So, there has been something I haven’t been telling you..
It may seem like this has come out of the blue, but I promise it hasn’t…..
I now consider myself to be a Buddhist and in fact have just been through a commitment ceremony at the London Buddhist Centre.
I have put off sharing this with you and I don’t know why! In order to make it easier I am going to share the introduction which was displayed at the centre. It has been slightly edited for clarity – mainly with square brackets. It may help explain, and then I am going to do two posts about becoming a Mitra (to be explained) and the ceremony itself.
My journey with the LBC has been a long and complex one and the vast majority of you [at the centre] won’t know or recognise me. During my first Christmas in London, (8 years ago) I thought, “Right! That’s it, I am not doing Christmas this year, I am going to go on a Buddhist retreat for 10 days”. That was my first introduction to Buddhism and the LBC, beyond some reading. I loved it, the peace and the quiet, even though I spent quite a lot of time hiding in the kitchen as I found it all so overwhelming. I cried and slept quite a lot too.
After almost getting killed when I got back to London not having seen a car for 10 days, I slowly slipped back into my old day to day life. I went to a few classes, cycling from Brixton to Bethnal Green in the snow on one memorable occasion. And then I fell away. I went back to a class, did that for a while and slipped away again. Did a couple of retreats, went to some classes, slipped away again. After I moved out to Essex I did the MBCT course at Breathing Space and found it changed my life. I attended another Buddhist course, then I was on the team at the next year’s MBCT course. I am evangelical about MBCT and the difference it can make. I would love to learn it so that I can bring it out to Thurrock, where I live. Google ‘Thurrock’ and until very, very recently, one of the first things you come to is a Guardian article calling it a ‘cesspit’. It is much needed. At some point over the past eight years meditation has become part of my daily life.
So, why I have I drifted backwards and forwards for so long? Most people who are born here are what I term ‘generic C of E’. Unless you have decided otherwise that’s what gets written on forms, you probably go to a C of E funeral, until quite recently most weddings were C of E. Well I’m not. When I was 15 I became a Pagan, and have been all of my adult life. I even had a handfasting ceremony when I got married. I struggled with Buddhism and Paganism, and despite nearly everyone saying ‘Oh, Sangharakshita [founder of the Triratna order, which the London Buddist Centre is part of] says should be Pagans before we become Buddhist’ I still felt awkward about the whole thing. When you have made a decision to not be ‘generic C of E’ it is one thing, when you decide to change it again that is something else. I have felt deeply awkward telling family I am becoming Buddhist and changing to vegetarian. Not least because we are British and one doesn’t talk about religion. My family is rabidly atheist in the case of my dad and sister and I have married into an atheist/agnostic one.
I made a decision in January this year to start going back to the Buddhist centre each week, as I feel good when I go regularly, I did a lot of reading and decided that I could resolve everything in my brain. At the same time the Hornchuch Buddhist Group opened, run by Nandaketu and David Weston, which is nearer to me and, quite frankly less intimidating that the LBC! So I have been going there since January. I spoke with Subhadramati and agreed I was going to do my Mitra ceremony in July. Then I freaked out slightly and ran away. Nandaketu kindly texted me and said we could meet for a chat. When I told him what I had been thinking he laughed and said that I had tried to take on Buddhism and resolve everything by myself in a month. He was right. And it is not that easy (or particularly sensible) to do. It is a lifetime’s work,
So, do I have it all resolved? Nope, I consider myself Buddhist with Pagan leanings, but I am no longer comfortable with the term ‘Pagan’. Mainly because of how the term is used in the UK – I was the General Secretary of the Pagan Federation when I decided I no longer wanted to keep that term for me. If you want to read more about that then please go to my blog [details for here provided].
For me I still believe in a higher power than oneself (male/ female/not confined by our gender constructs!), in animism and that taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is where I want to be heading.
I don’t know why I have felt it was a confession, it is absolutely the right thing for me to do…and I feel very happy with becoming a Mitra within this community.