By Ty H. Phillips
Great writers always say to stay true to the course—write what you know; pick a topic that you love and just keep writing.
I’ve been hesitant to do this of late. I have a passion for Buddhism but what is it that we are really offering on the day to day? What really is left to say about a topic that has been written about almost ad nuaseum? Detailed histories, the Pali Canon, the Tibetan Sutras, commentaries, Lamas, laymen and women, dabblers, critics and more have all taken a stab at Buddhism.
Is what we say really anything new or is it just a different dust cover on the same book?
I came to the conclusion that writing about Buddhism isn’t really what I do anymore. I write about me—the topic I know best. How I have lived, what I have done or not done, and how I approach or have failed to approach my own issues. It’s not Buddhism that I am really sharing, it’s my life and how my practice has helped me.
What I am seeing though, more and more as I distance myself from writing about Buddhism per-se is people packaging Buddhism and not themselves. The tradition is being wrapped up over and over yet the story remains unchanged. We throw money at a teaching that already exists yet we fail to engage what we already know.
I can share the words of the Buddha and I can share methods of meditation but like a diet, it’s useless if you aren’t actually doing it. It’s little more than hollow baffoonery with a ribbon to line my wallet.
But how did I fall? How did I falter and get back up? Did I? Did you? It is the stories of life that we all share that motivate us—that motivate me? Some of us are bleak and some of us are beaming. We share horrors or we share hope. We laugh, we cry, we sit paused in reflection or we pass by unmoved. I think this is where we find what we are good at. We write not what we know but maybe who we are. We write the stories of life.
My life happens to have Buddhism intertwined but it also has children, sorrow, sickness, laughter, work, my hobbies, your hobbies, my likes and my dislikes, what makes me angry and what makes you happy.
Life is personality. This is what makes us continue to read, continue to write, continue to create and share and aspire to greater heights of ability and awareness.
I think what I need to know now is, am I good at this thing called writing?
I often hear that it doesn’t matter if we are good at something or not it only matters if we enjoy it. To some extent, this is true. Reality though dictates otherwise. I can always play driveway hoops but no matter how much I play, I just don’t have a talent for the game. I enjoy shooting baskets but I don’t thrive playing the game. We must mix reality with desire and find the dream at the end.
Maybe sharing my life will impact someone and I will know or maybe it won’t and I will also know. All that I do know right now is that I am not a Buddhist writer, I am a writer of my own journey. What comes of that I will share.
Buddhism is a part of what I write about, but repackaging the same book for my own ends would be dishonest. It would be everything Buddhism shouldn’t be.
So, here I am, here is my journey. Maybe some will continue to follow, walking alongside me, laughing and challenging me. Maybe my journey will help you share yours.
I guess we will find out together.
Editor: Dana Gornall