There have been many instances in my life when I have relied heavily upon my faith. My faith has carried me through loss, tragedy, and hardship, and some days my faith is all that gets me out of bed. That's not to say I have never suffered a crisis of faith. Quite the contrary. There was a point in my life when I lost my faith altogether. During that time, I learned a lot about Buddhism, and found that by applying Buddhist practices and concepts to my life, I was a better Christian. These days, I follow the teachings of the Buddha and Jesus Christ, both bodhisattvas in their own right, to help me through. I do not worship the Buddha, I am simply and deeply grateful for his teachings and guidance.
In following the Buddhist path to enlightenment, the first things I learned were the Four Noble Truths:
1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4. There is a path to the cessation of suffering.
That path is called the Eight-Fold Path:
1. Right View - To realize the Four Noble Truths;
2. Right Intention - Commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement;
3. Right Speech - Do not lie, slander, or engage in meaningless, idle chatter;
4. Right Action - Don't steal or harm sentient beings and abstain from sexual misconduct;
5. Right Livelihood - Earn one's living in a righteous way, legally, ethically, peacefully;
6. Right Effort - Use your energy for positive change, not negative change;
7. Right Mindfulness - Actively observe and control the direction one's thoughts take;
8. Right Concentration - Concentrate on wholesome thoughts and actions, one at a time.
Right now, I am working on Right Intention and making changes in my life that will help me continue my self-improvement. In the past, I worked on improving myself because I thought if I was a better person, better things would happen to me, that if I followed the path, it would lead me to fortune. Even now, it may seem that all this is leading up to some monumental gain, and that I am simply following the rules until I hit the jackpot. In a sense, I am, but not for what I hope to gain. Now I am working to be a better person simply for the sake of being a better person. For nothing tangible nor of monetary value, but for that which is invaluable to me:
The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the world's ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.
-Atisha (11th century Tibetan Buddhist master)