Of course, the Buddha didn't date. No one really dated in his time. In that culture, as in many others, it would have been considered barbarian to have young men and women chase after each other, left completely on their own to find mates.
The Buddha wasn't a Buddhist either. That term came from his followers. It means the enlightened one, or one who is awake. According to Walpola Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught, his name was Siddhartha Gautama, son of Queen Maya and Suddhodana, the ruler of the kingdom of the Sakyas. He was married at age sixteen to a beautiful princess, and while the palace provided every comfort imaginable, he wanted to find a solution to the universal suffering of mankind.
At age twenty-nine, shortly after the birth of his first son, he left the palace to become an ascetic, which meant living with extreme simplicity, poverty, and chastity. For six years he wandered about, meeting famous religious teachers, studying their methods and submitting himself to rigorous spiritual practices. But they did not give him the answers he sought, so he abandoned these traditional approaches and, at age thirty-five, became enlightened after sitting for forty-nine days under the Bodhi or Bo tree -- the Tree of Wisdom. He saw that there is only one reality -- that form is emptiness and emptiness is form -- that we are all made of the same substance, all interconnected. For the next forty-five years he taught anyone who sought his wisdom -- kings and peasants alike.
Rather than saying, "Worship me," he taught people to become free of their illusions so they could be in touch with their inner radiance, or as some say, the luminous essence at the center of their being -- the natural wellspring of compassion, kindness, and tranquility. He believed that from this place we would see each other clearly, free of expectations and images from the past.
Siddhartha Gautama became known as, Buddha -- the enlightened one -- but never claimed to be other than a human being. While Buddhism is often portrayed as austere, in reality it embraces all we are as humans. At the same time, it takes us beyond a kind of self-centered narcissism because instead of identifying with the content of our experience, we identify with awareness itself.
Enlightenment is not about becoming divine. Instead it's about becoming more fully human... it is the end of ignorance. – Lama Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within
Early practitioners of Buddhism were often monastic, committed to poverty and celibacy. That's why there is little discussion of sexuality and relationships in Buddhist writings, along with the fact that many of the teachers are themselves celibate. In the West, however, Buddhist practitioners are beginning to explore how we can attune sexuality and relationships with the spiritual journey.
What would it mean to bring a Buddha consciousness to dating? Instead of feeling a sense of urgency, we would be fascinated by the process of meeting and getting to know new people. Compassion, care, and kindness for others would supersede "getting someone to be with us." And we would never try to control another person. We wouldn't put others on a pedestal, nor would we set them below us. We'd remember that on the spiritual path, the purpose of any relationship is to wake up and get to know ourselves and our lover, thoroughly, without judgment or pride. On the spiritual path, we enter into a shared union where we cherish and give to each other, expanding our ability to love unconditionally. We would also accept that the process can be awkward, unpredictable, challenging, and surprising.
In Buddhism there are teachings and practices, but no rigid dogma. You are encouraged to do whatever helps you become more awake.
If we dated with a Buddhist consciousness there would be no separate "rules" for men and women, because seekers on the path are not distinguished by gender. That doesn't mean there aren't male/female differences, it means that instead of automatically categorizing people, we ask again and again, "Who are you?" We get to know people as individuals without imposing stereotypes on them. In chapter 9, we'll further discuss the idea of spiritual equality.
Buddhism is about self-knowledge, a fearless exploration of all we are, so we can be friends with ourselves. Dating with a Buddhist consciousness means a willingness to confront anything inside that kindles fear or anxiety. When we start wanting to run away, be deceptive, tell lies, or put on a mask, we need to walk right into our fears, sit down, and talk to them until they become our friends. This doesn't mean we have a goal of getting rid of fear; rather, we accept it as part of our unfolding journey.
We begin our journey always remembering that there is a circular relationship between our ability to know and love another and our ability to know and love ourselves. I hasten to add that loving oneself doesn't mean that we are perfect, fixed, all together, or any of those other common phrases. It means we are fully alive to our humanness -- accepting, compassionate, amused.
Ultimately, as we become friends with ourselves and give up demanding that the universe provide us with a lover, we become truly open to meeting a special person with whom to share this journey of awakening.
Suppose you scrub your ethical skin until it shines but inside there is no music, then what?
Mohammed's son pores over words, and points out this and that, but if his chest is not soaked dark with love, then what?
The Yogi comes along in his famous orange, but if inside he is colorless, then what?
- Kabir, The Kabir Book
Ground Yourself with Spiritual Wisdom
I am a passionate seeker after truth which is but another name for God. - Gandhi
We become spiritually grounded when we make this commitment to ourselves: More than anything else, I want myself. I want to live with integrity and truth. I'm not going to hide the jewel of who I am, nor will I mask my imperfections. No bargains, no avoiding reality, no conning myself, no lies. The more we commit to knowing and accepting ourselves, the more we are able to surrender to loving another person because we have nothing to hide and nothing to feel ashamed of. Our spiritual commitment to truth and integrity creates a safe harbor within us -- a mooring, a home to return to when the journey gets rough. This is immensely important in the dating process because new love can resurrect our most primitive feelings of fear, hope, dependency, and emptiness. If we know how to soothe our pain and relax into our emptiness, we won't be afraid to be open and honest, regardless of the outcome.
If we succumb to fear, we start holding back, and do that all too-common dance of getting close, then pulling away. When we remember that our safe harbor depends on our awareness and honesty, we're less likely to make internal compromises, put on masks, or act like a chameleon to attract a partner or keep a hurtful relationship together. If we live by truth we may have pain, but we will always rest securely within ourselves.
Spiritual wisdom transcends all religions and spiritual practices. I've often heard that one should pick a specific path and stick to it. I am a member of The Society of Friends, known as Quakers, I have been initiated as a Mureed -- a student of the Sufi path -- I practice yoga regularly, attend workshops on quantum psychology, and follow many Buddhist teachings, including the practice of Tonglin. I am also trained as a Reiki master healer. That's my one path. You might ask, how could I call it one path?
Awareness is awareness, love is love, compassion is compassion, goodness is goodness. The first precept of the Buddhist order founded by Thich Nhat Hanh is, "Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones." The source of truth and wisdom is immaterial. There are no rules, no boxes to fit in, no one way, no absolutes when it comes to grounding yourself in spiritual wisdom. That is why I find no conflict in my affiliation with these different spiritual practices. All of them focus on our moment to moment experience of bringing acceptance, mindfulness, compassion, truth, and love to every aspect of our lives.