Death is not a tragedy

-- Marlene Zack

I was very moved to read about the personal experiences of others who have been touched in some way by Buddhist ideals. So many of our stories are similar.

I, too, felt from a very young age that the Roman Catholic faith that I was being brought up in was not ringing true for me. I won't criticize Catholicism, or any other religion, because Buddhism does not judge. It does not slam others for their beliefs. It doesn't say "we're right, you're wrong -- and you'll go to hell for it." Other religions talk of acceptance and love for others, but few could withstand real scrutiny of their actions. This is one of the things about Buddhism that speaks to me; it is actions that really count, here and now, not merely words.

I have a theory that death, plain and simple, is at the basis of all religion. We fear it, and we know it's coming some day, so we have to come up with a way to live with that knowledge. Without going into boring details, this is what finally crystalized for me that, yes, I am a Buddhist. I'll come out of the closet and say it.

I was at a funeral, and in looking around, I felt "this isn't right, this isn't the way things should be." I had lost a loved one and was sad, as was everyone else. But underlying the priest's attempts at words of comfort was a sense that a battle had been lost, that death was a tragedy. If we view death that way, (and here in the West, most of us do), then we are all fighting a battle that can't be won.

I left the church that day with a strengthened and renewed sense of "now" -- live it, enjoy it, stop analyzing it. To say that any moment could be your last is not morbid. It's real, and an acceptance of it can open your eyes to so many things. Buddhism has taught me this, and I know it has more to say to me.