Why I became a Buddhist

Stuart Hollyoak was one of the four sangha members who received Jukai from Keizan Sensei on 14 November in Liverpool.  Here, he offers his reflections on his decision to receive the Precepts and what this means for him:

“In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art there’s a quote by W.H. Murray that goes:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. […] Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

I first read this when I was eighteen and had some of the trepidation typical in teenagers about adulthood. It appeared fraught with compromise. No one I knew was doing what they really wanted to do or even knew what they wanted. There was work and there was television. Perhaps it was because I didn’t shy away from thinking of death that I came to desire more from life.

I grew up with video games. I played all manner of characters in all manner of places and worlds for many years. But little by little I came to feel I was missing out on life. It was out there and I was sitting on the edge of my bed doing the same old routine.

From childhood onwards I came to feel the mark of impermanence by increments. The end of things were leaving impressions on me. Video games were completed. Parties came to a close. I moved house and left friends behind.

In that time I also came to meet suffering more intimately. Bouts of depression. Appendicitis. Weekly attacks of vertigo and nausea. The bellows and screams of parents arguing in the house.

As I grew older I sought refuge in alternative pleasures – films, music, beer, clubs. Nothing I tried was enough because they too didn’t last. Philosophy, in particular existentialism and stoicism, came close but they were either impractical in some cases or they stifled life of its freshness.

When I found Buddhism and came to know what it was about I was ready to commit. My life confirmed the Buddha’s teachings, the three marks of existence. That the Buddha also only concerned himself with suffering and the end of suffering and not with metaphysical speculation sold Buddhism for me. It became my greatest consolation. I took jukai to commit myself to the fullest expression of reality in my eyes.”