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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Moving Mountains.

There may be people who could move mountains
with their heartfelt beliefs.
Zen wants the mountains to stay where they are.
It is not the task of Zen to rearrange the mountainside.

-Unknown author.

James: I take this as teaching us not to fight up stream nor to fight against nature. Like the temple pictured above we need to work with nature, not destroy it. They don't try and dominate nature they simply build their temple in compliment to it. I also think it is talking about avoiding arrogance when discussing Buddhism with non-Buddhists. No one wants to be preached to about how "Enlightened" you profess to be regardless of your progress along the path. That refers to the verse about "moving mountains." Perhaps we might think or say, "I feel so 'enlightened' that I could move mountains!!"

That's spiritual greed wrapping itself around our practice like a boa constrictor does. The ego-mind is a powerful thing and loves to keep us entertained with delusions of grandeur attempting to use greed as a way to maintain the feeling of "self" and self-importance. It's easy for the ego/mind/self/voice that's in the back of our thoughts to believe, "It's o.k. to be greedy about status as long as it's status as a Buddhist" or "I'm not being mean. They just don't understand how "enlightened" or practiced I am."

So with this ego-mind we sometimes try to convince everyone else to become Buddhist or to remind others that they're not doing such and such as exactly how the Buddha taught in the Tripitaka. It's not the business of Zen or our personal business to try and move people toward what we we personally might think (with a heartfelt belief as the verse above says) is how they should practice Buddhism. The mountains move only when they want to move just like people. It is not our task to proselytize door-to-door as missionaries for Buddhism. It is equally not our task to be the Dharma police.

Leave people be, leave the mountains where they are. As the saying goes, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." A person has to come to Buddhism of their own commitment for it to mean anything authentic and to see any meaningful progress. Rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic didn't keep it from sinking and constantly drilling someone in the ears with the Dharma over and over isn't going to keep them from falling away from Buddhism if their heart isn't in it. As I said, mountains only move when they want to move. In order for the Dharma to be sincere in our lives and in the lives of others it has to evolve for each person in their own time.

UPDATE: I wanted to add an addendum to expand a bit upon an aspect to this discussion that Lorem Ipsum brought up in the comment section about being open to sharing the Dharma but not until others are ready and approach us about it. It's a further explanation of what I wrote above. I thought it was an important thought that I had overlooked a bit in the post. I'd add my own twist to it by saying that I talk about Buddhism a bit with non-Buddhists but very sparingly and not in-depth unless questions are asked of me. If people want to know about it then I will gladly discuss it with them but as the verses say it's not our job to move mountains. I usually won't go into any great depth unless someone asks specific questions about Buddhism and what it means to be a Buddhist. I try and emphasize that I'm not an ordained teacher or Dharma scholar. So when my knowledge is exhausted I urge them to seek out a teacher and read books if they have further questions. Especially books from ordained, experienced masters like Thich Nhat Hanh, Ajahn Chah or the Dalai Lama.

~Peace to all beings~

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Lorem Ipsum said...

Yes, thank you for the honesty of this. And just to add that perhaps we should share the Dharma with others only when they are ready to share with us?

Theresa said...

As a person very new to buddhism, I have to say that it was this very lack of proselytizing that drew me to it. The total lack of agenda, just the stripped down truth to be seen when ready to see/experience it.

Adam said...

I've always felt that rather than go door-to-door, Christians would do better to simply live as a shining example, and let people come to them if they so choose.

Great analogy. Thank you.

They call him James Ure said...


Thanks for the addition to the conversation. I added an update adding your sentiment to the post.


Me too. When I came to Buddhism it was in part because of the non-aggressive nature of it. Aggressive proselytism is completely against Buddhism as it is practiced today from what I've experienced and read.

We Buddhists have a hard enough time liberating ourselves let alone trying to be the salvation for others. Numbers of practitioners means nothing to most Buddhists. It's just a number and an attachment to status as a religion.

Saying that ones religion is "number one" in adherents doesn't do anything to liberate people from suffering. In fact, it does the opposite because it sets one group of religious practitioners against another.


Well said.

Lorem Ipsum said...

Talking with others about Buddhism is a bridge I'm only now (and slowly) beginning to cross. Your addition was very helpful. Thank you.

Jamie G. said...

Great post!!!

They call him James Ure said...


Well you have a welcome and open place to discuss things here. Glad to have you on board. :)



Rahul Banerjee said...

why do you want to call yourself a buddhist. the buddha never wanted a religion to be formed out of his insights. instead he encouraged everyone to find out the truth through self study.

L.B. said...

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." I have an issue with this statement. It seems all the teachers have moved into the next life already, and all we have are their ink scratches. Part of me is frustrated with this. Or maybe it's just my perception. Oh well.

Vagabonde said...

Living in the South it is very hard to stay away from Christianity. At work (am retired now) no one would have ever considered that someone was anything else than a Christian – they said grace for birthday parties, prayers before management meetings, etc. I had a Jewish friend who finally left as she could not stand it (had to go to the Christmas party, etc.) When my children were in elementary schools and they said they were Buddhist the teacher said: no way, your mother is French and has an accent, she meant Baptist and forced them to say grace! and that was in a Georgia public school! Now I just say that I study and lean toward the Buddhist philosophy and religion – which is true – but I am also open to other philosophies, whether religious or not. I was not raised a Christian, just a secular kid, so luckily I don’t have ingrained notions about any religion.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Adam, pretty general statement. Many Christians try to do exactly that and very few go door to door. Remember, one of the directives they have in the books they acknowledge as sacred commands them to go and make disciples. And the way many of them believe is that since they have the truth, they would be selfish and remiss in not trying to share it.

Burmakin said...

Dear James,

I like this post and get a link to my blog.Thanks for this very cozy and interesting writing.

With metta,

Cate said...

I'm trying to be mindful. I found a great DVD at by Thich Nhat Hanh. These contemplative exercises calmed me, and mirror the sound philosophy of your post. Thank you for your wonderful insights!

- cate

They call him James Ure said...


Yeah it's hard to find teachers in the physical form but I think the saying goes toward all things that can teach us. Books, animals, other people, etc.


That sounds horrific!!! Religion shouldn't be in schools except at the university level in the form of elective classes.


Thanks friend.


Oh, I'll have to check that DVD out. I have so much stuff to watch and read!!!

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