Sunday, June 05, 2011

What little I have learned about Buddhist philosophy and practices, so far

Buddhist philosophy and practices have interested me for many years though I do not think of myself as a “Buddhist.” In fact, in some of his writings, The Buddha, himself, says that that his teachings are not intended to be “a religion.”

About four years ago, I decided that regularly following a meditative practice might be useful. I had read several of the Dalai Lama’s books. Those personally close to him were unanimous in describing this remarkable spiritual leader as someone who embodied The Buddha’s teachings to an unusual degree. While not excluding other sources (for example Sri Lanka’s Pali Canon that is the foundation of Theravada Buddhism) I have chosen to focus my study on the Dalai Lama’s writings and base my practice on guidelines those writings provide.

Over past four years, I believe I have some made some progress, though mostly in becoming more conscious of shortcomings in my meditative practice and attempts to be guided by precepts of daily living for laypersons that the Dalai Lama teaches. For me, a particularly useful resource, though a challenging one, has been Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama’s Heart of Wisdom Teachings, written by the Dalai Lama’s long time translator, who is a Professor of Buddhist Philosophy and former Buddhist monk, Geshe Thupten Jinpa. Philosopher. Here is the essence of what I believe I have learned so far.

All beings seek happiness and seek to avoid suffering,

Fro human beings, the surest path to happiness (contentment) is to live a life guided by altruistic compassion.

The two principles providing the best guidance for altruistic compassion are these: (1) If possible help other sentient beings. (2) If that is not possible, do no harm.

The surest foundation of altruistic compassion is recognition that emptiness (dependent origination) is the ultimate reality. That is what The Buddha means by "enlightenment.”

The mastering and practicing of concentrated meditation is the surest path to attaining enlightenment.

This is not easy. It may take years of concentrated application or even, if one believes in reincarnation, several lifetimes.

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