Had an interesting conversation with my buddy Jord yesterday about why a lot of Chinese people take the path of least social resistance. Now, we both understand that the majority of the world’s population is this way; but this is an especially strong cultural phenomena within countries that honour family and social cohesion in higher regard than a person’s self-actualization. We wondered if it had anything to do with Buddhist teachings; teachings that taught us to go with the flow, and to avoid obstacles as a way of minimizing suffering.. including doing what is true to the self, though it may be contrary to traditional social constructs.
But I’m not sure if that was the essence and purpose of these teachings.
Raised Roman Catholic, I am by no means an expert on Buddhist teachings (how many of us are?). My speculations are based on what I know from my grade 11 World Religions course, and enlightening conversation with Westerners who have converted to Buddhism. But I do feel that this is worth talking through. Feel free to comment after you’ve heard me out. I’d love to know what you think.
Bruce Lee once said, “Be water, my friend.” I believe Buddhist teachings meant for us to flow as Water does: to ride the waves of conflict, flow around and over obstacles and barriers with ease, swell through with the understanding that this, too, shall pass. It is impossible to remove the conflicts inflicted upon us by this world; what is most meditative and effective is to simply flow through them with the strength of Water.
In this, I picture myself as water, flowing down my path as I do, not knowing what each fork in the river will bring. While as a human, I can make educated predictions about which path will bring the most rapids; but I will never know which obstacles will strike me the sharpest, which rapids will be the easier rides, which rivers will be the most polluted. All I can do, as Water, is flow down the path that is most true, the path that makes my heart sing, and hope to endure the rapids and sharp boulders as they come with strength and fluidity; flow, knowing that in the end, I will have the strength to smooth over the rocky paths, and I will be wondrously at peace.
While I see value in minimizing suffering and removing barriers, I also see value in embracing the barriers and learning by flowing over and around them with wonderment and an open mind. Buddhism teaches detachment from desire to achieve happiness, but I don’t think it’s as simple as removing things that can bring us pain. Doing so means you don’t achieve much, nor experience much of this beautiful thing called Life. Doing so is the easy way out, but ultimately not the most fulfilling. Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile, and eliminating the desire to do something worthwhile is a cop-out.
I don’t think Buddhism is teaching us to take the easy way out. I think Buddhism is teaching us to develop the strength to flow as Water, so that we can do the extraordinary.
I’m going to be climbing the CN Tower, so I figured my registration fees should go towards something worthwhile to keep me motivated. And so, here I am! United Way provides priceless services to the vulnerable sector in and around our fair city of Toronto. When we share, we raise our communities to create a safer place for everyone, and I think that’s a concept worth supporting.
So here’s my pledge. If you sponsor me, I promise to finish the climb in under 20 minutes. Given that the last time I did it, I completed the climb in 33 minutes, I think that’s a reasonable challenge, no?
Give however much you’d like. There’s no pressure for you to empty your bank account. Maybe just your coffee budget for a day or two :)
To sponsor me, please click on the link below. Once you’ve made your donation using your credit card, you will receive an electronic tax receipt immediately. It’s fast, easy and secure to do!
For more information on how you can participate in the 2012 Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way, too, please visit:
Thanks a lot for your kind consideration, everyone.