Or is Buddhist just a meaningless label?
So many people who study and practice Buddhism seem to have a deep concern about letting others know this about them. And I can only surmise that this is due to a perception that people of other religious backgrounds will be put-off by this knowledge. Perhaps even causing harm to their business and interpersonal relationships.
Now I am not one to suggest that we wear our practice on our sleeve like some badge of honor. But also, there is no reason to hide it in shame.
Would any of us be worried if others saw us visiting a local Church for service? Probably not. Christianity is what seems to be most acceptable in our society, so there is no reason to hide that. But this was not always the case in history. Christians were persecuted, beaten and killed for their beliefs. Yet they obviously remained committed to their beliefs and practice, and so here we are today with mainstream Christianity so prevalent and widely accepted.
In today’s climate, more and more, all belief systems are becoming more acceptable. We are a diverse culture and learning to love one another regardless of spiritual, political or social differences. Perhaps this is not universally true yet, but I do see it as a movement that is taking place in our culture. And while leading by example is always the best way to live, I see no harm in allowing others to know that my practice is grounded in the teachings of the Buddha. Teachings that are all about love, compassion, kindness and most of all acceptance. In the Buddhist practice, dogmas are eliminated, walls are broken down, and goodwill is our common and most basic motivation.
And while others may be often touched by your living example of these qualities, we also do them a disservice if we do not allow them to know the how and where that we learned this.
We never ever should try to impart our path on another person in my opinion. This is a critical part of acceptance and inclusion that we each learn as a Buddhist practitioner. Always understanding that regardless of racial, religious, political or sexual orientation, we are all human beings. Sharing a profound connection to one another that is often overlooked by many of us. And each of us is always both teacher and student, with a boundless capacity to love and grow. And we only stifle this blessing by hiding our true self, our genuine nature, and by keeping secret our teacher – the Buddha.
There is certainly no need to put a Buddhist flag outside my house, or get a tattoo of the Buddha on my arm. But I also will not hide my teacher, or answer untruthfully about my practice when questioned. The teachings of the Buddha, the dhamma, is there for all beings, not just me. And true acceptance can only arise if first I am able to start with the self. So tell me, are you a “Closet Buddhist“?