What makes one a Buddhist?

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.
Gazelle
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by Gazelle » Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:05 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:I think, what makes one a Buddhist is seeing danger in saṃsāra, and aspiring to something better than endless dispute.
Yep...and I'm following your advice Bhante by, "taking an active role in protecting the Buddha’s Dispensation from further decline."


http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Pesala/pesala.html
"Bhikkhu Pesala has had to endure all kinds of difficulties over the years due to his wish to adhere strictly to the Vinaya rules, as practised by his most venerable preceptor. Many monks nowadays do not observe even the basic training rules for bhikkhus; they regard the monastic training as impractical in the modern world. Bhikkhu Pesala has opposed this lax and negative attitude throughout his life as a monk, and urges lay supporters to take a more active role in protecting the Buddha’s Dispensation from further decline."

:bow:
Last edited by Gazelle on Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ben
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by Ben » Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:10 pm

Gazelle wrote:Yep...and I'm following your advice Bhante by, "taking an active role in protecting the Buddha’s Dispensation from further decline."
Well, that is interesting.
Perhaps you can tell us how you are protecting the Buddha's Dispensation from further decline.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Gazelle
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by Gazelle » Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:20 pm

Ben wrote:Well, that is interesting.
Perhaps you can tell us how you are protecting the Buddha's Dispensation from further decline.
By practicing the noble eightfold path according to the Pali Canon.

:meditate:

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Dan74
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by Dan74 » Sat Sep 01, 2012 1:12 pm

Gazelle wrote:
Just like a doctor who is sick, can still prescribe medicine and tell patients how to get healthy again, so can an unawakened person encourage the practice that leads towards awakening.
The doctor is sick with the same 'dis-ease', yet does not take their own recommended prescribed medicine....that's :rolleye:
I think if we all took the medicine, we would not be here.
Perhaps there is more subtlety to the human condition that you seem to be seeing, Gazelle. A person can be a sage in some respects and deluded in others. He could be capable of sublime acts of selfless compassion and yet wallow in the cesspit of self-destruction. Sometimes the most extreme contradictions coexist. Uncomfortable to conceive of, yes. Hard to get a grasp on, yes. But then again, reality rarely fits neatly into any conceptual straight-jacket.
_/|\_

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equilibrium
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by equilibrium » Sat Sep 01, 2012 1:55 pm

What makes one a buddhist depends on ones point of view.

One will say one is a buddhist because one is on the path as one relies on the path but when one reaches at a certain level, one does not see the path as there are no paths to be found. As there are no paths to be found, there cannot be a buddhist as there are no such things in the first place.

Words are like signposts and are there to direct one along the path.....don't cling to them.

matais
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by matais » Sat Sep 01, 2012 4:08 pm

A Buddhist is one who has taken the 3 refuges.
In other words, a Buddhist is anyone who believes the Buddha to have been enlightened, the Dhamma to be well-expounded and accessible in the here-and-now for anyone who searches for it, and the Sangha to have preserved these teachings, practicing accordingly, being a great benefit for the world.

Even if one doesn't follow the noble eight-fold path perfectly, doesn't keep the 5 precepts perfectly, if they have taken the 3 refuges they'll know where to look for happiness (Buddha, Dhamma Sangha) when they wish to change their life for the better.

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DNS
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by DNS » Sat Sep 01, 2012 4:47 pm

Very simple (imho):

Buddhist = anyone who wants to call themselves a Buddhist is one (who are we to be the moral police and decide who is following what precepts? Do all Jews and Christians follow the Ten Commandments, all the time? They are still Jewish and Christian when they sometimes slip up and covet, for example.)

Noble One = one who has eradicated at least the first three hindrances to enlightenment, has a perfect or near perfect sila (morality); adherence to precepts.

Buddha = the rare being who appears after several thousands of years after the Dhamma has died out and then rediscovers the Dhamma.

Buddhist should not be confused with the last two.

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m0rl0ck
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by m0rl0ck » Sat Sep 01, 2012 5:21 pm

Yeah im in agreement with the self identification camp. One would hope for some understanding of what it means to call oneself a buddhist. In any case it has nothing to do with judgement of others. If one goes around comparing oneself to others on how "buddhist" they are, it seems to me that one has missed the point
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:09 pm

Alobha wrote:Just like a doctor who is sick, can still prescribe medicine and tell patients how to get healthy again, so can an unawakened person encourage the practice that leads towards awakening.
There's a huge difference between being unawakened and being actively, unabashedly preoccupied with activities that make awakening impossible. I agree that we should not be the moral police, handing out decrees on who is or isn't Buddhist. However, we also cannot risk letting Buddhism become a social club with no restrictions, no requirements, and no ultimate goal. What is the point of Buddhism, especially in the West, when you can ascribe to the path with one breath and drink, smoke, lie, cheat, kill, and otherwise muddle the mind in the next? No one should be "disqualified" by anyone for slipping up in their practice, but there is quite the difference between occasionally faltering on the path and accepting with open arms thoughts, words, and deeds that are completely opposed in every way to the Buddha's teachings.

