By REV. MARVIN HARADA, Bishop of the BCA
One of my favorite recreations is to play golf.
I am not a good golfer by any means. I am more of a “hacker,” which means I struggle to break 100 for a score. Still, I really enjoy it and even if I play terribly, usually in a round, there are a few good shots that I might make or a long putt maybe occasionally, which makes the whole round fun despite the score.
There is also the camaraderie with the people you golf with, whether they are close friends or often people that you are meeting for the first time.
I always say that Buddhism is all around us. We can find the teachings in our everyday life. We just have to have the eyes to see it, the ears to hear it, and the heart and mind to feel, to sense it. The more you learn about Buddhism, the more you are able to see, hear, and sense it in your daily life and in the world around you.
There is so much Buddhism in golf. Although it is a sport, golf is at least half mental as it is physical. You are always confronted by your ego when you play golf. When you think that you want to hit this great shot, you usually duff it. When you just relax and swing easy without trying to egotistically hit a great shot, it usually turns out better.
In golf, you have to be in the present. If your mind is fixated on the terrible shot you just hit, you will hit another terrible shot. You have to put out of your mind that last terrible shot, and be in the present with the shot you have to now make. If you are too future-oriented, thinking, “I have a great round going! If I can just shoot good these last two holes, I will have the lowest score of my life,” then you usually end up having an 8 or 9 on the next hole.
If you try to hit the ball far on your tee shot, you usually mishit it. If you relax and trust your swing, it usually goes farther. In Shin Buddhism, when you exert too much of your “self-power,” or your “ego-centered power,” on the path, it gets in the way to truly receiving the teaching. You have to “let go” of your self-contrivance, self-calculation, and self-indulgence, and then you will find yourself immersed in the world of the Dharma, the world of the “other,” instead of the world of “me.”
There are puzzling contradictions in golf. For example, you have to aim left, if you want to curve the ball to the right. You have to aim right if you want to curve the ball to the left. When you hit your irons, you have to hit “down” on your irons to make the ball go “up.” (Which I do terribly, by the way).
The lower the score, the better it is. In all other sports, you want to score higher, but not in golf. In Buddhism, there are many contradictions, like to become humble is to awaken to your arrogance.
Golf is a sport of integrity. There are no referees when you play golf. It’s not like basketball or football, where if you break a rule but the ref doesn’t see it you get away with it. In golf, you have to penalize yourself if you break a rule, like when you hit the ball in the water or hit it out of bounds. In Buddhism, we have to accept the karma that we create. We have to live with all of our actions, good, bad, and neutral.
In golf, you shouldn’t get too down on yourself if you have a bad round, nor should you get a big head if you have a good round. Buddhism teaches us that life has its ups and downs. Life is never hopeless, even when things don’t go our way or if we face tragedy or misfortune.
At the same time, we don’t have to get a big head about our successes. Success is always because of many others when we reflect on it. It is not just “our doing.”
I will continue to enjoy golf, even as terrible as I am at it, and continue to see the teachings even in the challenging, fun, and often frustrating game of golf.