I often call my wife a bosatsu (菩薩) in Japanese, which means “Bodhisattva”, as in the Buddhist beings who attain great awakening, help others, and so on, but haven’t yet attained full enlightenment. The reason why I call her a Bodhisattva is that although she doesn’t study Buddhism actively the way I do, she has a nice incisive way of understanding it. Where I am the convert, intellectual, she grew up more or less Buddhist but has a good head on her shoulders.1
So this weekend, we were talking about Buddhism in the West, and all the exotic stuff people love about Buddhism, and she said to me something like:2
Religion isn’t something you’re supposed to be fascinated with. It’s supposed to be a part of your life.
That one really blew me away, because I realized that I often do treat Buddhism and Asian religion more like a hobby than a way of life. It’s exotic allure sometimes matters more than the actual message. Worse, people get upset when you tell them this kind of thing, and claim you are being fundamentalist3 and stifling their freedom of religion. I saw this very complaint on a Buddhist forum just last night as a new fellow accused an ordained priest of being fundamentalist.
I think my wife’s right though. Buddhism, like all religions, is a dedicated path. It’s not “cool” to be Buddhist. It’s a way of understanding the world and learning how to live with it, and the other people in it.
1 – Not a “temple family” or anything like that in Japan. She just has good parents.
2 – Honey, I forgot the exact wording again. Help me out! Update: she did.
3 – I wonder if their defensive nature makes them more fundamentalist than those they accuse.