The teachings of the Buddha discourage “blind faith,” and instead encourage questioning and doubt as part of the spiritual path to understanding. The way is one of diligent practice, and personal experience on a deep intuitive level, with input from wise teachers. Then gradually what develops is a faith that could more accurately be termed “Confidence.” Such a practitioner cultivates inner calm, kindness, and compassion no matter what circumstances they may be faced with in this life.
It is important to realize that attachment, pride, fear, jealousy and hatred is a wrong view. The Buddha welcomed people of diverse backgrounds into his ordained and lay community, and taught that all sentient beings have the potential to attain Buddhahood. Through his example we have been shown the path of inclusiveness and openness. Thus it is essential for all who claim to follow the Buddhist path to take care of all our sister, brother, mother, father beings.
A Few Inclusive Traditions Of Practice
In Chinese Buddhism there is a tradition of syncretic practice which means that, for instance, a Ch’an (Zen) practitioner may incorporate certain Pure Land practices like Buddha-Name Recitation or Visualization into their daily life, but will view them through a Ch’an lens. Thus, these apparently different forms compliment each other, and allow a practitioner to cultivate deeper levels of compassion and wisdom as they walk the path to eventual Enlightenment, Buddhahood.
The majority of Vietnamese Buddhists practice devotional forms of Pure Land Buddhism, mixed with other local religious forms. But individuals may also choose to practice in private using forms from other traditions, such as Thien (Zen), Vajrayana or Theravada. In this way the different spiritual needs of individuals are respected.
In 19th century Tibet a group of leading teachers from various lineage traditions joined forces to share teachings with each other, and preserve a way of life that was in danger of being destroyed by other Tibetans who held violently sectarian views. The resistance movement that emerged to meet this threat was called “Rimé” (Unbiased), and its leaders were Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and Jamgön Kongtrül. It was largely thanks to them, that the teachings of the Sakya, Kagyu, and Nyingma traditions were preserved for future generations. But it should be remembered, that Rimé was an effort intended to recognize the differences between traditions and appreciate them, while also encouraging dialogue which seeks common ground. So, those who follow the Rimé way today would have a personal practice firmly based in one tradition, while also being open to learning about and sharing in the practices of others.
Walking The Path Today
While it is important for individuals to be free to discover their own spiritual path, once it is found one should diligently put the teachings into practice, creating a firm foundation that can be relied upon in challenging times. It is also advisable to have a qualified teacher and “spiritual friends” who one can share the journey with, and be a loving but firm guide when one strays from the path. To be a practitioner means to internalize the teachings, so that one eventually becomes the teachings. Along the way attachment, anger, ignorance, pride, and jealousy are transformed, transcended, and in that boundless space there is room for all things, all beings, all Buddha.
Unfortunately, there exist certain individuals and communities around this world who bring harmful cultural attitudes and behaviours into being, claiming that they are following “the Buddha’s Way.” This too often manifests as hatred and discrimination aimed at certain ethnic groups; women; LGBTQIA+ etc. Altering the Buddha’s teachings to suit harmful cultural agendas is wrong, and it is the responsibility of all Buddhist practitioners to find out the truth for themselves and act accordingly. The Buddha’s Way is actually one of cultivating generosity, loving-kindness, compassion, wisdom and insight for the benefit of all sentient beings.
BuddhaName, the Awakened Heart Community and Buddhaheart Fellowship of Tasmania exists to put the Buddha’s teachings into practice, and as such an open and inclusive attitude is a natural consequence. We genuinely welcome people of all backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientation.
The Buddha once spoke to a group of people called the Kalamas, saying:
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by holy books, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful, these qualities are blameworthy, these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to harm and suffering’ – then you should abandon them.”
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