©Sim Chiang, 2011

Becoming the Buddha when my twins were born was pretty easy.  I just watched Keanu Reeves play Siddhartha in the movie Little Buddha, and I followed his instructions to a tee. I learned from Keanu about the four noble truths, which said that life was full of suffering, and the reason we suffer is because we want stuff, and if we wanted less, we could suffer less.  Well, I was no religious scholar at the time, but that seemed to make pretty good sense to me.  And seeing as how as I had never really experienced true suffering before the kids were born, I thought I’d give it a shot.  Especially since Keanu outlined pretty clearly how you were supposed to train yourself to want less.

I won’t bore with you with the details, but Keanu basically said all you gotta do to become the Buddha is do everything right.  Having never really thought of myself as a perfectionist or a particularly motivated guy when it came to morals and stuff, I thought this might be a little bit of a challenge.  It turned out it wasn’t.  All I really had to do was stop wanting stuff, and I would stop suffering.  I hadn’t realized that I even wanted so much until Keanu put it into perspective for me.

For example, before the kids were born, I just wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.  This was an unenlightened perspective, of course, but I didn’t recognize it because I had had that viewpoint all along without even thinking about it.  But now, with Keanu’s wisdom guiding me gently toward enlightenment, I just trained myself not to want anything and voila! I didn’t want anything anymore.  Once I understood how easy this whole enlightenment gig was, I felt pretty embarrassed about my old ways of thinking.  Keanu got all this credit for his infinite wisdom, but, really, it’s pretty straightforward stuff.  If Keanu could do it, then so could I.

When Keanu said you had to do everything right, he meant everything. For example, he said you weren’t supposed to kill anyone.  Since I had no intentions of killing my twins, or anyone else for that matter, I checked that one off the list, and moved on.  If I wasn’t so into this whole becoming the Buddha thing, I would have been insulted by this condescension, but since I was trying to do everything right, I decided to focus on my progress, and not on Keanu’s shortfalls.

One of the things that really resonated with me was when Keanu said you had to have the “right mindfulness” by focusing on just one thing at a time, and staying in the moment.  I do admit this one was a little difficult, but nothing insurmountable.  To master this technique, Keanu meditated for about six years sitting under a giant fig tree, and ate only a tiny helping of bird shit for his daily meal.  I mastered it in a few minutes over a big fat steak and a Tanqueray on the rocks while watching the Spurs game.  So now when both my kids are crying uncontrollably for my attention, I just ignore the one that is out of favor at the moment and attend to the other one.  Since I don’t want tranquility anymore, the wailing doesn’t affect me at all.  When Keanu said focus on one thing at a time, he clearly meant that to apply to one person at a time as well.  This new way of understanding has worked extremely well for me.  So well, in fact, that I have decided to employ this focusing technique at all times, even when both kids are well behaved.  I have essentially cut my kid count in half, which is much, much easier.

My twins are almost two years old now, and if I had to estimate I’d say I have been the Buddha for all of that time except for maybe the first few weeks.  Even the Buddha has a learning curve.  I’m kind of getting a little tired of it, to be honest, having such “right” thoughts all the time.  You know, staying even-tempered and not using angry words and all that stuff.  There are times when I almost think I want to take a little break from being enlightened and slip back into the days when I wasn’t expected to be so kind all the time.  Giving love, compassion and sympathetic joy to two small children does get boring after a while, especially when I’m doing it every minute of every day, without interruption.  But then I just remember that I’m the Buddha and everything is okay.

That is what distinguishes people like Keanu and me from ordinary, unenlightened beings.  It’s our strict commitment to doing everything right – all the time – that makes us the Buddha.  The Buddha does not have lapses in concentration or make errors in judgment.  If I did, I would not be the Buddha.  Logically.  Instead I would just be an ordinary dad who makes all kinds of mistakes and is constantly learning as he goes.  I would want silly things like peace and quiet and time to myself.  Clearly, this situation does not apply to me.  You don’t have to be the Buddha to see that.

©Jared Karol, 2011

Jared Karol (BAWP 2010) is a writer, a father of toddler twins, and a budding existentialist. He is learning to observe without judging or reacting. More of his work can be found at http://lickthefridge.com. This piece originally appeared HERE. He also teaches sixth grade at Park Day School in Oakland.

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4 Responses to “The Buddha, Keanu Reeves and Me by Jared Karol”

  1. Miles Myers Says:

    Jared: I kept thinking there must have been a break through moment (a moment with wife and kids) and with Keanu you to talk about it without talking about it. I kept waiting and waiting. Not even a peak. But I think I know —-even though you used Hollywood, of all places, to not tell me.Best

    1. Jared Karol Says:

      thanks, Miles, for reading. Yes, it’s fun to not tell people what’s up and let them figure it out.

  2. Marty Williams Says:

    Your writing had me contemplating my daughter’s early years. I was so not a Buddha: I was filled with longing, attached, and mercilessly multi-tasked. I loved how you said what you said without saying it and with humor. Now that is something! And, perhaps a Buddhist something. Thanks.

  3. Jared Karol Says:

    Marty,

    thanks for reading and for commenting. I don’t know how truly Buddhist I am, but I do try to stay calm in the face of the many storms I face each day. . .

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