Since it was Sunday yesterday I went for a very long (and tiring) walk, and thought I would listen to an audio lecture by Osho. In the lecture, he was asked a question which kind of pertains to Buddhism. I thought it might be an interesting starting point for a discussion. The question was this:
Govinda: Can I become Gautama the Buddha, honestly?
Osho: Everyone possesses Buddha nature, so yes, you can become a Buddha. But you cannot become Gautama the Buddha. Nature makes everything and everyone unique - every pebble on the beach, every fingerprint, every grain of sand. Gautama was Gautama the Buddha, what purpose would be served by being him again? He did everything Gautama ought to have done. By trying to be him again you would just become an imitation, and this would damage you. It is better to try and be Govinda the Buddha.
So this set me to thinking, where does one draw the line between learning from an enlightened master like the Buddha, and copying him? Gautama the Buddha left behind many sutra's, a detailed description of the path to enlightenment. How far does that path carry you towards becoming a copy?
Undeniably you are changed by undertaking a serious study of Buddhism. If you take it on board and put it into action, you are no longer the same person as you were before, and in part this is the point, it is a path towards self improvement, or transformation. But you also have qualities that make you you. Gautama turned out to be a great teacher, Govinda might be quite different. What parts of yourself should you attempt to change, and where should you accept your individuality?