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 the circumstances. Such a person realizes that attachment, pride, fear, jealousy, or hatred toward those of other traditions/ideologies is a wrong view. This is the path of inclusiveness and openness.
In Vietnamese Buddhism there is a tradition of inclusiveness, which may not be apparent at first glance. In some Dharma centres, for example, practitioners may have particular forms that they follow when in groups, but in private they may be a Pure Land, Zen, Vajrayana, or Theravada practitioner. The different needs of individuals are respected, without losing any group cohesion. This creates a healthy and harmonious environment in which to practice.
In Chinese forms of Buddhism there is a tradition of syncretic practice. Ch’an (Zen) and Pure Land Buddhism have been used by masters and students alike through the centuries. For example, a Ch’an 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.
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.
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, for all beings are our sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers.
The Awakened Heart Community of Tasmania exists to put the Buddha’s teachings into practice, and as such an open and inclusive perspective is a natural consequence.
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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