The Buddha told a story of a man who comes to a river on a journey. There is no bridge, so he builds a raft on which to cross. When he reaches the other shore, he does not pick the raft up and carry it the rest of the way. It has served his purpose and he no longer needs it to continue. “In the same way, all truths should be used to cross over; they should not be held on to once you have arrived. Let go of even the most profound insight.” (The Enlightened Mind, ed. Stephen Mitchell)
I love this simple story. It explains my relationship to the church of my birth. I thank my Mormon upbringing for teaching me to love God and his creations, for teaching me the value of work, kindness, generosity, and learning. I especially valued the fellowship of Mormonism when we moved from Utah as young newlyweds. But, somewhere along the bumpy road of of life, I met problems that couldn’t be resolved by faith, prayer, and trying harder. Some things, and most people, cannot be changed no matter how long I fast or how many temple sessions I attend.
Carrying my raft of Mormonism became burdensome and frustrating. Discovering Buddhist philosophy of acceptance helped me to accept things I can’t change and spend my energies where I can make a difference.
Now, I’m not saying Buddhism is the answer for everyone. I know Buddhists who have messed up their lives–and I know people whose lives have been improved by converting to Mormonism. What I am saying is that we all have different rivers to cross and any philosophy or belief system that helps us get across is good. Still, we don’t have to marry our ideas or beliefs. It is no more inconsistent to adopt new thoughts that meet our current needs than it is to trade in our raft for hiking boots once we reach dry land.
Religious beliefs are tied to values, but they are not values themselves. I have kept my basic Mormon values of family, work, learning, and caring for others while finding a philosophy that currently helps me apply these values in my life.