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“. . . I would say that I would identify as a Buddhist, but it feels. . . let me think. . . a little bit . . . not so much in a religious sense as in a practical, sort of, life ethics sense. I don’t know if that makes me a secular Buddhist, but, as I said earlier, I identify with the psychological principles that underly Buddhism. . . “
As an adolescent young man growing up in the United States, Chris was an active participant in the Greek Orthodox Church. Though he “enjoyed the community and social aspect of” the church, Chris started to find that Greek Orthodoxy “didn’t, particularly, speak to [him] as a philosophical and psychological system.” Eventually, he began to drift away from the Church, and did not raise his children religiously. Though he no longer considers himself Greek Orthodox, he still visits Greek Orthodox churches occasionally, especially on Easter. Chris found his way to Buddhism in the 2000′s through a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop that wove threads of Buddhism into its teachings. Chris remembers liking the approach and “the sort of psychological system that Buddhism seems to manifest.” Afterwards, he found he could use the breathing techniques he had learned to “keep [him]self centered and not get tangled up in the emotions, and stresses, and conflicts of a particular situation. To be there, and to be engaged, but not drawn into it in a way that’s unproductive.”
A few years later, Chris decided to start coming to the Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center. He remembers that while he had developed his own practice at home, he “felt it would be a great support for [his] own practice, and a way to broaden [his] understanding.” He quickly became part of the sangha of the center, becoming an active member after less than a year. Though his quick leap into the community surprised him, he has enjoyed being part of the organizational leadership very much. Today, he regularly attends afternoon sits and continues to develop his meditative practice at home. Chris identifies himself as Buddhist, but feels that the way he interprets ‘being a Buddhist’ is almost secular or non-religious. It is Buddhism’s ethical and psychological arguments with which Chris identifies so strongly. To hear Chris’s explanation of his current relationship with Buddhism in his own words, click on the audio clip above.
* Pseudonym given by author