The ability to recall facts and figures at will is something that has alluded me from birth. If it is not front of mind and daily use then I will need prompts to bring my mind back to where and how I learned a particular fact or idea. I’ve always been envious of those that can recall lines from movies at will as I barely can and not with complete accuracy ( The Color Purple has been one I have had lines repeated at will to me since it came out ). Scripture is a huge source of repetition, and another area I have fallen flat with but with less concern than other material. Why you ask? Well let’s talk about it.
I remember this movie “Stigma” starring Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byne and Nia Long. The story revolved around a priest that was possessing Alice, played by Patricia Arquette, who wanted to share the lost gospel of Jesus himself. At that time I was still trying to find my spiritual path, and by the end I felt awakened. The Gospel, as the movie depicts, brings the idea of the church and the need for religious leaders crashing down, claiming Jesus said ” The kingdom of heaven is in all of us”. That was something I needed and it sent me exploring religion and spirituality in a way that relaxed me and revitalized me at the same time. I hear from this concept, I was in charge and all that was needed was a thirst and practice not a priest, pastor, building, or monk.
I share this because I currently am following my spiritual path without a Sangha, or spiritual community to read the Dharma with and fellowship. Make no mistake, I believe having a group to discuss one’s spiritual beliefs with is very important as this world can really take it to you. If you are an alcoholic and all of those you associate want to go to the bars and drink all the time, it is more likely you too will drink as that is what is around you. With spiritual practice, like anything, practice and diligence is what will win the day. Having like-minded souls to assist and push this practice is paramount to stay on track, and it’s just nice in general. With that being said, I decided to join several groups of fellow Buddhist to share experiences with and keep me on track. What I found was a level of knowledge I wanted and respected, and soon began to question.
The problem was as I studied on my own, I found the same thread as the gospel of Jesus claimed also present in the Dharma and the words from the Buddha. The Buddha as his last Dharma talk wanted to be sure we didn’t get hung up on the words of his teachings but on experiencing those teachings, applying only those that work for own path to Nirvana. I interpret that as not really needing to rattle off sutta passages by heart, but I’ve noticed many feel that need. I’ve noticed some that do also feel the need to go on and on and on as if this gave the appearance their practice was deeper, cleaner, or better than those that didn’t have amazing memorization skills. And yes, I say memorization skills, as I also noticed while they had the sutta, principles, precepts, and I guess book knowledge on lock, the practical usage I didn’t really see in action.
I share this because at one point I was troubled by my inability to spout scriptures when I was a part of the Christian faith; and decided that wasn’t going to happen with Buddhism. I had been on a mission to find Canon, read, take notes, read again, and yes memorize so I could be an “authentic” Buddhist ( I heard the same thing in my head you did when you read that line ). The British would say “bollocks”. The idea that the recalling of the words has anything to do with practice and authenticity was destructive and I is destroying myself and those I revered for having that skill.
The truth is, practice is action. I have lived my life in the spirit of Jesus, Buddha, and the Dharma. I research to deepen my understanding and my practical use in life for myself. There is a book, ” The Authenticity Hoax” I’ve owned for a while, and am still reading through, but that word authenticity is at the heart of the problem. Who really gets to say someone is authentic or not? I was placing their memorization skills on a pedestal and them, as I just was on the floor trying. I was trying to be Christian, trying to be Buddhist, and trying to be perfect. I had a picture and that picture was and is the problem in many people’s lives. And I must reiterate this, the picture was damaging to those I placed in it not just me. I put way too much on them, expecting those that had the information truly understood and utilized them in a perfect way. This was incredibly unfair to them and I’m saying here I apologize.
Journey, Journey, Journey; I say this often because that is all life is. I learn every moment how to make my journey better and that is what the universe has blessed me with. I can’t memorize much of anything and I really don’t want to. I want to live in the spirit and essence of those truths, and in that I am being successful. As I deepen my knowledge, sometimes the words stick but I am someone who is emotion and feeling based. As a writer sure words matter but I don’t want anyone to keep my words in their brain. I would love it if the energy and spirit of my words resonated in them enough they found something to guide them but that is all anyone should hope for.
The wisdom is there and practice is the best way to show ones grasp of a concept. Words are just words. The intent behind them, the spirit are the truth.