November, 07 Newsletter

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What it means to be a Buddhist - I was recently asked to define what it means to be a Buddhist. There is the text book answer concerning the dharmatic, non-theistic, philosophical qualities of the teachings and the incorporation of them into living in the world (daily life). The teaching embodies five precepts; (think of these as five suggestions): 1) Abstain from harming all living beings. 2) Abstain from taking what is not given (stealing). 3) Abstain from sexual misconduct. 4) Abstain from false speech (lying). 5) Abstain from intoxicating drugs. These are foundational concepts which help to foster attitudes of kindness, understanding and consideration for all beings. - Yet this explanation is too linear to define what it means to be Buddhist; the definition of harm, taking, misconduct, falsehood, drugs and even intoxicating is different from one person or group to the next. Buddha also taught the ‘Four Noble Truths’ - a formulation of concepts to nurture insight into the nature of sentience: 1) ‘Suffering’ - an underlining state of being while the ‘mind’ is confused as to the nature of reality. 2) The fundamental cause of all suffering; - the before mentioned confusion. 3) The knowledge that escape from suffering is possible and inherent in consciousness. 4) The efforts (eight fold) or road map to the attainment of permanent happiness; the cessation of suffering. - This is surely the doorway to awakening and direct knowing; but does an understanding of these axioms create a Buddhist? I think the answer to the original question is far less tangible. The Buddha Shakyamuni offered teaching of universal truths but to study those instructions or to participate in Buddhist rituals or to take refuge in a organization, writings, monastery or an individual teacher does not make one a Buddhist. Buddha recognized the existence of a core self, an inherent reserve of deep understanding. Often this core self is difficult to experience, veiled with perplexities, befuddlement and distractions. Yet the intrinsic knowledge stored within is unchanged by thoughts or actions. There are practices in the shared human experience that are designed to reveal this inner self to the outer self; Buddhism is merely one of them. What Buddhist practice reveals is the need for compassion and wisdom, mindfully applied, within each interaction with self and others. Once this is understood than each moment of life is a step on the path to inner and outer peace, direct knowledge and enlightenment. Whatever course one sets to find this precious understanding does not require a name. To stand on the apex of human/divine comprehension compartmentalization's such as Islam, Judaism, Animism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism or Whateverism melts away in the pure light of absolute truth. - Sonam Dorje

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