Fallen stars often invoke a return to religion or spirituality as part their path toward redemption. Woods is no exception. In his public apology, he cited his Buddhist upbringing and the need to return to it:
“I have a lot of work to do,” he said, “and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.”
Woods is referring to Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. One says that craving for things outside oneself leads to suffering. Another says that suffering ends only when craving ends.
This made me wonder: Isn’t craving for things outside ourselves not only compatible but necessary for extraordinary athletic achievement?
Indeed, attachment to ego could be a cause of Woods’ issues, according to Bernard Ross, an expert on Buddhism interviewed by the Boston Herald. As quoted in the article, Ross said, “An ego is not real, so we have an attachment to our ego which he [Woods] probably did being the great golfer that he is.
Where does the Dalai Lama fit in? His Holiness is in the United States this week, and the Associated Press asked him about Woods. The Dalai Lama had not heard of Woods before. After hearing the facts, he agreed that a return to Buddhism would be helpful, saying that self-discipline and awareness of consequences were critical.
Is religion and spirituality compatible or incompatible with top athletic performance? Can one excel in sports without a strong attachment to ego?