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Friday, December 29, 2006

Tranistory, Insubstantial and Conditional

To say that Buddhism is transitory, insubstantial and conditional is merely to restate its own understanding of the nature of things. Yet its teachings endlessly warn of the deeply engrained tendency to overlook this reality.... Instead of seeing a particular manifestation of the Dharma as a living spiritual tradition of possibilities contingent upon historical and cultural circumstances, one reifies it into an independently existent, self sufficient fact, resistant to change. Living continuity requires both change and constancy. Just as in the course of a human life, a person changes from a child to an adolescent to an adult while retaining a recognizable identity (both internally through memory and externally through recurring physical and behavioral traits), so does a spiritual tradition change through the course of its history while retaining a recognizable identity through a continuous affirmation of its axiomatic values. Thus Buddhism will retain its identity as a tradition as long as its practitioners continue to center their lives around the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and affirm its basic tenets. But precisely how such commitment and affirmation are expressed in different times and places can differ wildly. The survival of Buddhism today is dependent on its continuing ability to adapt.

--Stephen Batchelor, The Awakening of the West

James: This post/quote dove-tails somewhat into the last post/quote. The realization and right action of inter-being with all things (including our obstacles,weaknesses and challenges). Sometimes I fight the energy expressing itself through me in a certain, time, place and state of being. This often causes more problems for me then if I just accept the energy, ride it out and realize that the karma playing out is normal, beautiful and even good. It's like trying to rebuild a house that has caught fire as it's burning out-of-control. It just doesn't make sense. As hard as it maybe, we have to let the fire burn itself out before we can rebuild.

Then there is this aspect (mentioned in the quote) of trying to force Buddhism to "be" a certain way. This is a dangerous action. We need to stay vigilant of our emotions, thoughts and actions that might cause us to judge people on their path saying that they may not be "true Buddhists."

"Oh that person drinks. They're not a "true" or "good" Buddhist." Or, "Their meditation posture is off and aren't doing it right." It is not our place to say that people should do this or that or be this way or that way. The only person who can even come close to such admonishions on one's path is one's teacher. Even then, the teacher can not force a person to act a certain way. In fact, doing such things could be trying to control change and the natural process of burning off karma and living out one's path. Some teachings in Buddhism are pretty much unchanging. However, a lot of the way Buddhism works with each person is fluid and dependent upon so many factors and conditions.

We have no place saying who or what is a "good Buddhist." The Buddha laid out the path but did not say that one must follow his path, "or else." His basically taught that, "This is the way that I did it so if you want to realize what I have realized then follow my discoveries."

As the Bible teaches, (and I'm paraphrasing here) "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks" and "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone."

I just saw a commerical that stated, "No matter where we are going, we are all going in the same direction." That pretty much says it all doesn't it. We are all walking in the same direction but taking different paths. Just like any path, each of our paths differ slightly from that of others. We have rocks/obstacles in different places then others as well as twists, turns and dead-ends. We each have radios to stay in contact though and the best use of that communication is to encourage one another rather then telling people what to do and how much better a hiker we are over them, etc.

I hope this post finds all of you in the Greater Sangha well.

PHOTO: One of my favorites. Zen master D.T. Suzuki with a kitty poking out of his robes. So very precious and cute.

~Peace to all beings~

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Anonymous said...

Hi James;

Judging other people as not genuine or not good buddhists is just more judging mind. I certainly struggle with recognizing judging mind as it comes up. And walking into the monastary/retreat center and seeing other American practitioners causes my judging mind to really race. I can't deny it. All I can do is try to recognize it for what it is, and keep practicing. But fifteen minutes later in the kitchen, there it is again rearing its ugly head. Again, apply the antidote. Jeez! I don't think it's ever going to go away entirely.

So, since I am only a fake practitioner, I can define success down: if I can go a day or two without INDULGING my judging mind and letting it gallop away with me, well that's successful mindfulness.

"James" said...


I agree. I think that judging is one of the most widespread habits within humanity. I too struggle with it.

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