In today's violent society, we can all be forgiven for feeling a little insecure. These days you can't even pop down to the shops for a copy of 'Guns and Shooting' without the risk of winding up the victim of a brutal coshing or drive-by stabbing. It's no wonder so many people are scared to go out alone.
Hello, I'm Rob Hammond, and as a veteran of the Territorial Army, I've been specially trained to kill using nothing more than a raised elbow. Failing that, I could easily smother any potential attacker with my armpit, and if it became absolutely necessary, I could even blind my assailant by licking out his eyeballs - although this is something I try to avoid wherever possible, as it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. But sadly, not everyone can handle themselves as well as I can. The urban jungle is a very different kettle of monkeys from any other theatre of war, and any passing stranger can be a potential threat.
To be honest, there was a time when even I felt uneasy about going out on my own. Yeah, I know, hard to believe, isn't it? But the truth is that after my discharge from the TA I would often barricade myself in my bedsit for weeks on end, surviving on a diet of dog food and pineapple chunks. In fact, I became quite jumpy. Every noise was a potential hazard, every footstep an assassin. I could have very easily turned into some kind of nut, but thankfully salvation was just around the corner - for it was then that I discovered Buddhism and my outlook on life was transformed.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, Buddhism can transform your life too! Wanna know more? Course you do. That's why I've prepared this list of frequently asked questions to help you understand what all this Buddhist malarkey is all about...
All right then, what is Buddhism?
Buddhism is cool. It's less strict than Hinduism and cheaper than Catholicism. Actually, it's less like a religion and more like a way of life. It's all about meditation and the strict observance of moral precepts. There's also some stuff about Enlightenment, but I'm not really sure about that side of it yet.
How do I find Buddhism?
Well in my case, Buddhism found me. Someone shoved this leaflet under my door, telling me about an introductory lecture down at the community centre, given by the Ascended Master Ching Rampoche - who also runs the wet fish concession outside the job centre. I was curious, but I didn't want to just stroll straight in. I may only have been in the Territorials for six weeks, but I still understand the importance of reconnaissance. I hung around outside for a while, watching people enter. Then I took a brief stroll around the building, noting all the exits and possible escape routes. Finally I plucked up the courage and went in. Simple really.
Okay, so how can Buddhism help me?
That was the very question I asked myself. But as I listened to Master Rimpoche's learned words, it became obvious that Buddhism was what was missing from my life. Under his guidance I have learned to quell the inner rage that threatened to tear me apart - for anger is merely an expression of suffering, and can be eliminated by eradicating my desires. With every step upon my journey along the eightfold path I became stronger and more resolute. Buddhism has blessed me with a sense of inner peace.
Hang on - this Buddhism lark sounds like it's for girls!
Did I mention that it also enables me to kick seven shades of shit out of anybody who gets in my way?
Ah! Now that's more like it.
Too right. As well as providing an excuse to go around dressed only in a sheet, Buddhism has also shown me how to clear my mind of confusing and unproductive thoughts and achieve a state of tranquillity. This tranquillity can then be unleashed with devastating force on anyone who decides to give me grief.
Wicked. So who was this Buddha chap? He seems like a decent bloke.
Buddha's real name was Siddhartha Gotama, but that sounded a bit gay so all his mates called him Buddha. He was a monk with a bald head, and he was rock hard and could have anybody in his village. He also liked table tennis.
If Buddha were alive today, would he be able to beat Bruce Lee in a fight?
Yeah, he'd slap him silly. Bruce Lee is dead.
Fair enough. So, is there any money in Buddhism? Surely there must
be a fiddle going on somewhere?
Buddhism teaches us that wealth is impermanent and does not guarantee happiness. A true Buddhist pursues enlightenment, not money. Of course, Buddha lived millions of years ago, when trainers were much cheaper and there were no such things as mini-disc players. Perhaps it's time for Buddhism to be revised in order to bring it into line with today's consumer society? I'm thinking about making a bid for the T-shirt concession.
What's all this I hear about having fourteen wives?
Nah, you're thinking of something else. Buddhists have nothing to do with that sort of thing.
Oh well. What were Buddha's Teachings?
Buddha taught us that there are four noble truths: firstly that life is suffering; secondly, that suffering is caused by desire; thirdly, that suffering can be overcome; and fourthly that the path of morality and awareness leads to happiness. However, he also taught us how to deal with someone twice your size by kicking him in the nuts, then running away. Not only was he a wise and noble man, but old Buddha was quick on his feet as well.
So what's Karma? Is it a type of curry?
No. It's not a species of chameleon either. Karma is the idea that every cause has an effect. So, if I hit you with a big stick, you'll go and tell your mate, who will come round and beat the gristle out of me with an even bigger stick. Actually, this aspect of Buddhism gives me a bit of a problem, and I've been trying to think of a way round it. The way I see it is that if I hit you with a stick and nobody sees me, and I do a really good job of it so that you're not able to tell anyone about it, then I can pretty much get away with it.
Okay, point taken. Do Buddhists go to heaven?
Buddhist are continually reincarnated until they achieve a state of Nirvana. I'm not sure exactly what that is, but it sounds dead good. The really cool thing is that whenever you die, you just keep coming back, like the Terminator. Non-Buddhists are also reincarnated, of course, but they come back as ants and flies and worms.
What is this 'Wheel of Life' that I keep hearing about?
It's a giant wooden wheel with spikes on it. If you have an enemy and you want him to talk, you can strap him to the wheel and throw rocks at him, and he will tell you anything you want to know.
Can Buddhists do voodoo or any of that shit?
I have a friend who can touch the tip of his nose with his tongue. He's not a Buddhist, and it's not strictly magic, but it's well impressive, nonetheless. I did read about this guy once who was able to stop a man's heart just by staring into his eyes. I don't know whether he was a Buddhist either, but it's bloody spooky. I've tried it myself - just going up to people in the street and staring directly into their eyes. I concentrated really hard, but all that happened was I got cautioned by the police.
So, how do I join? Is there a test?
Of course there's a test - they don't just let anyone in, you know. To be a Buddhist you have to be strong, physically fit and have 20/20 vision. I have perfect eyesight myself, even though in the TA they said I was short-sighted. That incident with the tank wasn't my fault - the visibility was very poor that day. Even the coroner said so. Anyway, to be a Buddhist you also have to be able to do fifteen push-ups and run five miles without breaking a sweat, which I can do dead easy.
And that's what Buddhism is all about. So, do you think you have what it takes to be a Buddhist? It's a hard life, but a rewarding one, and if you're looking for an exciting change of direction, then Buddhism could be the very thing for you. Buddhists will be recruiting in your area soon, so why not pick up an application form and join us in bringing serenity and enlightenment to our troubled world. And if we manage to get enough of us together in time for this Sunday, we're all going to go down into town and give the Methodists a good pasting.
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