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Buddhism in the News


Friday, January 06, 2006

Buddhism is not a Philosophy or Doctrine

The following conversation was between the ascetic Dighanaka and Gautama the Buddha from the book Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Dighanakha asked the Buddha, "Gautama, what is your teaching? What are your doctrines? For my part, I dislike all doctrines and theories. I don't subscribe to any at all."

The Buddha smiled and asked, "Do you subscribe to your doctrine of not following and doctrines? Do you believe in your doctrine of not-believing?"

Somewhat taken aback, Dighanakha replied, "Gautama whether I believe of don't believe is no importance."

The Buddha spoke gently, "Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, he loses all his freedom. When on becomes dogmatic, he believes his doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy. Disputes and conflicts all arise from narrow views. They can extend endlessly, wasting precious time and sometimes even leading to war. Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path. Bound to narrow views, one becomes so entangled that it is no longer possible to let the door of truth open."


Dighanakha asked, "But what of your own teaching? If someone follows your teaching will he become caught in narrow views?"

"My teaching is not a doctrine or a philosophy. It is not the result of discursive thought or mental conjecture like various philosophies which contend that the fundamental essence of the universe is fire, water, earth, wind, or spirit, or that the universe is either finite or infinite, temporal, or eternal. Mental conjecture and discursive thought about truth are like ants crawling around the rim of the bowl -- they never get anywhere. The things I say come from my own experience. You can confirm them all by your own experience.


My goal is not to explain the universe, but to help guide others to have a direct experience of reality. Words cannot describe reality. Only direct experience enables us to see the true face of reality."

Dighanakha exclaimed, "Wonderful, wonderful Gautama! But what would happen if a person did perceive your teaching as a dogma?"


I must state clearly that my teaching is method to experience reality and not reality itself, just as a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. An intelligent person makes use of the finger to see the moon."

-Peace to all beings-

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Tom said...

Hmmm. I wonder how this affects the discussions on Intelligent Design that are coursing through the blangha. [Also, if the Buddha is foolishly in disagreement with me, commenting in Green Clouds that the map is better than the territory!]

I think that Nacho thinks that the fundamental essense of the universe is earth. The discussions are getting to be a bit circular [ants around the rim of a bowl].

But, then, I advocate opening up discussion to different views [which is somewhat non-dogmatic of me]. Buddha says that Buddhism is method and not topic. I agree with that! Too, I say that science is method and not topic.

Yes, Buddha is on MY side. [Tom pats Buddha on the back. Buddha and Tom stand together to have their picture taken.]


"James" said...

Tom: Wow! A photo with the THAT's a momento.

You're lucky. I hope that you rubbed his belly in the picture for more good luck. ;)

Contemplative Activist said...

I really enjoyed reading this passage. I'm enjoying your blog in general. I'm learning a lot about Buddhism as I read - I think it is because the teachings are so mingled with your own life experience - it helps them to make more sense.

Thank you - keep blogging!


PS. I hope you don't mind if I copy this on to my blog?

"James" said...

CA: I am happy that you found this entry to be helpful to you. As well that you find my blog enjoyable.

I am humbled that you are learning about a lot about Buddhism from reading my blog. I only hope that I might give "Buddhism" justice.

Feel free to copy and paste this on your blog. May all benefit from the Buddha's wisdom!

May you find peace in every step and breath you take.

Anonymous said...

Thus I have heard, Buddha was not a Buddhist, Dhamma is not a religion or doctrine. It is a good practice to see a spark of Buddha in all sentient beings including humans and fireflies.

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