Buddhist had to be defined by practice, then I would not consider myself Buddhist because I don’t actively and willfully practice it. But the essence of everything I learned still lingers and is in the back of my mind.

    I can say that there are great things in the Dhamma about compassion and I’m glad you found something to help guide you

    : )

      • Jun – I think it’s great that you’re wondering about Noah. Ultimately, you will do what you think is right, and it will be. I am most grateful that my parents inadvertently let me find my own path, but at the same time, I feel that growing up with a tangible faith, this situation could have been avoided altogether. Either way, everything always works itself out.

    • Thanks for your comment, Perry. The teachings of Buddhism are great – I definitely understand what you mean when you say it helped you become more stable. The combination of the teachings and actual meditation, for me, is why it fits so well.

  • Anonymous on November 5, 2013 at 7:45 am said:

    Reply

    interesting, but if you believe in Karma and if you really are serious about Buddhism, then maybe your dad, who you said is a good man (and this is very harsh) should have died, because you come back again (reincarnation) to become even a better man, and so forth until you hit nirvana, which is almost unattainable… I always was of the believe that only mean people live a very long life, because God is not done teaching them about life. I found 2 books that I liked (besides the ones from the Dalai Lama). One is called Buddha or Bust by Perry Garfinkle and Awakening the Buddha within by Lama Surya Das, Happy Journey on your quest for what you are looking for.
    vivien

    • Totally harsh but I see what you’re saying Vivien. Hmmm…I suppose though according to Buddhism he came back for a reason…

      Perhaps Ryan will come and answer?

    • Harsh, indeed – but I am glad you commented, it really provoked a good thought. So, I’m just going to spout it out as it comes to me.

      I think that religion is always what you make of it. Sure, it is laid out for you and can be read at surface level, but I think there is always room for interpretation.

      I’m sure that you have read, like I have, that Buddhist beliefs are not to be blindly accepted. They should be understood because they can be tested. For me, reincarnation doesn’t fit into that. I know that reincarnation is a large part of Buddhist belief, but I haven’t been a Buddhist forever. It’s still pretty early in my journey of discovering it, and understanding everything that is Buddhism. But for now, the science of the religion is the main reason that I was drawn to it, and it is also my strong understanding of science that has yet to let me believe in reincarnation.

      I do believe in Nirvana, but I don’t think that it is necessary to die and be reborn to achieve it. Perhaps, yes. But more importantly, I think the path to achieving Nirvana is the most important. Where I stand, maybe my Dad surviving was his second chance to reach it, a second chance to overcome the suffering in life and he got this chance from Karma?

      Or maybe – my dad is not the person that I think he is, and surviving was his bad Karma forcing him to live more, and thus, suffer more.

      I believe there are infinite paths that you could follow within the Buddhist belief to give an answer as to why my Dad survived, or possibly, why he shouldn’t have.

      Thanks a lot for your comment and the book recommendations, I really appreciate it.

      Ryan

  • Good for you. Feeling settled and grounded is a great feeling. Best wishes to your Pop – I hope he has years and years of good health.

  • Simple on the surface, but so deep in content. Well-expressed!

    Religion is a lot like ‘skin’.
    Everyone has it (even though it looks different).
    And wearing someone else’s would be vastly uncomfortable :)

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