Why Form Does Actually Matter in Practical Buddhism
The challenge, that all Buddhists face, is not one of whether or not this kind of lifestyle and spiritual calling makes sense – it resonates and rings true, for sure – but one of whether or not the “form” of our Buddhism is “correct”.
This is especially true of those that have come to this calling later in life, compared to those that have been embracing all that this spiritual choice has to offer from birth. We wonder whether or not we are doing things the right way, whether or not we are making our offerings correctly and with the right mindset, and whether or not we are embracing all that our hearts tell us we must – or if we’re just playing around with foreign superstitions.
Worst of all, so much of what we worry about as practicing Buddhists never seems to impact those that have been “dyed in the wool”. Monks do not seemingly have these concerns, and in truth they reach a place in their minds, their spirits, and their souls that allows them to forget completely about form, ceremony, and pomp (as much as there is “pomp” in this world) and instead just feel the way that they should honor their traditions.
This can be particularly confounding for those that want to become more authentic, those striving for a more impactful connection, and those that are looking for answers in a world that has so few with any real weight.
Make no mistake about it, the form – the physical rituals we all go through as practicing Buddhists – definitely has a place in our spirituality. It has a way of manifesting the way we feel in the physical realm, and it has a way of making our souls a more tangible thing.
And while it is essential to spend as much time honor the form of our bows, our rituals, and our prayers, it is most important that we don’t allow the form – or the stress about whether or not our form is correct – to cloud the connection we feel with all that we have learned and strive to be.
Above all else, it is most important that we strive to be our most authentic selves.
While this may not always involve pitch perfect form, or the most traditional of rituals, it is what we all owe to ourselves and to our souls. Authenticity is so severally lacking in our world and as Buddhists it is our calling to celebrate it in every way possible. The things we keep, the things we discard, and the things that we hold most dear are all going to shape the future of Buddhism, just as the workings of past generations have. The beauty of this calling is that it is alive, ever changing, and always evolving. By letting go of the stress and pressure of mastering form (sounds a bit like mindfulness, discussed in this post), while at the same time striving to perfect it as much as possible, is the true balance that we all deserve to pursue.
It’s not easy. It’s never promised to be easy.
But it is worthwhile.