When did you start becoming interested in Buddhism?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint the exact person or thing that sparked my interest in Buddhism. Since a young age, I was drawn to Eastern thought. The more I read about Buddhism, the more sense it made to me.
How would you define spirituality?
Spirituality to me is concerned with ending suffering. I believe this can be achieved through meditation, mindfulness and the understanding of reality. To practice this kind of spirituality, you do not need to be a Buddhist. The ultimate goal is to end suffering and reach enlightenment. There are various paths to this goal and Buddhism is just one of those paths.
Is it difficult being a Buddhist in Utah?
It was at first just because I wanted to be surrounded by people that were “more like me.” But I have come to see that there are actually a lot of people just like me. In fact, everyone is so much alike that at times I can hardly distinguish one person from the other. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, we are all different in certain ways, but we are still deeply interconnected – and not just with one another, but with the entire universe. Now let me give you (“you,” which is actually me since I am interviewing myself) another answer to that question that might be less wordy and “far out”: No, it is not difficult being a Buddhist in Utah.
Do you believe in God?
I am less concerned with the idea of a god than I am with the human condition. The Buddhist path is focused on coming to a place of acceptance with birth, sickness, old age and death. And as a side note, Buddhists do not think of Buddha as a god. They see him as a great teacher and a normal human being who achieved perfection by ending suffering. We are all already buddha. We just need to realize our buddha-nature.
How has Buddhism changed your view on life?
It has helped me to see things more clearly. I see the impermanence in things that beforehand I saw as unchanging. I try to practice mindfulness in all situations, which helps me to be more aware of my own feelings and the feelings of others. Before studying Buddhism and practicing meditation, I would get caught up in various negative emotions quite easily. Now I feel like I can handle such emotions in a calmer, less dualistic way.
Did you hear about the Dalai Lama recently fist-bumping the mayor of Memphis?
Yes, I did. He has a great sense of humor. I thought it was interesting that he said the fist-bump reminded him of violence. He is a very observant, mindful man who doesn’t take himself too seriously. I find these to be great qualities.