Thursday, April 29, 2010

Can Buddha Help Your Short Game?

This just in from The Wall Street Journal--golfers are converting to Buddhism to improve their games.

This is an amusing paradox, but it is typical of how we think. Buddhism is ultimately about giving up on the notion that anything outside us can bring us happiness. The happiness we seek is already in us, or as Jesus said, "the kingdom of God is within."

So golfers are hoping to give up to get. Just like many people ask "why meditate?" The act of meditation itself is not worthy on its own. The journey is not its own reward. Rather, we imagine that there is some destination where our suffering will be over. Where we will be permanently happy. And we are only willing to embark on the path if we think there is something waiting for us.

If you can imagine a path with steps, there seem to be at least three--

First, we might imagine that there is a place to go where we will be happy. It may involve achievements, or money, or status, or relationships, or some combination of all of those. If we get all the ingredients and prepare the recipe just right, then permanent happiness ensues. At this step, we spend a lot of time comparing recipes, feeling like we are getting closer because we taste little bits of happiness from time to time.

Second, we might see that none of these things has given us more than transitory satisfaction (because each of them is transitory). In other words, we give up on the more material kinds of recipes. Maybe we decide on a path to happiness through spirituality or religion. We decide that if we follow the steps of that path, we will be happy.

Finally, we might see there never were any steps to begin with. Happiness was always here, right now, waiting to be found in plain sight, even within sadness. (And yes, this is another paradox. Many people only discover that there aren't any steps because they were willing to follow the steps!)

It may be that Buddhism (or any other religion, frankly) helps people become better golfers. In the process, though, a few may find that they can be happy no matter how they golf.


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