Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Buddhism According to I, Me and Self

As a born Buddhist, I never really had to think deep about Buddhism.  It was in my blood and soul.  However, during a recent interview, I was asked a series of questions about Buddhism which pushed me to think again.  Think again about how I describe Buddhism and its relation to self.  Think again on my knowledge of Buddhism.  Think again on how Buddhist I am.  Let me share my interview experience here.

"Buddhism, to me, is all about self-reflection, self-realization and self-improvement."
"I am less into rituals."
"Buddhism has to make sense to me."
"I believe less in theory and more in practice."
"Both rich and poor should have an equal access to Buddhist teachings."
Let me go details into each of these statements.

"Buddhism is all about self-reflection, self-realization and self-improvement"

In Buddhism, God does not exist.  We believe Buddha as a great teacher/master and his teachings as a guiding framework for meaningful life.  In this modern world, it is nearly impossible to attain enlightenment for oneself.  However, one path to enlightenment is to refine the self in you.  And in order to refine the self, you need to better yourself as an individual.  This is where self-reflection, self-realization and self-improvement comes into play.

No matter what you do in this life, it is important to reflect on your past actions; realize your own mistakes; and identify different ways to improve yourself.  Life should be a continuous circle of self-reflection, self-realization and self-improvement.  Though you may not attain enlightenment in this life, I can assure that you will age young and wise.

"Less into rituals"

Many rituals are meant to better yourself - seeking karma, better health, or amassing wealth - with the help of others.  Either you offer goods/money or invite others to satisfy the rituals.  By doing this, many fail to see or realize the ultimate need of self-improvement.  They just take the easy route i.e., seek others for the benefit of your Self.  I believe this is very contradictory to Buddhist teachings.  It seems Buddhism, to many, is just the outer rituals - anything you could see or show to others.  The inner development of Self never seems to take precedence over outer rituals.

More disturbingly, some of these rituals have become a public space for asset display.  As an example, a grand and lavish ritual becomes a talk of the town whereby people gossips about how much wealth this particular family has amassed over the years.  The rituals have turned into a public medium to showcase your wealth.

By rituals, I do not mean to include prayers or recitation of Buddha text books.

"Buddhism has to make sense"

The beauty of Buddhism lies in its subjectivity.  If any of the Buddhist teachings fail to make a connection to your life, you have the right to disregard it.  Simply put, Buddhism has to make sense to you and your life.  This being said, I do not mean to disrespect the teachings.  What-does-not-make-sense to you may make sense to others.

Every individual is different.  All I am saying here is that if any of the Buddhist teachings fail to make a sense to you and your life, you can just put it aside for the time being.

"Less in theory and more in practice"

Many Buddhist devotees dedicate a lot of their time on preaching.  When I say preaching, I mean the act when there is an absence of learning.  For instance, many will pray for the benefit of others.  However, when it comes to helping their own ailing neighbors, they will do nothing.  The prayers of helping others exist only in words.

In addition, I have seen Buddhist who pours in thousands and thousands of money into a monastery's treasure but when they see a beggar outside the monastery, they do not even take a look at him.  Where and when the theory meets the practice is a difficult question to answer for many.

"Equal access to Buddhist teachings" 

In continuation to the rituals described earlier, in recent years, some monasteries have been charging an enormous amount of fees for conducting the requested rituals.  For poor, it seems impossible to do such rituals.

In the West, it's expensive to attend a dharma teachings or retreat.  Sometimes, even with a discount or scholarship, it is still expensive for a common people.  The principle of equal access to Buddhist teachings seems too good to be true.

For anyone interested in learning Buddhism, I would highly recommend traveling to India or Nepal where most teachings are free or at nominal fees.

Disclaimer: The intention behind this piece is to only share the personal experience. It has nothing to do with one or other...

Read Also:  An Audience with His Holiness The Dalai Lama at Hotel Beacon, New York


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  2. Buddhism is a teaching which has spread worldwide absorbing the culture of each country it arrived in, which has resulted in many expressions of Buddhism.guarantor