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I do not like calling myself a "Buddhist" these days. I have taken in some practices and attitudes, however, and am somewhat consistent trying to apply them.
My personal experience with those is that one's direction should be dealing with truth as directly as we can. Dealing with truth directly entails dropping any "perspective". When perspectives appear, truth is clouded.
Something is either true or not. For example, the sky is blue not from a Buddhist, Christian or Democratic perspective- it is just blue. Perspective, whether personal or group, is a hindrance in absolute terms (even if in worldly life it is a powerful way to strengthen and further oneself or one's group)
That from a Buddhist perspective
First, I don't think Buddhism has any whistles, only bells
Second, good question that has been on my mind plenty. I do think that most of what goes by the name of Buddhism, has undeniable elements of religion.
The process of rebirth or the permanent state of Nirvana are, in my mind, unprovable supernatural beliefs. Many Mahayana schools also have the notion of infallible teachers. That even goes for the most agnostic school of all, Zen, with its emphasis on mind-to-mind direct Dharma transmission. And, of course, numerous sects have elements of deity worship (often referred to as Boddhisatvas), such as chanting their names. Finally most schools have rituals that in essence are no different from those of other religions.
Of course, where Buddhism differs from other religions is that it is more about doing a practice rather than believing stuff, at least in the West. It is more about what you do than what you think. It has a method that you need to consistently apply to be a "Buddhist" in any meaningful sense.
It also teaches a particular attitude to life. (I do not like the word philosophy because it has the connotation of being abstract, whereas Buddhism in most renditions is not concerned with explaining the world "out there" but how to deal with one's actual life). In a nutshell: view stuff of life as transitory, transcend it and diminish suffering. In Mahayana, help others do the same.
As you can probably tell, I am no fan of religion, Buddhist or otherwise. If I embrace Buddhist religion, I feel that I have no good reason not to embrace my ancestoral religion of Christianity as well...Buddhist attitude and practice, on the other hand, I have found quite helpful even though I periodically have some doubts. Whether those aspects can be untied from the religious components is a big question for me and for many Western thinkers.
I feel that some teachers, including mine, are accomplishing just that. If those efforts coherently converge towards a purely secular form remains to be seen.
Ha, curious how things work!
This morning got into the car to drive home and turned on NPR. They just happened to have a conversation with Jack Kornfield on. He was sharing a vision that is rather positive and quite embracing of human-ness. Talked about love a lot (the subject of my previous troublemaking post) too.
I really hope that the seeds of wisdom found in numerous spiritual traditions find their way to blossom in as many lives as possible and that we collectively find a way to wisely distinguish between those seeds and cultural/religious trappings they are contained in. I still feel that Buddhism is the best source of inspiration for that work, of all religious traditions I know about.
Ha, this attitude is what originally attracted me to Zen. I have plenty of questions about Zen as well but one thing that is certain is that it does not let get one caught in theories and turns them on their head. Like this discourse on 4NT I started here would probably not even take off in Zen circles.
Thank you, thank you, thank you all for bearing with my conflicting posts!
So now, a few days later, I am looking back at the yearning, dissatisfaction and anger evident from my writing above and am really wondering: what was that all about?
This heart storm lasted for about a dozen days but now it is gone, I just do not feel it. I do not quite understand where it came from. I guess this was like a really protracted meditation experience of a mental state arising and passing away.
Zen feels right again. And whether I call myself a "Buddhist" or not, what difference does that make? Meditation of observing the whirlpools of the mind and inquiring into their nature appears like my best shot at freedom. A path that I want to walk, whatever name it has.