It’s difficult buying birthday gifts for practicing Buddhists, nevermind the Buddha himself. That is, it’s tough unless you get creative with it. And by creative, what I really mean is cheap.

Or, in Lil K’s case, weirdly lucky.

It isn’t the Buddha’s birthday today (that is usually celebrated between April and May, sorry I missed it!), but it WAS my mother’s birthday a few days ago. She happens to be a Buddhist and a very difficult person to buy gifts for. I wanted to do something nice for her so this comic is dedicated to her.

When I was just a wee lad, my parents got divorced. It was kind of tough for all of us early on, but it was obviously the right thing to do as the two of them couldn’t possibly be more incompatible. What this meant was that I grew up between two houses and two families with two very different sets of ideals and beliefs. My father, a Christian, brought my brothers and I to Church a couple of Sundays a month and had us attend Sunday School while we were young. My mother, on the other hand, grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, left home and the religion at 18, and ended up settling into Buddhism when I was about 10 years old. She’s stuck with it all this time, meditating frequently, and going on retreats. It’s from her that I learned the basic ideas of Buddhism that sparked my curiosity in other religions and, eventually, my interest in mythology.

Between my two families I had two religions that I didn’t have much interest in being a part of, but which I found immensely fascinating from a scholarly perspective.

The figures of Jesus and Buddha had so many similarities and some terribly interesting stories that got me thinking about the stories of other people around the world.

The Buddha (to me anyway, and I realize this is subjective) seemed to be offering a much more complicated message than the prophets and founders of other major religions, though it isn’t wholly unfamiliar. The Buddha preached, first and foremost, the concept of mindfulness; the idea that one should strive to always be aware of the things they are doing at any given moment, that one should consider their actions and the consequences of those actions. Along with mindfulness comes freeing oneself from desire, letting go of the things you don’t need and paying attention to what is actually important (like in today’s comic!). Finally, compassion for all living things and an awareness of the suffering every creature goes through over the course of its life is immensely important to cultivate in oneself to the practicing Buddhist.

Obviously, there’s some overlap here with Jesus’s teachings. The idea of compassion for others, of giving up material goods, and the fact that they were both reforming religions that came before are all traits common to both figures. It’s interesting to note that it has been said that Buddhism is less a religion and more a philosophy and way of life. There are some people that practice both Buddhism and Christianity or Islam or whatever.

Of course, Buddhism is far more complicated than a paragraph or two can convey (as all religions are) but it’s one that seems to resonate with a great many people all around the world. Though I may not adhere to it as a practitioner, it has taught me a great deal about myself and others and for that, I’m thankful.

So to the Buddha, I say thanks for helping me find my interest in world religions and mythology, and to my mother I say thanks for helping me find the Buddha in everyone.

Happy birthday, mom. I offer you Mettā.

And to you, dear reader, I do the same.