A Layman’s Guide to Spiritual Living
Issue   |   Tue, 02/20/2018 - 18:53

Ever since I renounced Christianity in middle school, I was never interested in learning about other religions. But a year and a half into Amherst, with countless more books and writing assignments ahead, spiritual enlightenment sounded appetizing enough. I don’t plan on shaving my head and fasting anytime soon (my hair is a proud asset), but I have enrolled in the Buddhist Life Writing course here at Amherst to see what divine spirituality looks like, at least in theory. I quickly brought some of the theory down to the ground level, and began applying it in my own life. And so, I present to you my very own fast-food version of the Buddha’s teachings.

Patience, Young Grasshopper.
According to the canon “The Story of Gotama Buddha,” the Buddha, in one of his many reincarnations, showed no signs of anger when a king repeatedly whacked him with an axe as though he “were an inanimate thing.” Compared to this, the Val lunch line that stretches out the door doesn’t seem too horrendous, so try to keep this image in mind whenever you’re fuming.

Dive into the Moment.
Perhaps one of his more well-known doctrines, being present is key to a happy and spiritual life. Whether you’re at a party or in class, quit worrying about that paper you have due in two days, or whether you’ll hear back from that internship you applied to. Commit to what’s happening in front of you, and you’ll have a jolly ol’ time.

Let that Stuff Go.
What does the Buddha stress to his disciples more than anything? Letting go of attachments. Apparently, his strategy in being happy is not to fulfill all desires, but to have the least amount of desires possible. That way, you’ll be spared the disappointment and suffering that come with failure. And without desires, you’ll never get attached to anything and can live free as a bird. What a genius.

Karma’s a Biscuit.
According to the Buddha, everything in the universe is connected in imperceivable chains of cause and effect. All things that occur in the universe are the effects and causes of many other things. This means, then, that all our actions have their causes, but more importantly, effects. What we do will have consequences that may elude our lifetime (ahem, climate change deniers), but they will confront us, in this life or the next. Performing good deeds is essential to storing good karmic energy so that you aren’t reborn as a pitiful ant or some other lowly creature. Take heed, all you miscreants out there.

Indulge in an Omen or Two.
I get it, you may never have believed in tarot card readings. But if the words “I have a good/bad feeling about this” have ever taken hold of you, then you’re not so unlike the Buddha. He took up the life of an ascetic monk after witnessing four omens of life: sickness, death, old age and monkhood. It’s not so silly once in a while to believe that something is a sign from the future that your life will go well. If you believe and act, your moment of optimism could translate into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pick anything, whether it be snow falling from a branch or a well polished writing assignment. After all, the last omen really stuck with the Buddha, and he ended up creating his own religion. Talk about being superstitious.