In the belly of the beast

Boston Herald: Buddhist golfer has long journey to re-enlightenment

Tiger Woods’ outsized ego may be to blame for his numerous sexual transgressions, say Buddhists who nonetheless applaud the golfer’s avowed return to his religious roots.

Woods made his first public appearance Friday since news broke that he had cheated on his wife, Elin Nordegren. His roughly 14 mistresses include cocktail waitresses, nightclub hostesses and a porn star.

Woods said he strayed in recent years from the Buddhist principles he has practiced since childhood. In his mea culpa, he said he was returning to the Buddhist ways he learned from his mother.

“I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me: my marriage and my children,” he said.

Bernard Ross, a nine-year member of the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center, said Buddhists believe that attachment causes suffering. He said addiction – a type of attachment – and “ego” could be at the root of Tiger’s tomcatting troubles.

“That’s where meditation comes in,” he explained. “You become more as one with the world when you leave your feelings of ego behind. An ego is not real, so we have an attachment to our ego, which he probably did being the great golfer that he is.”

During his press conference, Woods said he felt entitled to the temptations that came alongside the fame and fortune he worked so hard to achieve.

“Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security,” Woods said in his statement. “It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.”

Toronto-based clinical counselor and spriritual coach Cheryl Hitchcock said the golf star will be forgiven by the Buddhist community, but he must work to get back to his “Buddhist self.”

“I’m sure he kind of temporarily disconnected from his spirit, and he got caught up in what we call the world of 10,000 things – sort of the human aspect of life, not the creative aspect, which is his Buddist self,” she said. “He sort of acted from a place of human ego and human consciousness.”

She said Buddhists seek to understand suffering in order to end it.

“I think he really needs to go inside himself and figure out how he got off track and why this happened,” she said, explaining that Woods can find those answers through meditation.

Ross said Woods needs to be more mindful of his family rather than focusing all his mindfulness on his work. He called the golfer’s break from the PGA a chance “to find out there was more to life than getting up every day and hitting that little white ball around.”

Ross said the issue of infidelity is not clearly addressed in Buddhism’s Five Precepts.

“You’re not supposed to engage in any inappropriate sexual relations, but they’re not really defined. That may well fall under that category,” he said. “That’s even something he has to judge for himself. That’s not something I’m judging him on.”

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