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I was raised with a typical American Christian viewpoint, but as I have grown I started questioning Christianity and the Bible itself. I can say that I really love what Buddhism represents and teaches yet I’m not quite sure I should be calling myself a Buddhist. Is there any sure way to tell if Buddhism is for me or if it’s all in my head? Any words of advice are greatly appreciated.
It sounds like you’re wondering whether your feelings of attraction to Buddhism are valid or perhaps just a passing thing. One way to tell if Buddhism is for you is to read some introductory books, such as “Buddhism for Beginners“ by Ven. Thubten Chodron. Listen to different teachings online and see if they resonate, make sense, and inspire you to be a better you.
Two ways that helped me personally decide that Buddhism worked for me was first to test the teaching using reasoning. Do they make sense when you think about them rationally? Does your aspiration increase to avoid harming any living being and to benefit others in whatever small or large way you can? Do the teachings on karma and its effect help you to slow down and think more carefully before making decisions? The Buddha said: “Do not accept my teachings merely out of respect for me, but analyze and check them the way that a goldsmith analyzes gold, by rubbing and cutting and melting it.” In this way, the Buddhist approach respects our intelligence to analyze and investigate the teachings that we read and hear.
A second way was to practice meditation. I recommend that you go to a Buddhist center and listen to instructions from a reliable teacher so that you can learn to meditate correctly. There are many different kinds of meditation in Buddhism, so learn one or two and practice them for a while. See if they give you tools to work with your disturbing emotions: Do they help you to reduce your anger, frustration, and clinging attachment? When you practice the meditations to cultivate love and compassion, do they have a positive effect on your mind and heart? It’s best not to expect immediate results; change happens gradually. But when you see gradual change in yourself and when those near to you notice a positive change after some time, then you know you’re on the right path.
Venerable Tenzin Tsepal met Venerable Thubten Chodron, founder of Sravasti Abbey, in Seattle and studied Buddhism with her from 1995 to 1999. During that time, Venerable Tsepal attended the Life as a Western Buddhist Nun conference in Bodhgaya, India in 1996 as a lay supporter. An interest in ordination surfaced after she completed a three-month meditation retreat in 1998. She lived in India for two years while continuing to explore monastic life. In 2001, she received sramanerika (novice) ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
While Venerable Tsepal was in India, some Australians friends introduced her to the 5 year Buddhist Studies Program at Chenrezig Institute (CI) north of Brisbane, Queensland, where she subsequently lived and engaged in intensive residential study from 2002-2015. As the Western Teacher at CI, she tutored weekend teachings and retreats, and taught the Discovering Buddhism courses.
Prior to ordaining, Venerable Tsepal completed a degree in Dental Hygiene, and then pursued graduate school in hospital administration at the University of Washington. Not finding happiness in 60 hour work weeks, she was self-employed for 10 years as a Reiki teacher and practitioner.
Now a member of the resident community at Sravasti Abbey, Venerable Tsepal is compiling and editing the many years of Venerable Chodron’s teachings on monastic training as well as leading a review on the Buddhist philosophical tenets for the residents.