What does being a Buddhist mean to you?

re: what you tell your friends

1. CarolAnn Stockton

Laughing Frog Zendo

Vocalist and mother/grandmother

Poulsbo, Washington

My neighbors are Evangelical Christians and it’s been fascinating to become friends with them. I told them that I practice meditation because I want to be like Christ, not worship Christ. I practice generosity and compassion with them and now they don’t say “Praise the Lord” to me anymore or ask me to go to prayer meetings, and we have a great time together.


2. Sarah Kennedy

Tricycle Web-Mistress

New York, New York

I was working at a summer day camp and the parents who were dropping off their kids kept asking me what I was going to do when camp was over. When I responded to one father that I was going to work for a Buddhist magazine, his eyebrows raised a little higher than usual. Later I found out that he had misheard me. He thought I said “nudist.”


3. Monshin Paul Naamon

Abbot, Karuna Tendai Dharma Center

East Chatham, New York

The sound of a loon across a calm lake in a traffic jam. How do you compact several thousand years of experience into a few phrases?


4. Richard Simon

Systems Analyst

NYC 10011

I usually don’t tell people unless it comes up in context. It’s not something I advertise. There was a period, however, when I worked as a consultant at Citibank and the job was coming to an end. I was going up to live at ZCNY, and so I ordered some cookies from the ZCNY Bakery and walked around handing them out and took that opportunity to discuss what I was doing. That’s the closest to advertising it that I’ve come.


5. Naomi Schmidt

Graphic Designer

Shady, NY

On the whole I don’t like to make a big deal about it. Of course I’m a Buddhist and if people want to know, that’s what I say. But it’s something I hold very sacred. I don’t feel I have to answer for it. I respect other people’s religions. This is mine.


6. John A. Perks


I wear a Buddhist pin, and invariably people ask what it means, and when I’m teaching I wear a robe, so naturally if people see me they’re curious. I say I’m part of the Celtic Buddhist Church and this is what we’re doing. Of course, most people are interested in the combination. “Oh, I get it,” said one woman. “It’s as if the Buddha were born among the Celts.” And I said, “Yeah, you’ve got it. That’s it.”


7. Joseph Yon

Business Manager

Alameda, California

There are all kinds of double-pronged answers: form is emptiness, etc. But with good friends - people who know me well and won’t get the wrong idea - I’m pretty straightforward. The bottom line is that you try to increase your kindness and awareness. If they want to know more, they’ll ask. In business circles it’s a little different. I guess you could call me a closest Buddhist in that area. But business people sometimes become friends. So. . .


8. Marya Schwabe

Administrative Director

Pahala, HI 96777

Well, that’s pretty simple, really. Isn’t it? It’s not a matter of being Buddhist or Christian or whatever. It’s practicing kindess and goodness to others, and not harming others. That’s really the true nature of any spritiual practice.


9. Lenny Gerson


Portland, Oregon

I usually tell my friends who ask about it that it’s the basis of my sanity. Of course, my friends don’t buy that.


10.Chuck Stanford

Co-Director, Mindfulness Meditation Foundation

Kansas City, Kansas 66106

I consider my practice to be personal and private; I don’t usually bring it up. From a Buddhist perspective it might seem like spiritual materialism to do so. However, if it does come up I answer any questions asked.


11. Marc Strumpf

Insurance Agent

Bethesda, Maryland

I explain that being a Buddhist means understanding that you are not only responsible for what you do but for what happens to you as well.


12. Danan Henry Sensei

Zen Priest

Denver Zen Center

Denver, Colorado

It tell them it’s a way of finding out how to live well, that is, how to live unselfishly and affectionately.


13. Minner Fulton

Systems Analyst

Myerville, Kentucky

A couple of days ago my postman asks me what Buddhism is, on account of I get all this Buddhist mail. So I ask him, “What if there was only one postman in the whole world, and so it was his job to deliver all the mail? He gets up every morning, knowing that he can never get it done, but he delivers his letters and packages all day anyway, with a smile. Then nighttime comes, but he keeps on delivering letters and packages all night, because there’s always more to do. Then, at daybreak, he lies down and closes his eyes for just one second before getting up to do it all again. And this is what he does every day for his whole life, and maybe for other lifetimes, too.”

And so my postman says, “What’re you, crazy?” And I say, “No. I’m not a very good Buddhist either. But I keep trying.”


14. Kenji Akahoshi


Saratoga, CA

Being a Buddhist means that all aspects of my life are integrated with a common truth. Contemporary scientific truths, environmental concerns, all interpersonal relationships, and my personal spiritual experiences are all addressed fully and compatibly. Explained simply, in a dualistic world of frustration and pleasure, I’m aware of a wise and compassionate universe. Great joy and gratitude are everyday gifts of the Buddhadharma.

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