As that definition relates to Buddhism and to my still new experiences studying it, it is completely accurate. I reflect on my dispassionate personality, my humanistic values, my respect for scientific inquiry, my appreciation of reality, and my celebration of reason and evidence, and it’s as if I have been an “accidental” Buddhist – in a manner of speaking – for a very long time.
This mode of thinking, this philosophy of Buddhism, this way of living that promotes and celebrates kindness toward all things, goodness, and mindfulness, has been in existence for approximately 2,600 years. Over the many centuries since Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment and subsequently documented his pathway to it and taught it to others; who in turn refined it and packaged it in to a “religious-looking” box now called Buddhism, there have likely been millions of “accidental Buddhists” like me. I wonder just how many of these chance Buddhists lived their lives within one of the world’s other major religious worldviews?
This speaks to an interesting observation about human nature. And that is that kindness, goodness, and even mindfulness, transcend artificial human boundaries. Boundaries like “culture,” “race,” “religion,” “and “nation.” There are universal truths about human nature to be discovered, refined, and cultivated.
The long of it is, that at least for now, I have no plans to shave my head, don a saffron robe, leave my family, and pilgrimage to the Himalayas. But it is very comforting to know that these somewhat nebulous notions of enlightenment, goodness and human happiness, have been documented and practiced for thousands of years. What’s more, now with the benefit of modern neuroscience, we can quite literally see the benefits to our brains that result from mindfulness. In other words, what these dutiful mediators have been telling us is true, is actually true.
And for a born skeptic like me, that has real power.