Thursday, November 30, 2006

What Makes You Not a Buddhist?

This is from the article by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche in the current Shambhala Sun, "What Makes You a Buddhist?" The article focuses on the acceptance of the four seals as the defining characteristic of being a Buddhist, so this is how to not be a Buddhist:
If you cannot accept that all compounded or fabricated things are impermanent, if you believe that there is some essential substance or essence that is permanent, then you are not a Buddhist.

If you cannot accept that all emotions are pain, if you believe that actually some emotions are purely pleasurable, then you are not a Buddhist.

If you cannot accept that all phenomena are illusory and empty, if you believe that certain things do exist inherently, then you are not a Buddhist.

And if you think that enlightenment exists within the spheres of time, space, and power, then you are not a Buddhist.
It seems to me that he is speaking in terms of absolute reality, where all of this may be valid. But few of us live in that space and can hold those beliefs as we go about our daily lives.

I'm actually cool with 3 out of 4 on a daily basis. But from this body, right now, I know that the universe exists independent of my mind creating it. If I die at this moment, the universe does not cease to exist exactly as it is. So maybe I'm not a Buddhist.


Anonymous said...

I feel like I want to tell you to put on your "integral thinking cap." I certainly don't see how the proposition that nothing inherently exists contradicts the idea that the universe has an apparent existence independent of my own perceptions.

Kai in nYC

ryan said...

He's stating the four seals of dharma - I do this everyday in one of my classes, Mind and Its world:

1. All conditioned phenomena are impermanent.
2. All contaminated phenomena are suffering.
3. All phenomena are empty and selflessness.
4. Nirvana is peace.

They are called the four seals because a seal is something that one cannot go beyond (has it's connection to royalty and kings). Really, it means that if you hold a conceptual view that ends at these four seals, you are a Buddhist. But if you look at these and say, no, they are not complete and accurate, you are not a Buddhist. An independent universe, or interdependent universe is not at odds with these. Conditioned phenomena in Tibetan Buddhism includes matter, consciousness, and some crazy shit called non-associated formations. In any case, it's fine to have an external universe that continues on after you die. And you don't have to have a direct, non-conceptual realization of this for you to be Buddhist, according to this teaching. Does that help?

Anonymous said...

Why is "being a Buddhist" or "not being a Buddhist" important?

WH said...

Yeah, Kai, you're probably right -- but Ryan cleared it up for me (thanks!, Ryan). I can be very dense sometimes, too literal or something. It's ok to verbally slap me around a bit when I get thick in the head.

As for why it's important -- at one level, it's not at all important. But there is a part of my psyche that takes comfort in defining myself in one way or another -- and for a while now, one of those ways has been as a Buddhist. It really means nothing, but it is also a part of how I mark my days on this planet.


Anonymous said...

Thus, according to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche any adherent to the four seals, whether or not he/she has taken the 3 refuges, is a Buddhist? I ask becuase the four seals are not unique to Buddhism, it can be found in Judaism and Hinduism for example. Does that make some Jews and Hindus Buddhist as well?