A pained resignation, audible as a sigh, was all I got. Nancy was over it.
When my mom found out about my tattoo—pretty substantially placed on the right arm and shoulder—I anticipated some fireworks. I anticipated them, and, really, kind of wanted them. But I didn’t get any. My name wasn’t removed from any will or testate document and I didn’t receive any calls from my Aunt saying Nancy was locked in her room clinging to the ashes of her dead cat refusing to come out. No, she didn’t explode. Simply, in about as somber and resigned tone as you can imagine, she sighed, said “Ok Beau,” and hung up the phone. Nancy was over it.
That reaction hit me harder.
I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
In redemptory form, I’m writing this to address my Mother. I want to address her disappointment. I’m going to explain why I got the tattoo—what it means and why it has nothing to do with my inked-up ex—and why I hope she will still hold some pride for her only son; if she will only just read a little further.
Living Buddha, Living Christ. That is both a title to a book, written by famed and brilliant Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, as well as a personal mantra. Both ideology and experience are why it means something to me. I believe in the phrase because of what is denotes but also because of how it makes me feel.
I grew up Roman Catholic and attended St. Vincent de Paul Parish—where I was head altar boy, circa 01’-03’, and only worked the big masses (Vigils and such). In high school I continued my education at a Jesuit institution, Bellarmine Prep. My upbringing was routed in Catholic faith. I am still Catholic today. When I relax on Saturday night drink specials, I typically make it to morning mass on Sunday. Jesus is, and always will be, a part of my life.
I’ve had a lot of problems with my faith, though; that’s for sure. Some of that is my fault, namely immaturity and a lack of virtue, but other parts are due to principle and belief I just can’t get on board with. I don’t want to preach, and I won’t, but amongst all those contestable issues the one element that never lost meaning—sanctity—was the life of Jesus.
Jesus, amongst a perpetuity of other things, lived in compassion. His being was predicated by the welfare of others, of all of us. The Catholic church bothers me when they condemn ways in which good people live, but the life and message of young J (Jesus) always held my faith. Living as he did, simplistic in material and serious in compassion, is where I will always hold my belief.
(Working on the ‘simplistic in material’ thing. I like nice shit a lot.)
Buddha, my dude, is an extension of Jesus. Truly. Don’t jump to heresy or designate that comment to my time in Asia or my affinity for holistic women, but listen for like thirty seconds more:
Sidartha Gotama (Buddha) was not a god. He never claimed to be one. He met enlightenment through a disciplined practice based in love and compassion and a commitment to certain values/belief. Buddhism is not an idolized religion and is not elite, either. It is something secular. Buddhism is worldy—that’s why I say secular. We are all connected and we are all part of the same universality. As we are all connected, of the same being, we are all unique in that connectivity. We all have our own Buddha. We all have our own means to enlightenment—Buddha means “enlightened one.” Buddha, as a spiritual figure, brought light to living in compassion. In any variation of Buddhism, the aim of enlightenment—the ultimate pursuit—is to rid the world of suffering. The enlightenment of Buddha, something inside all of us, is the extension to Jesus.
The connection, between Buddha and Jesus, when realized leads you to a realization of transcendence. Doctrine and scripture provide value and perspective, but when you work to become aware of why they are connected you get it. You understand that a commitment to compassion and consideration, done in whatever name, holds the only relevance. The message is what is important, not the messenger.
Again, the message is important, not the messenger.
There is a Buddha in, and available, to all of us—just as Christians believe there is a divinity in all of us. The terminology isn’t paramount nor is the medium in which you pursue enlightenment. Enlightened, you embrace the connection to this universe and those here with you. In Christian faith you proclaim Jesus and you work to spread his message—to the universe and those here with you. Both the journey and the end game are the same.
Why the tattoo?
1. I believe in the phrase, Live Buddha, Live Christ. I believe in it for a few reasons, but in the most relevant form—why I got the image permanently attached to my arm—I believe it to be representative of openness and tolerance in the name of compassion. If you cannot see the connection between Buddha and Jesus, hopefully the image can evoke a solidarity in pursuit of a common aim—love.
2. Mindful living, centered in present awareness, has always led me to connect more with those around me. When I am focused, present in my interactions, I can both give and receive at my greatest level. Buddha is a reminder, in permanent ink, to be precisely where I am.
3. I look tougher. Anybody with a half sleeve and mildly athletic frame will look tougher. That’s good, because I’m not tough.
4. Two is better than one. The pursuit of enlightenment, even rooted in a Buddhist sense, will bring you closer to God. A love for Jesus, and any action done in emulation of him, is enlightened living. A correlative acknowledgement of both is more energy for the same cause.
5. Jesus, as a living message from God, proclaimed virtues of love and compassion to free the world from pain. Buddha, embracing an enlightened state of awareness, sought to rid the universe of suffering through compassion. I respect any faith or belief where a commitment to happiness and health is the pointed aim. The message is important, not the messenger.
6. We are all connected and we are all part to the divine. Jesus and Buddha are that reminder.
7. Let’s call a spade a spade, girls who respond to Buddha are into some shit.