Year of No Opinion

The dawn of a new year. Hopes and expectations run high. Resolutions made, promises to ourselves that we hope will improve our lives. The sorrows of the past are to be forgotten, replaced by the joys of tomorrow.

During December many Buddhists celebrated Bodhi Day. On this day, over 2,500 years ago, after a period of deep meditation Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment. The term “Buddha” means “The Awakened One.” What was the enlightenment, the awakening, that he experienced? He awakened to the realization that the cause of his suffering was his ignorance. For years he had struggled to become a pure person in an impure world. Now, he realized that the world around him was perfect as it is. His expectations and prejudices were the cause of his suffering. Moving beyond this self centered view of life enabled him to live in the oneness that is life.

In our everyday life we constantly judge. Our opinions and attitudes affect our actions. Often, these actions bring suffering to ourselves or others. Last week, at our Monday night meditation group, one member proposed an interesting exercise. To become fully aware of how often we judge he said to try to spend one day without having an opinion. This is not to say that having an opinion is bad, it is simply a way of becoming aware of the basis of your opinion. This awareness leads to a deeper understanding of the effect this opinion will have on yourself or others.

A basic concept in Buddhism is karma. All that has gone before has led up to this moment. The various cause and effect are why we are who we are. As we look at our opinions the truth of karma becomes clear. We have our opinion because of our karma. The person with a different opinion has theirs because of their karma. Opinions are simply the result of karma. From a Buddhist perspective, right actions help all beings overcome suffering for all time. Like Shakyamuni Buddha we can examine our actions, constantly keeping this in mind.

One immediate benefit from examining our opinions is a lessening of conflict. A greater appreciation of why the other person thinks the way they do allows us to discuss our differences rather than to argue. As an extremely opinionated person this is an exercise perfectly suited for me.

The year 2004 will be a year of many opinions. As the presidential race heats up so will the debate. Everyone will have an opinion. This is the perfect time for the “Year of No Opinion.” Approach every new moment with a fresh outlook. Leave behind your attachment to the past. Live in the eternal now, awake and aware of the world around you. Let this truly be a Happy New Year.

For more information about Buddhism, or meditation in Kenosha, contact me at