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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.
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