Blemished Buddhist

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Jenny Elfman is actually a Scientologist, not a Buddhist. Photo illustration by Marcus Jones / UVU Review
Jenny Elfman is actually a Scientologist, not a Buddhist. Photo illustration by Marcus Jones / UVU Review

I’m a bad Buddhist.

Let me rephrase that: I’m a bad Buddhist with good intentions. Most of the time.

When you, open minded and intelligent reader, picture a Buddhist, what do you see? It’s okay to stereotype right now. Go on — what comes to mind? Perhaps you see a robe and shaved head. Maybe you imagine a waify vegetarian sitting in the lotus position with a serene smile on their face. Is this Buddhist an Asian? Indian? Tibetan? Richard Gere? If you’re like me (and God/Buddha help you if you are), you picture a Buddhist as someone who is gentle, compassionate, wise and mindful. In other words, you picture a good Buddhist.

I am not that Buddhist. I am crude, indifferent, foolish and chronically absent-minded. In fact, sometimes I wonder why I even started writing this column. I don’t want to be the spokesperson for Buddhism on campus; there are much more qualified and knowledgeable people that would fit that title. I just want to write about something that fascinates me. Plus, how could I not have a column that plays off of the title of the late great ABC sitcom “Dharma and Greg”?

But like I said, I’m not the best example of a Buddhist. I feel a confessional coming on … And here it is, in all its painful, honest shame:

I am crude.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good dirty joke. And sometimes nothing feels more refreshing than yelling a “naughty” word in my car when that Honda Civic with the sweet spoiler cuts me off. If I was a good Buddhist, dirty jokes would have no appeal and I would be civil with that Civic driver, right?

I am indifferent.

I’ve been invited to protests about things I think I care about, but I hardly ever attend them because, well, it interferes with “LA Ink.” Saving the world will have to wait! Reality television is apparently my top priority.

I am foolish.

A wise person wouldn’t wait until the end of the semester to write all of her literary theory papers. I am not that person.

I am absent-minded.

Here’s a pathetic story: In my Buddhism class, the teacher asked me a question about consciousness. I wasn’t paying attention and had no idea what he was asking or how to answer. I got nervous, started blushing, and quickly said something about a dog chasing its tail. It was obvious I had been daydreaming. After I gave my inadequate answer, I left the classroom to cry for ten minutes in the bathroom because I was so embarrassed and mad at myself. A good Buddhist would have either a) given a very insightful answer, b) realized that there is no “wrong” answer, or c) stopped to think about the situation before bursting into tears.

Sigh. I actually feel better. It’s nice to come clean. It gives me a bit of perspective and let’s me know what I need to work on. I should watch what I say. I need to take more of an interest in things I care about. I should probably meditate on a regular basis. I think the thing I need improvement on the most, though, is being kind to myself. No one gives me a harder time than myself. I may not be the best Buddhist or person, but sometimes I need to remember what the Dalai Lama said: “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” It’s okay to be imperfect; after all, we are only human.

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