The Buddhism Experiment

I am not very happy.

I don’t pretend that this makes me unique – even a minority. We are all, it seems, in varying states of unhappiness, struggling against the pseudo-apocalyptic adversary of 21st-century life. Statistically, however, there are certain factors that make people predictably more happy. One of them happens to be religion (which multiple studies confirmed as increasing self-identified life satisfaction and happiness).

In my ongoing pursuit of happiness, I’ve decided to give religion another go. I’ll be doing this through Buddhism, experimentally, for one month.

Why Buddhism?

Why not, say, Mormonism? My family is Mormon, the community I’m going to live in will be Mormon, and so on. Alas and alack, however, I do not believe in the 1) fundamental moral principles of Mormonism, 2) the impact Mormonism has in the world, 3) the political norms of Mormonism, 4) the Mormon scriptures, or 5) the truth or validity of Mormonism’s religious history. (Sorry, Mom!)

Buddhism makes a lot of sense for me. It incorporates (or can incorporate) multiple practices that I have already found to be beneficial, including but not limited to:

  • Vegetarianism.
  • Meditation.
  • Yoga.
Further, Buddhism is a very open religion. Buddha himself was likely an agnostic. The Buddha (the guy who, according to the religion’s mythology, obtained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree) prompted his followers to question him. Buddhism, perhaps more than any other faith, respects science and scientific discovery. Even reincarnation is an optional belief; one of the most interesting pamphlets I ever read was from a Buddhist preacher who was explaining why he believed that reincarnation was simply a metaphor.
This openness makes Buddhism flexible enough for me, it values many of the things I value, and I won’t feel pressured to accept things that seem incredibly far-fetched.
How Will I Practice?

Well, I’ve already read a good deal of research into Buddhism, so I have some vague outline of what being a “good, practicing Buddhist” means. I’ll be attempting the following for the duration of May:
  • I won’t violate the five precepts (i.e., no theft, no killing, no rape, no physical over-indulgence, no lying).
  • I will set up a special place of worship within my home or environment where I can spend time in “quiet tranquility” each day. This includes meditation, twice each day.
  • I will strive to accept the four noble truths (life is marked with suffering > which is born out of attachment > which can be overcome > by following the eight-fold path).
  • I will seek to understand and follow the eight-fold path.
  • I will try to make it up to the Buddhist temple of Salt Lake City each week.
  • I will keep a vegetarian diet.
  • I will keep a high spiritual regard for all living things.
  • I will study Buddhist philosophy daily, using the texts I currently have, online articles, and any other information that seems pertinent.
  • I will participate in online communities to learn more about Buddhism and its potential place in my life.
What Sect of Buddhism?
As with Christianity, Buddhism sees many different sects. However, Buddhist philosophies tend to be more cross-compatible. I will begin as a non-denominational Buddhist, and we’ll see how practice and research changes that over the course of things.
The experiment will take place from May 1st to May 31st. I’ll try to journal to at least some degree!