I’ve been trying to think of a name to describe my Self along this new path I walk — often stumbling — but getting back up like that old Fred Astaire song which says to “pick your Self up, dust your Self off, start all over again . . .” I figure everybody should have a response when asked what religion they follow, rather than fumbling for an answer.
“I’m Christian,” most in the United States say. A large minority will offer that they are “Catholic,” while a third highest number of Americans will announce they are “Jewish.” Followed by Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, not to mention devotees of our “New Age” groups.
But what if you wanted to express your belief in more than one religious following? Would you be comfortable with “Jew Cath,” one who follows Catholicism and the Jewish Faith? How about a “Zen Christian,” as I have offered to many a stranger upon first meeting in person or here on the Internet?
A Buddhist student I met a few months ago calls her Self a “Jew Bu,” standing for one of whom is both a Jew and a Buddhist. Yesterday, a young woman (see Mary deserves Philly Buddha buddy visits) described someone as a “Metho-Bu,” meaning, I guess, a Methodist who follows teachings of Buddhism. Or was that Pat from Germantown? I don’t know. All these brunette Buddhist women start to look alike after a while.
I got thinking about this when I met another person at a day-long retreat at the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia who was a lawyer. In this short-travelled path I been on, I had never met a Buddhist who was also a lawyer. (Or should I say a lawyer who was also a Buddhist?) Dabbling in the law myself for 20 years, I started the following conversation with him:
“How long have you been practicing, Joe?”
“Two years, almost three,” he said. “My wife practices too.” I think he said his wife had been at it longer at than himself, but I’m not sure how long he may have indicated she was practicing.
“What area you practice in?” I followed up.
I knew something was wrong when he referred to some Buddhist sect of which I was unfamiliar, having just begun studying this Eastern philosophy some three months ago. Tibetan Buddhism, that is. Been meditating with mindfulness for more than a year. Meditating “without mindfulness” a year earlier.
“No, no,” I said to straighten out our miscommunication. “I meant, how long have you been practicing law?“
I told him I was a lawyer, one of those Philadelphia lawyers and we laughed. Like two kids discovering there were indeed hybrids — creatures like ourselves “practicing” meditation and this form of Buddhism. We discussed mutual challenges with judges who “practiced law” in fields across the aisles of our respective areas of expertise — Joe as a plaintiff lawyer with defense judges in civil cases, and myself as a criminal defense lawyer with former prosecutors as the finders of fact.
Today, I came up with the term, “Barrister-Bu,” which would apply to lawyers that studied and or practiced Buddhism. They would practice “right speech,” as well as “right motive,” and a client could be assured the attorney would do everything in his or her power to gain “enlightenment,” thereby performing only “meritorious” work for all sentient beings.
Barrister-Bu. I like it.
Like to see how it would play in one of our courtrooms someday.
Possibly related: Retreat causes ‘after shocks’ to some riders