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way of life

hsiang yun temple, austin, tx

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i have never fully connected with religion, nor did i have a very religious upbringing. in fact, i actually found it off-putting because someone told me i couldn’t be saved when i was younger. however, i have strong viewpoints on certain values that are central to my life, and i’ve become more conscious of these lately as i deepen my introspection through yoga. as it happens, i am drawn to buddhist teachings and philosophy, and i strive to incorporate certain aspects of buddhism in to my life.

hsiang yun temple, austin, tx

how i was raised. my parents claim we are buddhist, but we aren’t adamant practitioners. i actually did not know the basic tenants of buddhism growing up. we practiced ancestor worship, certain buddhist rituals, and went to temple a few times a year, but you can hardly call that buddhism. however, in my recent attempts to learn buddhist philosophy, i realized my parents instilled very real buddhist teachings in me through their actions.

buddhist teachings. karma has been pervasive in my subconscious since i was young, and lately through my yoga practice, it has surfaced as a way of life. the essence of karma is cause and effect – actions that spring from mental intent and bring about a consequence. the important part to me is the focus on intent. to me, it’s all about setting an intention and then following through. in my life, this means to be open-minded, help others, not cause harm, and be happy.

application to life. my learning process is still in the early phases and will always continue, but i find it important to incorporate my biggest takeaways in to a conscious effort in the way i live. as with anything, it’s hard to make simple things in life seem black and white, let alone something complex like buddhism. i have decided to take what is practical for my life and focus on maximizing those areas. for example, i’ve been wanting to experiment with a vegetarian diet, just because i really don’t like red meat that much. but i have a crazy obsession with burgers and i love chicken, so easier said than done. i have at least set the intention to cut out red meat significantly and replace it with tofu when applicable. small steps.

another reason why buddhism feels like a natural course for my life is due to surfing and yoga. buddhist principles are so profoundly connected to the easy-going, simple surfer life, and every yoga practice starts with setting an intention that carries through your practice and in to your life. it’s perhaps due to my obsession with these sports over the past two years that my interest in buddhist philosophy grew.

living it. religion, philosophy, rituals, they can all be pretty complex. i’m a business person, so i’ve taken what seems to make practical sense so far and boiled it down to basic learnings and action items –

find peace through meditation. develop strength from yoga and surfing. achieve clarity in water. strive for simplicity, happiness, and good intentions. breathe and smile.

book recommendation – Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to find Zen on the Sea

oh yes, i started going to temple again :)

clarity upside down

    6 COMMENTS

  • Carol Liang July 9, 2010 Reply

    I'm glad you liked the book!

  • Carol Liang July 9, 2010 Reply

    I'm glad you liked the book!

  • Heather Le July 9, 2010 Reply

    Sherrie, I LOVE this post.

    I grew up fairly Buddhist – always loved going to temple on the weekends though we spent a lot more time being active in the community than actually attending temple. For a Buddhist, going to temple is not a requirement for you to really live the values and work towards nirvana. I used to read the hymns/chants in Vietnamese, but really the best our generation can do (since we don't understand half of the words anyway) is to practice through how we treat others and live our lives – which is pretty much what you said here. Love it!

    I think my mom's constant reminder to accept things as they are – so when you have a bad day, to accept the things that happened and focus on looking forward – what you can do to make it better or change the way you react. Meditation was always a way for us to relax, calm down, and find peace from work, school, random arguments, etc. I think it's cool that you made that connection with your parents and how they raised you. When I first met you in college I knew you were compassionate, kind, considerate, thoughtful…all values I would say are associated to Buddhism.

    You didn't mention Room to Read here, but that is also something I admire about you. Growing up my mom had us adopt elderly folks (we had 4 at a time) that we went to visit on the weekends so that we could understand and appreciate others. My grandparents were never in a nursing home, so this was our way of giving to others who were not as fortunate. I'm still looking for my main philanthropy, but it's really excited to see/hear about your experiences.

    Thanks for sharing! “Sharing is caring!”

    ~ Heather

    • sherrienguyen July 9, 2010 Reply

      aw thanks heather, this comment is so thoughtful! i appreciate your perspective. i love and admire how close you are to your family and all the teachings you take to heart :) keep it up! if you ever want to get involved with room to read, we'd love to have you! i'm also happy to recommend other non profits in town. thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  • misschee_vious July 9, 2010 Reply

    I completely relate to this post. “I'm not Buddhist, but I play one on TV.” was my saying until my Grandfather recently passed and requested we go to the Hsiang Yun temple to prepare for his death.

    Maybe I fought it so hard BECAUSE I'm Asian, but the philosophies, the guidance, the teachings have again become a part of my mental make-up.

    The best to you. I genuinely enjoyed this post.

    • sherrienguyen July 9, 2010 Reply

      Thanks for this comment, it means a lot to me. it's so interesting how life events help uncover ideas/teachings you already know deep in the recesses of your brain. and i go to hsiang yun temple too, it's accessible from work :] take care!

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