It was around 2009 when I started longing to belong to some sort of group. I was no longer Christian, but I missed belonging to a congregation. I didn’t need a group of people or a religion in order to be a good person. I learned morals growing up, and I generally knew to follow them. I did want to belong to a group to support me in life, though. So I started searching.
First I found an ad in the paper for a Unitarian Universalism church. Unitarian Universalists are very liberal. They believe want they want to believe: God or no God, soul or no soul, etc. It appeared to be just what I wanted – a group of people to whom I could belong that don’t require specific beliefs. I attended the next meeting they held. It was easy and open, the members were friendly, and a couple of intellectuals spoke, advancing the group’s rating in my eyes. But I didn’t feel at home. Perhaps it was the lack of consensus; I never returned.
Next, I decided to expand my search. It was time to consult Google. If I remember correctly, I searched for something like “atheist religion,” half believing that the search would result in nothing. After all, what is a religion without theology? Buddhism. For some reason the word jumped out at me. Buddhism is an atheist religion? Indeed, it is. The first thing I did was read an About.com article summarizing the main points of Buddhism. I understood none of it. Then I read a few more articles. Then I started reading charts disambiguating the major schools of Buddhism. I was overwhelmed and completely intrigued. So I decided to check out a book at the library.
At the time I lived in a little town in Iowa and I was really surprised to find that the library actually had a few books on Buddhism. I checked out and read The World of Tibetan Buddhism by Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama and Geshe Thupten Jinpa. The Dalai Lama can paint a thousand pictures with one word. He was intelligent, insightful, and funny. My eyes twinkled and my heart raced. Sometimes I would have to read through tears. I hated putting the book down to pick up accounting textbooks. I knew I had found what I wish I had found when I was a child. I knew I had found the thing that would change my life.
And change my life it did. In just the five years since I started studying Buddhism, my life has completely changed. I changed so rapidly, that I hardly recognize myself sometimes. The best part is that since I am human, I can continue to improve for the rest of my life. I am heartily satisfied with that goal.