Is it possible to "do Buddhism incorrectly"? Can my attempts at Buddhafying my life fail, even if I am sincere and diligent?
There are so many people that regularly ask about rules and procedure, as if being a Buddhist was like applying for a job, applying to a university, getting a passport, and so on. Although I thought Buddhism is about how to find happiness and live intelligently, people have to ask, "But what's the proper procedure for doing that?"
They want to know... Can they go to other Buddhist traditions for teachings or see other teachers? Can they mix other religions with Buddhism? Can they eat meat? What music should they listen to? What television should they watch? Is it okay to get involved in politics? Can you be a businessman? How should you address monks? What clothes should you wear, like what about lay robes? How often should you meditate and how? Should you have an altar when you meditate? What should be on your altar? If you have an altar, is it okay to make offerings to it? Should you own a mala?
The answer to all of these questions, for the most part, is always the same: You can do whatever you like, although there are obvious consequences to such actions. Rarely do you hear somebody say something like, "No, you CAN'T do that (whatever it is they were asking about). That's BAD. That's UNBUDDHIST."
And what is the reason for this? The reason is because nobody ever asks stupid questions. Nobody asks, "Can I be a murderer and still be Buddhist?" "Can a Buddhist rape people?" "Can I rob people?" "Is it okay for a Buddhist to do drugs?" "Should a Buddhist lie to people?" Because the five precepts are pretty intuitive and straightforward. Is the rest of Buddhism not equally straightforward, and it is simply a matter of intent and proper effort?
Let's say we made Buddhism like Orthodox Judaism or Islam, with several hundred rules to follow, or basically like how monks already have to live. Is this the kind of practice you'd want to engage in and what do you think you would benefit from it?
The point is, it seems like many people do Buddhism to "get their Buddhist groove going on..." Buddha-ism to feel Buddha-ish. But there are no such rules and procedures that make one a good Buddhist or bad Buddhist, and there's no monopoly on truth or happiness.
And so, what I'd call "fashion Buddhists" wear sandals, vote left-wing, and speak like Keanu Reeves or Steven Seagal or Gil Fronsdal or Bhikkhu Bodhi. Buddhists can't wear big boots, hunt deer, vote Republican, or talk loudly and swear; Rush Limbaugh cannot be a Buddhist.
I find it difficult to identify with these people or this behavior, "acting Buddhist", although every day I try very hard to avoid neurotically causing myself further misery for the obvious reason: doing that is painful. This doesn't usually involve daily sitting meditation, but does involve a lot of mindfulness and concentration -- trying to figure out what it is I'm doing wrong, why, how to fix it, and whether I'm consciously suppressing knowledge of such.
Anyway, once, it occurred to me, "Why do I even have to use the same words Buddhists use, like hindrance or fetter? Why don't I use synonyms?"
As I understand it, enlightenment is like the process of examining a building's foundation and fixing it where problems are apparent... not knocking walls down and adding new floors for the sake of re-decorating. What's the point in that?
Am I doing it wrong?