A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the month “January, 2011”

What about love?

In today’s world with so many blended families, of her child, his child, their child or any combination thereof, how should a Buddhist treat their new son or daughter? A Buddhist would consider the blessing of his new wife’s children from a previous relationship the same as if they have any together. Buddha told us to love our foes, the same as we love our friends. Before becoming a part of the child’s life, you should be fairly sure the adult relationship has a good chance of being permanent. Having a string of temporary parents in one’s life as a child, is not a good situation. Children quickly develop bonds, with those that treat them well. As a Buddhist we would strive to treat the child of our new spouse properly. To show them love, as if they were our own flesh and blood. One issue that comes up is discipline of step children. My view for now is to follow the biological parents lead, unless it would cause harm to the child. I would discuss the rules and boundaries that are expected of their child, and respect them, except as I say if there was harm being done to the child. Children naturally will test parents to see what they can get away with. They will respect a boundary or prohibition if they see it is fair, just and consistent. Parts of consistent being that both parents are in agreement. If one parent says no ice cream after dinner, and the other parent then takes the child out for ice cream, knowing this the child now has the upper hand. If one parent says no to a child, then the child goes and asks the other parent to make the same request, there needs to be a clear understanding made that this in unacceptable. It may require the parents discussing the situation to avoid any further incidents, and clarifying the do’s and don’ts allowed the child at that point. Here we would generally defer to the wife and mother on these situations, as she is in charge of the home life. As a husband we are to yield our authority in the household to supporting our wife’s authority. Keeping this in mind, when looking at a lady as a potential mate, is important. She needs to be able to balance tradition with the demands of the modern world. Be strong enough in her own right, to if required tell you when you are mistaken, or have done wrong. Yet she has to be kind, gentle and forgiving about the things that happen, or you will both be living in the past, a past full of mistakes. You both need to be of the mind, that having found a good match, you do not expect perfection from each other, but rather accept the other as they are. You both must agree that if there when problems arise to talk to each other, not complain to friends while keeping silent to each other. Each should show compassion to the other every day, and try to do the little things that bring a smile to each other’s face. Share as much time together each day, while allowing each other personal space as needed, as well as friends outside the relationship. One thing my parents did, which I think was good, was even those times where their disagreements lasted more than a day; they still said I love you to each other every day. This was not a common occurrence as they both preferred peace and harmony at home. More than once I remember them laughing, as they were both yielding to the other’s view on the disagreed point! They both had the ability to look at something and say, is getting my own way really that important in the long run?

From lifelong relationships to the next one

In today’s world your chances of meeting someone who already has had a failed relationship is climbing. Today the Hollywood image of the trophy wife and websites catering to finding that extra marital fling abound. Today it is all about the individuals happiness, if you’re not 100% happy break up find someone new, is a common mantra. Even traditionally conservative countries are seeing this trend develop. The emphasis has gone from making a good relationship better, to one of your not happy find someone new. Is it any wonder people today go through a series of relationships that generally are less and less satisfying? As a Buddhist, I am mindful of the suffering s of relationships. However I know that if I truly commit to a relationship, and diligently work with my wife that together we can eliminate a lot of the potential suffering and replace it with happiness, contentment and accomplishment. How by being a bit more selective starting with dating. Look for not just one who is beautiful to my eye. Rather find one who’s actions or words are attractive as well. One who has experienced enough of live to yearn for a committed relationship, walking hand in hand along the future path. One who proudly introduces me to her family and who want s to be part of my family. Find a lady who can be open and honest about her situation. To find a lady who knows what a broken heart feels like, so she never wishes to inflict it on anyone else. My parents used to have a song they called their love song, it was sung by Sammy Davis Jr. and was called “The Impossible Dream”. Mom used to say marriage was about making the impossible a reality.

Friendship or Romance?

When we start a romantic relationship, which develops into more than friendship, why do we say falling into love? Are we not choosing to do this? We may meet the person through a friend, at the local coffee shop or these days, some say one in five relationships now start online. We then choose to communicate with that person, in hope to know them better. The usual questions lurk in our minds; can we trust them to be who they say they are? Are they failing to disclose anything? We have to decide if we trust them or not. Some caution is necessary, however if anything meaningful is to truly develop trust must be given to a degree with deeper trust developing over time. It is only after some of the possible problems or if you prefer potholes on the road to love have been exposed that, a deeper romantic love develops. Having a shared value system makes it easier, 2 Buddhists will agree more readily on those then say with a Muslim or a Catholic. I am saying that by having the same basic belief system as a reference makes it easier to overcome problems as they arise. It is also important to disclose any impediments, such as contagious medical conditions, prior marriages or offspring early on. Worrying about the past relationships the other person may have had, is not fruitful. First they are in the past either you or they can change the past, so unless one of you has a stalker, leave the past in the past. Hopefully you both learned from you past relationships. Realize that while you may share a lot in common, it will be the differences that truly make your relationship. Celebrate what the other person enjoys, that you would prefer to pass on. One may like camping, while the other prefers 5 star hotels. If you become a couple and can afford a luxurious holiday at some point, then do so. However if the way to save for this trip is to rough it camping beside a waterfall or lake a few times for a holiday then both enjoy it too. One may like opera the other jazz. By embracing each other’s differences, we expand our own experiences. But back to the first question I mentioned today, the falling one. I think it’s because we have come to that canyon in the path, the one that separates friendship from committed relationship. Where either we stop because we think the gap is to far to cross, or we come to the edge of the cliff and jump. We jump because we think that the other person will be there to catch us. So we are falling, its up to the other person what happens when we get to the landing spot. If their arms are open and they catch us, we go forward to that new territory that perhaps leads to a lifetime commitment. If they are not there, it may feel like you have had a landing from which you will never walk away from. For most of us a few days, weeks, months or a year and we have recovered enough to willing put ourselves back on the path again. There are stories in every culture about lovers who gave their love, were spurned, and never loved again. These are rare, when these people love, they give their heart completely. It is why when we date that we must always put the other person first, to be open and honest, to not lead them down the path, to where they leap, and we know we will not be there to catch them. My dad used to say never talk to a girl about marriage, or meeting her parents if you are not serious. Don’t use her as a plaything, or as one to fill in the time till someone better comes along. He did say that a marriage ceremony or wedding ring wasn’t a guarantee of a lasting marriage. It took both the man and the woman jointly committing to making the relationship last. He mentioned that different cultures had different practices. He told me of the old Chinese custom of arranged marriages, such as his first one. That some cultures had a dowry involved, although in some cases it was only for show now. Buddha never said not to have any sex before marriage, perhaps because he did not pass along a marriage ceremony for Buddhists. However he did warn us against sexual misconduct, which means outside of a committed long term relationship. He did give us only a few reasons to dissolve a committed relationship between male and female. However these were to be of last resort, and the exception rather than the norm. If a Buddhist follows the precept to love others, they will have a lasting marriage, for they will put their spouses and children’s happiness on par or above their own happiness. Or as my dad used to say there is no ‘I” in “US”.

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