To Buddha or not to Buddha?

Forest Hermitage, Warwickshire, UK

Forest Hermitage, Warwickshire, UK

Being born, in Buddhist terms, means that one is still ‘stuck’ in samsara, stuck in continual rebirth. Not free. Being born is already a mistake.

How depressing! lol.

It is sort of like Original Sin in Christianity. I do not know much about Christianity so I can’t comment much, but I think the idea behind these two thoughts are the same.

So, being born means being born into an unenlightened state.

In Buddhism, being born a human is the best thing to be born… we are very lucky to be human. Even beings ‘above’ us like gods and goddesses, spirits and the like can not experience the freedom realized through Enlightenment. Nor can hungry ghosts and animals.

Now, I feel this is a dangerous model of sorts, as it may serve to boost ones ego, separating them further from Enlightenment. But of course, it can serve as a wonderful motivator for many.

Writing or speaking about Enlightenment is avoided by many Buddhists, including myself. I can liken it to why Muslims do not practice ‘idol worship’. They do not believe images of Mohammad should be created… because once you try to define or describe him, you always fall well short and do a great disservice. Now, in Buddhism, idol worship is OK. Many many Buddha statues everywhere!! But Buddhists, we need to be careful not to let our love and gratitude for the Buddha’s teaching to be obscured by images and statues in his likeness. Hui Neng, the sixth patriarch of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism beat a copy of the Diamond Sutra with a stick. His point was about this danger… attaching to words, teachings, even the Buddha himself. That’s why there’s a saying in Buddhism, “If you meet the Buddha, you must kill the Buddha!”

I personally feel the benefits of having Buddha images in my home outweigh the potential dangers. They remind me that it is possible to realize our Enlightened nature. They remind me that the Buddha was a man, a human, nothing more, nothing less. He suffered and he worked hard to figure out how to stop this. He taught the Way. He also taught, as he was dying, for us to be lamps upon our own selves. Our Enlightened nature is within us, or rather among us.

Lets not fear talking about Enlightenment. It is the goal of all Buddhists, is it not? Of course, making it a goal destroys it. That’s why it is sometimes called the goalless goal! lol. Oh these tricky Buddhists! I sometimes hate talk like that! Just tell me the answer, not riddles! hahaha.

When Dogen said that Time-Being is a sixteen foot Buddha statue, he meant it. What does that mean?! Just tell me! hahaha.

May all beings realize their inherent Enlightened nature and for love to continue to spread throughout the Universe.

Ego-mind and the Four Noble Truths

There is a way out of Samsara…

In Buddhism, it can be said that the ego-mind is an illusion and we should practice hard to realize that this is true. The Buddha laid down the 4 Noble Truths, which is the foundation of Buddhism and they are:

1)      Suffering is real and it is ultimately inescapable. (How very depressing!!)

2)      Suffering exists because the human mind creates attachments.

3)      Suffering can be overcome.

4)      There is a Way, the Eightfold Path, which leads us to overcome suffering forever.

So, ‘suffering’ is at the heart of Buddhism. The Buddha came to the realization that all beings will experience suffering at some point, without exception.

He then figured out that this suffering is, to put it bluntly, ‘all in our mind’… This is because when we create attachments, of any kind, we create a false reality, a model of reality. A simple example would be: A person sees a horse for the first time ever in their lives. They never realized how HUGE they are in person and becomes a bit nervous/scared. In the future, they may say, “Oh, I am afraid of horses!”… this is because of attaching to past experiences. Perhaps the next time they see a horse they will not be afraid, but if they hold onto their thought that they are ‘afraid of horses’, then it kills any openness in seeing horses again. Of course, the next time they see a horse they might get even more afraid! Lol. But the point is, it is when we attach to our thoughts that we become separate from the present, we are not living in reality, but a created model of reality. This, of course, can have benefits…. Say it was a shark and not a horse… it may well be very wise to be afraid of a shark!* Lol

So, can we take heed of what we learned and experienced in the past without being attached to those experiences? The Buddha said yes, which is the 3rd Noble Truth.

The way it is done is the 4th Noble Truth.

Now, the Buddha, through his own strong effort and practice, realized the 1st and 2nd Noble Truth. He then had a deep faith that the 3rd Noble Truth was true, without yet realizing it. He had to experience/realize the 4th Noble Truth to confirm the 3rd Noble Truth. I think this is a very important point. It shows that deep faith is critical in our practice. Without having this deep faith fully cultivated in our heart and mind, we will always fail to realize the 4th Noble Truth.

So, we must ask ourselves, what is the state of our faith in the Buddha’s teaching? If you waver and think “Oh, maybe, just maybe, the Buddha got it wrong” then failure is assured. However, having blind faith in the Buddha’s teaching also ensures our failure.

So what is left? Well, the Buddha had deep faith in the 3rd Noble Truth before he could confirm it by realizing the 4th Noble Truth. He did it without faith in his own teachings but rather with the faith that suffering can be overcome. So, our faith must reside in this, not the Buddha, not his words, but that faith is personal, it is our own and ours alone, and we must ask ourselves:

Do we believe it is possible to realize our true Enlightened nature?

*Sharks are actually fairly safe to humans, overall, but I used it as a ‘scary’ example.