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Ask A Buddhist: Raised in the Ways of the Buddha

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By Ven. Thubten Chonyi

All throughout my 14 years of life, my dad has raised me in the ways of the Buddha, only telling me this roughly one to two years ago. At the moment, I am not dedicated to any religion due to my viewing them all as equally true and false. To add, the Buddhist teachings are seemingly embedded within my personality. However, I also inherited a streak of violence from him. So, am I a Buddhist?

How wonderful that you’re asking questions and exploring your own spirituality. If, indeed, your dad has instilled Buddhist values as part of your life training, then you have a good ethical foundation to work from. Those values would include an understanding that your own mind is the source of your happiness and suffering, and that refraining from harming others and helping them instead is the best way to move through the world.

Being “raised in the ways of the Buddha” doesn’t necessarily make you Buddhist. Several recent “Ask a Buddhist” columns have talked about what makes someone a Buddhist, so I won’t talk about that here. See How Do I Know if I’m Buddhist? and Becoming a Buddhist.

I want to emphasize, however, that choosing Buddhism as your spiritual path is a personal decision that comes from learning what Buddha taught, and then testing those teachings in your own life. I recommend reading “Open Heart, Clear Mind by my teacher, Ven. Thubten Chodron. It gives an excellent overview of Buddhist fundamentals.

From the Buddhist point of view, we can inherit our parents’ physical characteristics, but not their mental or emotional ones. Of course, we will learn behaviors from our parents, but these aren’t hardwired into us. Many Buddhist practices help us to abandon destructive habits and ways of thinking and replace them with helpful ones. It sounds like you’d like to abandon that “streak of violence,” and the Buddha taught may ways to do that, especially by cultivating fortitude and patience, love and compassion. Look into “Healing Anger and”Working with Anger to learn about these.

None of us have a fixed personality; all of us can change, depending on what we habituate ourselves to and what we train in. For example, our monastery, Sravasti Abbey, corresponds with hundreds of prison inmates, many of whom have changed immensely through Buddhist practice. You might like to read some of their stories. Here’s one about how a man changed his anger.

Wishing you wise and compassionate guidance as you explore the kind of person you want to be now and in the future.


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About Ven. Thubten Chonyi

Ven. Thubten Chonyi
Ven. Thubten Chonyi is a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She has studied with Sravasti Abbey founder and abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron since 1996. She received novice ordination at the Abbey in 2008 and full ordination in 2011 in Taiwan. Ven. Chonyi regularly teaches Buddhism and meditation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane and other local locations.

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