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Don’t Forget this Advice from the Buddha

This entry is part 11 of 33 in the series 99: a journey
A head-and-shoulders picture of Andrew Chirch with water in the background

I’m Andrew Chirch, an Interfaith advisor and coach. 99 is a special weekly podcast series where we meet for 9 minutes to regroup, re-center ourselves, and prepare for the work ahead.

Subscribe here to listen on your favorite podcast app, or you can use the player at the top of this post. A transcript is below.

Have you ever heard the saying, “there are no mistakes.” Or put another way, “there’s a reason for everything.”

I’m of two minds when it comes to this episode’s theme, which is, the all-powerful force that puts you in a certain place at a certain time, and has you facing whatever it is that you’re facing.

I’ll be honest. Sometimes these words have been comforting to me. As I face the loss of a job or an unexpected hardship, telling myself that “everything happens for a reason” takes me off the hook a little bit and allows me to relax. After all, I’m a big fan of Taoist and Hindu beliefs that (I think), encourage me to relax and not fight so much against what’s happening, but to find a way to work WITH the flow of things. Maybe not give up, but to find some sense of harmony in what’s going on – like swimming with a river instead of against it.

Here’s where I have trouble with this though.

There are no mistakes.

How do I tell that to a starving child?

How do I tell that to a victim of abuse?

The truth is, sometimes religion and philosophy and sayings like this are luxuries that some people have the privilege of relying on, while others, well, let’s just say that if there’s a reason for starving children, it isn’t good enough.

What is it that puts us on this path, in this place and time knowing which way to go? What is it that allows me to get up and face a day that I don’t know how to face? Is it courage? God? Is it some inner sense or instinct?

If you can’t tell, I’m really wrestling this week with the hypocrisy I feel in mainstream culture… things like the law of attraction, and all the spirituality practitioners out there (I’m one, by the way), prosperity gospel, fake it till you make it, and so on.

As I was writing this episode – on a nice laptop, in my comfortable home, with warm, dry clothes on and fast internet, I couldn’t help but think of – for how many people – these things are luxuries. In fact, what good is a laptop or fast internet if you can’t get enough to eat or you don’t know where you’re going to sleep that night.

I know this may not be easy to listen to – I understand – if you just need to be supported and lifted up, maybe it’s better to go to a different episode where I do that. Right now, though, I want to ask you to consider your own power.

If you’re anything like me, you question yourself and you struggle sometimes. You might wonder about your place in the world, or your soul’s purpose, and you might feel lonely, or disconnected, or need comfort.

It helps me to remember that everyone needs love and comfort sometimes, and that love and comfort can look different to different people. If you’re feeling down or need comfort, may you be comforted—AND may we both be reminded of our own privilege as well. Maybe the thing that will comfort me is to go help someone else.

The Buddha – Siddharta Gautama is purported to have said, “Those who have failed to work toward the truth have missed the purpose of living.”

So here we are. Working toward the truth.

What happens when the truth isn’t what we’d hope? What happens when it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows? What happens when we have our eyes opened and suddenly wish they’d close again – but there are some things that you cannot un-see?

I think that’s just it. This week, I cannot unsee the hunger. I cannot unsee the injustice. I cannot unsee the suffering. What is even more uncomfortable to me is that as a straight, white man, I stand on the shoulders (or backs) of so many.

I’ve suffered, sure, and I’ve worked hard, but the truth is, others who suffer more and work even harder will never have the opportunities I do. I don’t feel guilty for my opportunities, but, friend, my eyes have been opened.

If anything, I want to work even harder to let you know that you are not alone. I have no idea what challenges you face, what battles you’ve fought just to be here, but I honor you for being here.

Whatever all-powerful force has put me in this place and given me the challenges I face, I’m feeling called to share it with you. Be strengthened and built up so that you can do that for someone else, and they can do it for someone else.

Maybe everything does happen for a reason. Maybe there really ARE  no mistakes – or maybe mistakes happen all the time, and there are others of us who’ve been given what it takes to pick up the pieces – and we’re just not.

May we do better. May we move forward knowing that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves, and that the world is counting on each of us.

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