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Thread: Essential Buddhism

  1. #1

    Essential Buddhism

    The recent E-Sangha rebirth controversy got me thinking...

    Apparently some people hold the opinion that if you don't believe in rebirth - or don't take the issue seriously enough - you're not a "true buddhist" (what a funny concept anyway!).

    But what things are essential parts of Buddhism? What can you take away from the practice and still call it Buddhism? Or what can you add, is there something so un-Buddha-like that doing it would make any practice non-Buddhist?

    I would think that at least three things are required for some practice to be Buddhist:

    1) meditation (that's kind of the thing, no?)
    2) knowledge of the precepts and trying to abide by them (whichever precepts your lineage has, but some are necessary I think)
    3) recognizing Buddha as teacher or something (it would be silly calling something Buddhist if the practitioner doesn't identify themselves with Buddha's teachings)

    What about the third gem, the Sangha? Can there be Buddhism without it? Or without teacher altogether (meaning only relying your own practice and the basic teachings, but not having an ongoing teacher relationship)? Can Buddhists go solo?

    Anything else? Are those three (or four if you add the Sangha) things what it comes down to when you rip off all extra fancy stuff from the Way or is there something else that's needed? Or can you leave out even some of those?

    You can ponder this from the Zen perspective or from an all-encompassing one, but anyway please share your thoughts!

    PS. I know "Buddhism" is just a silly label, but the unenlightened being that I am those silly labels and concepts are what I have to do with. :roll:

  2. #2
    A good question Mika.

    My first impression is along the lines that you describe, inlcuding sanga, call it Core Buddhism. May be I need to sit with it a while, be interetsing to hear others comments.

    In earlier days I was involved in 'Core Shamanism' travelling to the spirits for advice/healing but without the cultural trappings of any particular society, stripped to the core elements, and finding your own way of working with the world. Interestingly one thing my spirits used to say to me regularly was to ' just be' :lol: seems I took notice to come back to Zen

    In gassho, Kev

  3. #3
    I recommend today's sit-along for an in depth discussion of essential Buddhism.

    The only other thing I'd feel qualified to answer is the question of being solo.

    We practice solo all the time, even as sangha we practice solo. We just do it together. :twisted:

    It's good to have a teacher or two available to draw on their experience, but when all is said and done one walks the Way alone.

  4. #4
    Whoops!

    Even that little 3-item list leaves two of the most popular schools of Buddhism out in the cold - Nichiren and Pure Land schools usually don't place much importance on formal meditation.

  5. #5
    hmmm, what IS esential to Buddhism?
    Nothing, and everything.
    wow, dose that ever sound clichť.
    Oh well

    Take care,
    Jordan

  6. #6
    hmmm, what IS esential to Buddhism?


    ...yes.

  7. #7
    Essential Buddhism?

    I think we can boil this down rather easily. Does it embrace / contain the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path?

    That's Buddhism.

  8. #8
    Hi,

    I would love to hear everyone's ideas for what is/is not a Buddhist.

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9
    What is Buddhist is broader than what is Zen. Buddhism is a multi-pathed practice that may include things like the four noble truths and meditation to guide us to awakening. Through awakening one transcends practice. It is not an intellectual pursuit, but a realization of life that canít be explained by words alone. In fact, when we label ourselves Buddhist we confine ourselves.

    I consider myself one who has chosen to follow Buddhism and particularly Soto Zen to broaden and empty myself without goal or expectation. In my experience so far I have fallen constantly, each day actually, and learned to pick myself up and keep living. I have learned to appreciate my life as it is, instead of as I wish it were or will be. I have learned to continue my practice even if I donít want to and even if I havenít.

    Buddhist practice is not what one man says it is or is not. Buddhism is what it transforms into for you. Buddhism is not you and it is you. Because of our condition there will be form and expression, but form and expression is not essential.

  10. #10
    Hello Treeleafers!


    Just my two cents worth:

    IMHO one has to distinguish between defining Buddhism in a historical sense and/or in an individualistic sense that has more to do with one's very own personal gnosis/experiences/beliefs/sensibilities.

    In a historical sense we simply have to look at what the most common features of Buddhism are across the board....and as much as we may not like it, Rebirth is a part of that too, along with what most of the previous Treeleafers have already written.

    The majority of word-users defines a word's meaning.....it really doesn't matter whether "True Buddhism" is hiding somewhere in a cave next to Mount Kailash worshipping rainbow coloured Flamingos, when a couple of hundred million people's everyday use of the term indicates something different.

    To me essential Buddhism comes down to this:

    1.Seeing things as they are (and not following one's own likes and/or dislikes in the process)
    2. Alleviating suffering (which is for numerous reasons tied in with point number one)

    3. Actual Practice: My very own approach to expressing/attaining/cultivating number one and two , beginning middle and end comes down to ZAZEN. If there ain't nop practice in it, it ain't Buddhism.

