To make a long story short, I sat there in front of the Tibetan Lama, wearing my maroon robes after years of studying Buddhism and said, "With all due respect, I don't believe the Buddha ever intended for his teachings to get THIS complicated!"
My teacher looked around at all the statues of deities with multiple arms and said, "The Buddha didn't do this!" he chuckled, "The Tibetan culture did; this is their way. Why don't you try Zen? I think you'd like it!"
So I bowed-out of the temple, took off my robes, and moved into a Zen monastery far from home. I was determined to find a simpler depiction of the Buddha's valuable teachings.
My teacher was right; Zen was simpler (the walls were blank and I loved it), but the teachings were still filled with all the dogma that sent me running from religion in the first place.
There are many incredible books out there that cover all aspects of religion, philosophy, psychology, and physics, but I was looking for something less "academic", so to speak. I was looking for something inspirational that people today would not only have the attention span to read all the way through, but actually understand and also implement in their daily lives. I pictured a book called "A guide to being a Buddha" with only two words in it: "Be kind."
Thus, Buddhist Boot Camp came to be. Much more than a book, it is an invitation to put compassion into action. Teachers are reading it to their students, therapists as prescribing it as medicine, yoga instructors share it in their classes, and adult educators are giving it to inmates at correctional facilities around the world. Since Buddhism is all about training the mind, and boot camp is an ideal training method for this generation's short attention span, the chapters in this small book can are short and easy to understand, and can be read in any order. Each story, inspirational quote and teaching offers mindfulness-enhancing techniques that anyone can relate to.
It is very possible (and perfectly okay) for people who are Catholic, Muslim or Jewish, for example, to still find the Buddha's teachings motivational. As the Dalai Lama says, "Donâ€™t try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.â€
There is absolutely no reason to argue over which religion came "first" or whose philosophy is "better". The important thing is to be kind, understanding, peaceful, patient and compassionate, which is actually fundamental in all religions.
Whether itâ€™s Mother Teresaâ€™s acts of charity, Gandhiâ€™s perseverance, or your aunt Bettyâ€™s calm demeanor, it doesn't matter who inspires you, so long as youâ€™re motivated to be better today than you were yesterday. Regardless of religion or geographical region, race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, flexibility or vulnerability, if you do good, you feel good, and if you do bad, you feel bad. Amen! Hallelujah! And all that Jazz!
If you agree that Buddhism isnâ€™t just about meditating, but also about rolling up your sleeves to actually relieve some of the suffering in the world, then become a fan on Facebook (and a follower on Twitter) to meet other like-minded-folks for beach cleanup events, feeding the homeless, caring for the elderly, community yoga, cooking classes, tutoring, or anything we can each do to help others. Youâ€™re now a soldier of peace in the army of love; welcome to Buddhist Boot Camp!
An idea worth spreading
TED challenges us to come up with the important elements that will dictate the success of our future cities, and I believe that success means being happy. So if we're going to design a successful city, we need to make sure that the people in it are happy. But how do we do that? We've been so terribly misguided by the notion that happiness is something we have to pursue, and it's in that pursuit of happiness that we have actually lost our way. Instead of chasing happiness like a hamster on a wheel, I say slow down... sit. A few minutes each day to take inventory of everything in your life worth appreciating is the first step we can each take to guiding the next generation away from a growing sense of entitlement, which is nothing short of an epidemic, and toward a deeper appreciation for life itself. Let's lead by example and plant seeds of compassion in the minds and hearts of the next generation so that they can sprout into the most empowered and optimistic leaders of tomorrow.
I'm passionate about
Buddhist Boot Camp: encouraging people to promote what they love instead of bashing what they hate.
My TED story
Speaker at TEDx Honolulu 2012 - A day of urban inspiration (http://youtu.be/LIFTxRJfLTM)