The Five-Minute Buddhist Returns
Apply Buddhist Principles to Your Life
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A jargon-free, plain-language introduction to the foundational ideas of Buddhism and real-world tips for practicing Buddhism while balancing life in the real, modern world.
This follow-up to the immensely-popular “Five-Minute Buddhist” continues the tradition of easily-understood application of Buddhist principles and ideas to your everyday life.
After a brief “Buddhism Refresher,” this book presents approximately 150 short topics, mostly reader-submitted questions and answers. How do you use Buddhism in your life? Find out how we do it in short, five-minute chunks
A reader wrote in:
It’s said in Buddhism that the way to happiness is not to escape or avoid pain, but to just “stay.” I recently decided to leave my job because I felt I was being treated poorly, and also because every day each task I was given felt insurmountable because I so badly did not want to do it. I was a receptionist who began to dread answering the phone or making copies of documents. I felt so unhappy doing the work I was doing because its purpose was not important to me.
I left it to pursue a career working with children because that is a path I feel passion for, something that was lacking for me in my last job. But, according to Buddhism, should I have stayed? Is it OK to escape something when you know that what you’re “escaping” to is going to be more meaningful to you? I guess this is something I’ve always struggled with in Buddhism. If I’m supposed to stay present, how do I progress, plan for the future or make significant changes in my life?
Thank you for any insight you can offer.
It’s said in Buddhism that the way to happiness is not to escape or avoid pain, but to just “stay.”
Where does it say that in Buddhism? Taoism is very passive; almost too passive in my opinion, but that’s not the same thing as Buddhism. Nowhere does Buddhism say “Stay in a bad place.” or “Keep up the suffering.” Quite the opposite. Buddhism is all about relieving suffering, both for others, and yourself.
If moving to a new job will reduce your suffering overall, then of course you should do it. You’ll need to consider all the factors: Will changing jobs create a financial hardship? Do you need the old job for benefits? Will the new job have a terrible commute? There are more things to consider than just “I don’t want to do this anymore” when weighing in the suffering of your old job. Perhaps it would cause less suffering to stick with the old one, maybe moving would be better.
If the money, commute, etc. is not a factor, and the only thing that matters is what you do, then yes, I’d change. Working with children has a lot of advantages, both to you and the children.
Buddhism does state that you should be “in the now.” And one of the “catchphrases” of Buddhism is even “Be here. Now.” And it means what it says. Don’t dwell on the future to the detriment of the present. Don’t reflect on the past to the point where it spoils your day. It’s fine to think about the future and the past, just don’t dwell on it. Don’t get caught up in the “what ifs” and “maybe somedays,” deal with the now.
Everyone makes plans. Everyone thinks to the future. Maybe in theory you shouldn’t have to do it, but in practice, you do, at least a little. I know people who have every step of their career planned out all the way into retirement. Those people are happy with that plan, so who am I to argue? As long as they don’t stick to the plan when their needs or abilities change, what’s the harm in it? If the plan becomes a chore, if the plan becomes a burden, then it’s time to change plans. The plan itself is not a bad thing.
Opinons? Please post on the site.
Buddha Tech Support
A Reader writes:
Do Buddhist monks work on an individual case-by-case basis with lay Buddhists who seek advise on a specific problem in their lives and then offer a diagnosis and prescription in, of course, Buddhist terms? Or are the 4 noble truths, 8 fold path, 5 precepts, etc., always to be generically self-prescribed? I suppose this question arises from vestiges of Catholic confession, the psychoanalytic model, and just a plain old desire for commiseration.
It depends. Monks and monasteries vary a lot depending on denomination, leadership, community involvement, etc. Some don't interact much with the lay community, while others are a central part of it.
I suspect very few monks would turn down a request for help if it were made.
Keeping that in mind, you mention Catholicism. Catholic priests undergo MANY years of training in working with the community. They take courses in counseling, psychology, social work, etc. They are heavily educated in these areas. Many high-ranking Buddhists, on the other hand, have very little formal education. What I'm saying is that most Buddhists would be willing to help you, but they are sometimes limited in their real-world applications of Buddhism outside the monastery.
I'd like to hear about others' experiences with this. Anyone have any really good stories of Buddhist Helps? About bad stories/disasters?
Another answer to your question is that I seem to do it all the time; what can I help you with? 🙂
A reader writes:
Just found your website. Thank you for putting such great content available for all to see. I got into Buddhism because of a friend. She is part of the NKT and that’s all the Buddhism that I know. Due to their dispute and protests, I no longer want to be involved with the NKT. I would like to continue my studies. How do I pick a buddhist lineage to follow? How can you learn about Buddhism without a sangha?
I discussed the debate over the NKT (Lamas, Geshes and Cults… It’s the NKT!) last year, and nothing has really changed there. The organization has some problems with its image, to say the least.
I did a brief overview of most of the major denominations back in 2008. Here are the links:
Denominations of Buddhism: Theravada & Mahayana
Denominations of Buddhism: Pure Land
Denominations of Buddhism: Vajrayana / Tantric
Denominations of Buddhism: Tibetan
Zen, Part one and Zen, Part two as well as Zen, Part three and Zen, part four
Just from the number of links above, you can probably guess where I’m coming from. If you are seriously looking for a local church/sanga, you are most likely going to find many that follow the Pure Land or Tibetan traditions; at least those are the ones I see most commonly in the Midwestern USA.
One of the three Jewels (The Buddha, The Sangha, and the Dharma) is obviously the “Sangha.” This has traditionally meant the local Buddhist community. In our Western minds, this often translates to “Church,” but this is not really correct. Any gathering, grouping, or community (in the real-world OR online) of Buddhists can be considered a Sangha.
Your best bet if you cannot find a local sangha, or don’t like the teachings of the ones that are nearby, is to go it alone. This is completely possible, since we have the greatest method of learning and teaching ever created right in front of our faces. The Internet is your friend. Watch Youtube videos. Listen to podcasts. Buy/Borrow books. Join forums. You can be as interactive or as isolated as you desire.
Back in ancient times (like pre–2000), it was necessary to have a local sangha or teacher to advance, since there was very little in the way of non-face-to-face interaction between Buddhists, and the material that was out there was poorly translated or difficult to understand. You could order books and pamphlets, but nothing like it is now. You want a live, real, face-to-face teacher? Facetime and Hangouts make that easily possible.
Can you teach yourself Buddhism? Up to a point, yes. Can you advance a long ways using just the Internet? I believe you can. Can you reach Enlightenment on Facebook? OK, that last one might be stretching it, but I believe that it’s entirely possible to do it from home.