    Whatever Buddhism may be, it seems to me it was never conceived as a purely intellectual exercise in the same way that a lot of postmodern western Philosophy seems to be quite content with writing ever more unreadable treatises that will never ever reach the masses.

    Once more IMHO it is number three that expresses itself in a myriad ways (some say 84000) in. Different people have different needs, which is why ZAZEN may not be a good choice of practice for everyone. I personally could list a hundred reasons why chanting alone and relying on a power outside of one's limited non-existing self is silly....but I am pretty sure that our Pure Land friends and Nichiren followers have their own lists that would sound just as convincing.

    To me Buddhism (in my case Zen) is THE -ISM that comes closest to pointing to nondual reality/truth itself through dualistic means. However I do think there is a difference (on the relative/conventional level) between the questions

    What is Truth/Reality?

    and

    What is Buddhism?

    On the ultimate level, there shouldn't be a difference at some point. After all, we don't want to run around with the -ism raft tied to our legs, once we reached the other shore, or do we?


    Gassho,


    Hans

  11. #11
    Apparently some people hold the opinion that if you don't believe in rebirth - or don't take the issue seriously enough - you're not a "true buddhist" (what a funny concept anyway!).
    And it is for this very reason that my own little group is NOT considered "Buddhist" by the state Buddhist Council. We are unable to become members or to join in their meetings or practice. We can get no support whatsoever from them.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi,

    I would love to hear everyone's ideas for what is/is not a Buddhist.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Hmmm...

    Green

  13. #13
    Muuuuahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! What *IS* a Buddhist???? C'mon.....

    Essential Buddhism: I'm gonna throw my towel in with Gregor in that an essential understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path (which includes all the major Precepts) would be my final answer, Bob!

    Silly Friday, indeed!!

    Gassho~

    *Lynn

  14. #14
    Jundo,

    I wouldn't mind feedback on my answer at some point even if it is critical, and I wouldn't mind a critique in the open thread if you think others might benefit. I'd like to know how far off my thinking is.

  15. #15
    Hi Jim,

    I'd like to know how far off my thinking is.


    Once, back in the 1970's, I bought this really really psychedelic shirt. I ask my mother if she liked it. She looked at the shirt, looked at me, and said, "What's important is that you like it." (I really did, by the way, and wore the thing until it was rags).

    I have nothing particular to add or subtract. Maybe just that practice never ends. Much of the philosophy of Buddhism and Zen is important because, all alone, Zazen can be chaos, a ship adrift vs. a ship freely sailing.

    The part from "so far I have fallen constantly ... I have learned to appreciate my life as it is, instead of as I wish it were ... ." That made me smile wide, I must say.

    Quote Originally Posted by spd901
    What is Buddhist is broader than what is Zen. Buddhism is a multi-pathed practice that may include things like the four noble truths and meditation to guide us to awakening. Through awakening one transcends practice. It is not an intellectual pursuit, but a realization of life that canít be explained by words alone. In fact, when we label ourselves Buddhist we confine ourselves.

    I consider myself one who has chosen to follow Buddhism and particularly Soto Zen to broaden and empty myself without goal or expectation. In my experience so far I have fallen constantly, each day actually, and learned to pick myself up and keep living. I have learned to appreciate my life as it is, instead of as I wish it were or will be. I have learned to continue my practice even if I donít want to and even if I havenít.

    Buddhist practice is not what one man says it is or is not. Buddhism is what it transforms into for you. Buddhism is not you and it is you. Because of our condition there will be form and expression, but form and expression is not essential.
    Here is a picture of a shirt not unlike my old one ...

    http://www.wordlesssongsvintageclothing ... rmous5.jpg

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16
    Hi,

    I think we all know in our hearts whether we're Buddhists or not. It's not something that can be given to you, and it's nothing that anyone -- apart from yourself -- can take away.

    I like what Suzuki Roshi has to say about this as well:

    If you're not Buddhists, you believe that there are Buddhists and non-Buddhists. If you're Buddhists, you recognize that all are Buddhists -- even the insects.
    Gassho
    Ken

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ...
    Here is a picture of a shirt not unlike my old one ...

    http://www.wordlesssongsvintageclothing ... rmous5.jpg

    Gassho, Jundo
    I can dig it!

  18. #18
    I used to get annoyed at New Agers who claimed that they were Buddhists and went around mis-quoting Buddha and the patriarchs. And going on about that What the Bleep movie. But then I realised that the real reason I was annoyed was that I didn't like being mistaken for one of them. I wanted people (especially Asians) to recognise me for a "real Buddhist" and take me seriously. I felt very disappointed in myself for that, I'm trying to be less of an egomaniacal prude now.

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