|Final Essay |
Master of Buddhist Studies
Rev. Gio Sugranes
One major question always asked is what exactly is Buddhism and what is a Buddhist?
Even within the corpus of texts and books available now a day, this question still needs to be answered in a way that is less technical and less confusing. With so many different traditions, teachings, texts, and Masters who teach from those texts, it can be difficult to understand and get a clear vision of what Buddhism is and what a Buddhist follows or accepts.
Put simply, Buddhism is the Path of Awakening. Plain and simple. Within this path we find that there are many steps one can take to "Awaken". These steps are known as the Dharma, or Teachings of Universal Truth, as offered by a Buddha. In our case it was the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, former Indian Prince. He re-discovered the Truth and as such declared, that for the benefit of all beings still "asleep", he would expound, share what he had learned. It is for this reason that Buddhist are grateful for his efforts, compassion, and wisdom.
Another question would be what is Awakening? What does one Awaken to? The answer is to awaken to Reality, Truth, and the Oneness in all things. To put an end to the illusion of separation and the grasping of a centralized ego. Through methods of developing wisdom and compassion we start the see unity. We awaken to the boundless nature of all things and develop inner peace through the realization of truth. Through the many methods, Buddhist learn to understand feelings and emotions and how they develop. One learns to look deeply at the habituated actions that have lead to suffering in the past, and how to transform them into methods of the path. One learns to understand the plight and afflictions of others and though compassionate actions, helps all beings.
A Buddhist has a simple nature. One that develops the heart of compassion and seeks to gain wisdom through direct experience. Armed with this wisdom and compassion, A Buddhist understands reality and develops inner calmness. A Buddhist will also seek to help, guide others to discover their own way and ultimately, enlightenment.
The goal is to look at the world through the eyes of wisdom that see all things as interdependent. One understands that there are many actions that lead one to experience the Present Moment. This is the true blessing. To see how many things take place in just one life in the present. Through this, we learn to be more compassionate to our neighbor. We are more willing to lend a hand because we cannot survive without the graces of others. And finally, a Buddhist learns to be aware, mindful of the moment. Knowing this, we can learn to appreciate this life more. We can understand the issues that arise within the mind.
A Buddhist has also been described as one that takes on many practices and vows or precepts. However, I feel that these elements do not define one as a Buddhist. The vows and precepts are just another guideline or practice we take on to be able to stabilize the mind and bring about inner peace so that one can attain wisdom through looking deeply at reality. A Buddhist is also a constant student of the Dharma, Teachings. Always engaged in the "Beginners' Mind", a Buddhist is always looking at Teachings as if they were new to him. Never settling for "I know all", for this is just a projection of the ego. A person of this nature is constantly striving to learn without grasping to attitudes like; "I have learned it all". He is constantly learning and listening deeply to the Teachings of the Buddha.
But what is the path to Enlightenment in Buddhism? Is it the practice of Zen, Mantra recitation and visualization, or simple and basic reflection and meditation?
I feel the answer to this question lies in the heart of each individual practitioner. Looking beyond tradition and customs, one must look deeply at what makes sense. The Buddha spoke 84,000 teachings which were based on the many needs and mental capacities of sentient beings. He knew that we are all different and as such, would take on different practices.
The Buddha is known to be like a Doctor who is able to treat the illnesses of this life. He was able to prescribe a medicine based on the afflictions and turmoil of his patients. Knowing the issue at hand he prescribed a Dharma teaching, which only we can take and fulfill.
So, in essence, it's like saying that some medication can and will work for some, but others require a different medicine due to difference in ailment. The Sangha, the community, was like the nurse who would guide you in taking such prescription so that they would be great benefit.
It is a very individual choice to seek out what "medicine" the Buddha offered and would be of benefit to us. It is a personal journey of discovery.
Ultimately, whether Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, or what ever other spiritual journey one may take in this life, the goal is the same. To return to a natural state of being. Free of delusions, anger, hatred, and dualistic grasping. It is the goal to return to the Oneness, the Thusness of this great Universe. This should be the "glue" that binds us all together. The Journey!
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