The temple that I have been attending for the past two years or so, off and on, is planning a precepts ceremony. The thought has occurred to me that I should perhaps make a commitment to my temple. I have to consider things for a long, long (seriously, ice age long) time before making a decision. But I have had two years to be at Muddy Water Zen, attend services, and meditate. Here’s what I know for sure:

  • I don’t have any interest in another religion.
  • I don’t want to go to a different temple.
  • I will continue to attend services whether I take the precepts or not.

Taking the precepts is a declaration, like getting married. You are telling the world, should it care to notice, that you are officially a spiritual couple. You and Buddhism. More like polygamy: you, Buddha, dharma and sangha.

I can still attend services if I don’t make the leap. No one is threatening to kick me out. Really, at almost 40, do I need to make this kind of public commitment? Is it hokey? It certainly isn’t cool, at least not in the mid-west. I have always been attracted to Buddhism because its ideals dovetail nicely with my own values. What is it that makes some people want to worship? I don’t believe in God, I don’t feel as if I need to be told how to live, how to be moral. I do believe that such things should be carefully considered, and re-examined regularly. Being good requires continual effort, at least on my part. And meditation makes me feel less frantic.

Why do we enjoy a wedding so much, as a society? There is something undeniably beautiful about two people promising to be a couple, even if, statistically, we know they might not be successful. My husband and I lived together for many years, until it was easier, legally, to marry. Now, we are so entangled that he is like my left side. An essential part of me. Would that have happened if we were still just living together; is our entanglement the product of marriage, or would our continued commitment have produced the same results? The only thing that changed, after the wedding, was the way others treated us as a couple. We were taken seriously. But, our day-to-day doings remained very much the same: we cared for our child, took care of our house, loved each other. Linguistically, it is easier to be married. “Husband” is simpler, and conveys more meaning than the alternatives.

    This doesn’t really apply to Buddhism, though. I can say “I am a Buddhist” and only the world’s biggest asshole will ask me if I have taken the precepts. So it is an internal commitment, and perhaps a signal to my sangha that I am willing to….what? Sweep the temple before Sunday service and bring food to potlucks. Just that I am coming back. I’ll be there.

    At this point in my life, I am feeling the crush of commitment: marriage, kids, writing, my newly found community of homeschool friends, and on and on. But, these things give back to me, anchor me. What if one more thing is just too much, the proverbial straw.