My Life with Buddhism
by Anthony Gutierrez

I would like to share my life and my view with you and how Buddhism came into my life. I was looking desperately for something—there had to be something else out there, a way of living my life where things would go my way. A life where I could get whatever I wanted and nothing could stop me. I started reading some self-help books one of which was The Secret. This book is telling me that I can have anything I wanted, if I just focused on it and with positive thoughts things would go my way.

One day I was short on money, and I used a technique from the book, which was that by writing what I wanted on a paper and focusing on this, it would come to me just when I needed it. My family and I were living with my mom at the time and rent was due for the last month of her contract. So the day comes and I still have no money, so I say to myself the day isn’t over its just starting maybe it will be here later. The day flies by and still no money. I couldn’t understand, I've done everything the book said. That was a big wake up call. A big slap in the face. Life doesn't go the way we want it to.

So I’m still browsing around, being positive that I would find something that would change my life. I remember in the book the author mentioned Buddhist monks. I don’t remember why she was referencing Buddhism but it caught my attention. Now by this time I was reading books on quantum physics, different dimensions, and things of that nature. I should also mention I really was never a religious person. Growing up my family was Catholic, then in my teen years they switched over to Christianity. So I was familiar somewhat with the ideas of Jesus and God. Well I started looking online for nearby Buddhist temples to visit and see what they had to offer. The searchlist pops up and I see livingdharma.org, I click the link see the location (West Covina, CA) and see dates and times for services.

 I chose a Sunday and after work I visited there. The service ended and they asked me to stay for a discussion, so I stay. I start off by introducing myself and why I’ve come. From what I remember I tell them about how I believe everything has a connection with everything, this I what I’ve learned from reading quantum physics books. I don’t remember the rest of the discussion but it ends on a good note and I’m ready to come back next Sunday. The week passes by and the Sunday arrives, I get off work and make my way to the temple. I’m really excited to get to the discussion since I have no understanding yet of the meaning of the Three Treasures and the chanting. So the discussion comes up, I’m ready to impress them with my positive attitude and show off how life will go our way if we really focus on what we want and being positive.

Different questions and answers come up from various people there, but one answer struck me the hardest and left me speechless. It was from Rev. Peter Hata. What I remember most from his answer was, “Life doesn’t go the way we want it to...it’s like trying to swim against the current...instead, we should go with the flow of life.” The discussion ends and I’m puzzled, my ego feels like a carpet was pulled from under its feet. Everything I’ve read says life can go our way, this must be true.. Right? I ask Rev. Peter one question, shaking as I feel totally exposed, “How do I know this Buddhism is right for me?” He says, “It might not be; there are other sects of Buddhism you should explore before choosing what’s right for you. No one will be mad at you if you don’t come anymore...it’s all up to you. I say “OK” and make my way out to my car thinking this is not what I wanted to hear.

I wanted him to tell me that he had the answers to all that I was looking for. So I go home and I make up my mind, I'm going to see what this has to offer so I start coming to temple every Sunday.  I start buying books on Buddhism, learning about the Buddha and trying to deepen my understanding hoping to impress the three reverends, (Rev. Kawawata, Rev. Peter Hata and Rev. Frederick Brenion). Every discussion I try to ask questions to try to help understand what I’m reading and even try throwing in my two cents on other people’s questions hoping for praise by them, but I get no responses. Not what my ego was looking for.

I start learning about the ego and how it blinds us from realizing the truth that Buddha was showing us, the ego is something we make up. It’s almost like your ego is an actor and this life is its movie set. I start learning of Shinran Shonin and Amida Buddha, I start going to classes every other Tuesday to deepen my understanding of my life, and free myself of ego. While I’m at work on breaks I try to meditate and calm my mind. I’m thinking I am going to rid myself of ego and become a Buddha. Well I’m doing all these practices and to me it’s working, I must be free of my ego, I’m going to become a Buddha.

Then one day a coworker says something to me and he gets a rise out of me I yell back at him trying to embarrass him and make myself feel above him, I notice this and just stop. Everything I’ve been practicing goes down the drain in one instant. I don’t understand what went wrong, why this happened. I thought I was free from my ego. I’ve failed again to try to get what I want, to control my life. It was like a slap in the face from reality to wake up already.

I attend the following Sunday service and at the end of the discussion I share with Rev. Peter how I failed to become free from my ego. I remember telling him “I feel like a fake Buddhist.” Then he responds “That’s a good realization,” and in my head I’m like “What? How can that be?” But now, from what I’ve learned all the way up to this day, it was. It showed me my true self, my true colors. It’s all about me, me, me; that’s my ego speaking. Now I see how easily the ego can take over and that depending on causes and conditions I am capable of doing anything. This is one truth that we should all see, it helps me see that I am a helpless being influenced by everything that occurs in my life.

Finally, one of the most important things that the dharma has taught me is the truth of impermanence. Things are always changing; no matter what they are never the same. We can never stay young forever and  we all must come face to face with old age and death. So I am still no Buddha, and I will probably never be; I'm a person full of greed, anger and ignorance always thinking about myself. But now that I see these things in myself, there is room for understanding and compassion that I can show to others. In the end I believe I have found meaning in my life. Thanks for listening.

I would like to thank Rev. Ken Kawawata, Rev. Peter Hata, Rev. Frederick Brenion and my Sangha at WCBT, for all the teachings you’ve shared with me and for being such a great influence in my life and hopefully on my path to buddhahood.

 Namu Amida Butsu,
Anthony Gutierrez

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