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Buddhism in the News


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Motivations for Becoming Buddhist.

Baseball player Alex Rodriquez is reportedly going to convert to Buddhism for his girl friend, actress Kate Hudson. I'm not a Religious Studies professor but I do know that converting to a religion out of a feeling of obligation or to please a person is a horrible reason. I was apart of a belief system growing up in which I remained for longer than I should have out of a feeling of obligation and It was gut-wrenching. I finally realized that I was living a lie and deceiving my parents into thinking I was a loyal member.

I can't say whether A-Rod will stay with it or not but too often we do things for the wrong reasons and the biggest example I can think of is with love/happiness. We might think that we have to be a certain way in order to gain the love of someone and be happy. The other side of that coin is when we withhold love to get things from someone. That isn't love or true happiness. That is loved based on attachment. It's like saying, "I love you but only if you do the things I like, be the person I want and believe the things I do." The Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says of happiness and love in his book, "Teachings on Love":

"Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form."

James: It's hard when our vision of happiness doesn't pan out but if we can find happiness in what we already have then we'll never be disappointed. And we won't be manipulating people thus causing suffering for them too. I working on that with everyone else by the way. My pot is no less cracked than anyone else's. I hope that A-Rod finds something about Buddhism to be important, interesting or worthwhile other than being the religion his girlfriend practices. I also hope Kate Hudson didn't pressure him to convert. Because that would make me wonder just how well she knows Buddhism because pressuring people to do much of anything in Buddhism is taboo. I'm not saying that A-Rod doesn't have any personal interest in Buddhism but from what I know of the story it sounds like he is doing it just for her. I hope it works out because I sure have found a lot in Buddhism that has helped my life but it doesn't mean much if you're not fully engaged.

~Peace to all beings~

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Hannah said...

The quote by Thich Nhat Hanh just revolutionized my day and revitalized my spirit :-) Thank you so much for including it in your post.

May said...

You reminded me that a couple of months ago I bought a small book by Thich Nhat Hanh and forgot about it (well, I have been very busy).

Shaista said...

Dear James,
I am a student of Thay Nhat Hanh too - he is so beloved to us all. I enjoy your blog, and your journey on the Middle Path.
As for A-Road and Kate, I do not think there is anything worrying about wanting to practise Buddhism because someone you love does. True love is the most helpful director and teacher of all.
And even if their paths diverge, she will have gifted him with a great practise don't you think?

KLOBBER said...

I agree with Shaista.

The premise posited by the original poster (the personal belief that joining a religion because someone you love wants you to is a "horrible" reason) was not supported by any evidence, and so it should not just be accepted because the poster says so.

Still, even if we accept that unsubstantiated premise, which I do not, who cares if he joined for the wrong reason?

Let's take a look at this a little more logically: Doing the right thing for the supposed "wrong" reason is still doing the right thing, and if we are to accept the path of Buddhism as having real value, then we should understand that any exposure to its teachings, whether undertaken for the right or supposed "wrong" reasons will still be of benefit to the practitioner.

Unless one is already enlightened, one's motivations will always be tainted with some kind of imperfection or another. If we can only derive benefit from a particular religious path if our motives for joining are already flawless, then who exactly is the path for? Those who are already enlightened?

Following the original poster's statements to a conclusion leads to that slippery slope, but in reality, all religious paths are for the edification and betterment of those who are not yet enlightened, and whose motivations may well be less-than-perfect.

Speculation is always open to speculation, and if the original poster posits the speculation that someone who becomes a Buddhist for a reason that he doesn't happen to like will not derive any benefit, and yet fails to support that speculation with any evidence, then I counter with the speculation that maybe becoming a Buddhist because someone loves you and wants you to share in her chosen religion will actually be of more benefit than whatever reason is supposed to be the "right" one (which the original poster failed to mention, as far as I can see).

Maybe love is the best reason of all -- can anyone think of a better one?

They call him James Ure said...


You're welcome. Thich Nhat Hanh is such an inspiration. I'm glad it helped boost your day.


Oh!! That's like getting a gift from himself. I hope you enjoy that book. I want a new one of his about the Heart Sutra.


I agree that it's beneficial that A-Rod be influenced by Buddhist thought an practice. I just hope it's not done out of a feeling of obligation. Or wanting to "impress" his girlfriend. That kind of reasoning never seems to last.

I hope it works out for him. I certainly am not against A-Rod finding the peace, inspiration and guidance from Buddhism.


My statement that it is a horrible reason is my opinion and I don't expect everyone to agree with me. However, I did provide reasons as to why joining for such motivations can be problematic.

I gave the example of myself.
How staying in a religion out of a feeling of obligation to others, based on a belief that love means doing whatever your loved one wants caused a lot of suffering and unhappiness for many people in my family.

And that I felt I was living a lie. I'm not saying that is automatically the case for A-Rod. However, I hear a lot of tragic stories of relationships breaking up over beliefs that start like this.

I stated, "I can't say whether A-Rod will stay with it or not but too often we do things for the wrong reasons and the biggest example I can think of is with love/happiness."

I stated that I'm not an expert, however, sometimes when we make decisions out of a love that is based on ATTACHMENT to making others happy; it can cause a lot of suffering. Because love shouldn't be based on attachment if you believe in the Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh as I do.

Love is indeed a great motivator. However, I have found that to be the case usually only if the love is coupled with some level of personal interest in the belief system.

Otherwise it often leads to a feeling of obligation developed from a feeling of not wanting that person's love to go away. That is not a healthy form a love in my view.

If your love is based on wanting to know your loved-one more and upon learning about their beliefs you find something interesting in it for yourself as well-- Then love can indeed be a very powerful and good motivation. A good STARTING point but I don't think a strong practice can based on love alone.

Even the Dalai Lama cautions people not to join Buddhism haphazardly. And I think he's a good source on such matters.

You're right that I was engaging in speculation. However, I'm not a mind-reader. I'm not some guru or ordained "Master" so of course part of what I say is based on my own opinions. Same goes for anyone.

If I avoided all speculation then I wouldn't have much to blog about. All of us engage in speculation. The only ones who don't are the enlightened and no I don't consider myself enlightened. I'm just as cracked a pot as anyone else. I mentioned that in the post.

I'm merely stating an opinion based on what I have personally seen and studied. Is it the right opinion? I don't know. It is for me right now because it's based on teachings from my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. And he is someone whom I believe to be enlightened.

Oh, but there I go speculating again.

KLOBBER said...

Not everyone engages in speculation.

I only pretended to in order to make the point that speculation is always open to speculation. As a means for discernment of truth, speculation is very inadequate.

It is quite possible to live your life completely free from speculation, and only state things that are facts.

To say that everyone is always influenced by opinion and speculation is tantamount to saying that no statement ever made can ever truly be trusted, which makes the statement itself a self-refuting argument, for your own statement cannot be trusted either way you look at it.

I prefer to state facts, and the fact is that love is a fine reason to enter into the Buddhist path, as you admitted in your second post.

God bless you, and may you find peace.

Marco said...

I think converting to a religion out of a feeling of obligation or to please a person is something that is ridiculous.

Marco @ rankpay

BM said...

I disagree with the idea of "conversion." Everyone is different. Hence, everyone has his/her own relgion that speaks to him/her. It has nothing to do with if Buddhism is better or has helped you. It's about feeling "at home" or "click" with a religion.
Second point is, Buddhism has never about forcing someone to convert. Many converted to become Buddhist are their own Will and usually they have gone through very tough times that cause them to seek for something-else to help them find peace in them.
Kate and A-Road have no understanding of Buddhism at all.

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