I think Western Buddhism has lost quite a bit of moral authority when we can't make a judgement about an alcoholic philanderer who passes his teachings to a man who sexually solicits students despite having AIDS. If we as a community cannot point at that trail of actions and say, "You know, that person is not following the Buddha's path," then we're no longer just non-judgmental and tolerant - we're descending into total spiritual anarchy, so to speak. The Buddha's teachings need to be protected, and while we can't achieve that with witch hunts or needless criticism, we absolutely can have high standards for those in power who claim to be teaching the Buddha's Dhamma.

Just my two cents.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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DNS
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by DNS » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:26 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote: I think Western Buddhism has lost quite a bit of moral authority when we can't make a judgement about an alcoholic philanderer
You can make that judgment. What I and I think others have posted is just that it is not our place to say he is not a Buddhist. You can call him a bad Buddhist if you like, but having litmus tests for Buddhists is not appropriate. There can be bad Buddhists just as there are bad Christians, Jews, Taoists, etc. (and good ones too).

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:30 pm

This thread seems to more concerned with denigrating famous people who call themselves Buddhists, than with protecting the true teachings. Denigrating others is not the same as pointing out what is Dhamma and what is not Dhamma, or pointing out what is Vinaya (following the precepts), or what is not Vinaya (selling marijuana etc.)

Those who have followed Buddhism for a while know about some of the wacky comments made by some famous Buddhists, or the dubious practices of some well-known monks and Buddhist teachers, but I don't see how discussing this dubious behaviour is helping to protect the genuine teachings.

IMO the essential quality of a Buddhist is right view. If one holds the right view that all beings are the owners of their kamma and that the Buddha was Fully Enlightened, then one can rightly profess to be a Buddhist. Along with that goes the obligation to follow the precepts, but all who are not Noble Ones are liable to fail sometimes, so failing to fully observe the five, eight, ten, or 227 precepts does not mean that one is no longer a Buddhist.

In Buddhist countries, there are Buddhist fishermen and Buddhist farmers who raise pigs and chickens, or who kills snakes and vermin, etc. There are Buddhist soldiers, actors, and comedians. Just like Buddhist doctors, Buddhist monks, or Buddhist meditation teachers, they have varying degrees of faith and wisdom.

Let's leave it to others to decide if they wish to be known as Buddhists or not. If you want to protect and promote the real Buddhism, lead by example.
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Kamran
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by Kamran » Sat Sep 01, 2012 7:53 pm

Buddhism is like a sport, where you develop skills by practicing.

The first step to being a Buddhist is to understand that people cause themselves to suffer.

Then you must practice using the tools, like meditation and mindfulness, to develop and refine your skills - the skills needed to end suffering from anger, anxiety, lust, etc.

The cosmology and even whether the Buddha existed or not are beside the point; you don't have to believe in any of that if its not useful for you.
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Dan74
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by Dan74 » Sat Sep 01, 2012 11:07 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
Alobha wrote:Just like a doctor who is sick, can still prescribe medicine and tell patients how to get healthy again, so can an unawakened person encourage the practice that leads towards awakening.
There's a huge difference between being unawakened and being actively, unabashedly preoccupied with activities that make awakening impossible. I agree that we should not be the moral police, handing out decrees on who is or isn't Buddhist. However, we also cannot risk letting Buddhism become a social club with no restrictions, no requirements, and no ultimate goal. What is the point of Buddhism, especially in the West, when you can ascribe to the path with one breath and drink, smoke, lie, cheat, kill, and otherwise muddle the mind in the next? No one should be "disqualified" by anyone for slipping up in their practice, but there is quite the difference between occasionally faltering on the path and accepting with open arms thoughts, words, and deeds that are completely opposed in every way to the Buddha's teachings.

I think Western Buddhism has lost quite a bit of moral authority when we can't make a judgement about an alcoholic philanderer who passes his teachings to a man who sexually solicits students despite having AIDS. If we as a community cannot point at that trail of actions and say, "You know, that person is not following the Buddha's path," then we're no longer just non-judgmental and tolerant - we're descending into total spiritual anarchy, so to speak. The Buddha's teachings need to be protected, and while we can't achieve that with witch hunts or needless criticism, we absolutely can have high standards for those in power who claim to be teaching the Buddha's Dhamma.

Just my two cents.
Hmmm... I don't think moral authority is derived from making judgments about others.

As for Trungpa, apparently he used to go to pubs, talk to the alcoholics about the Dharma and they would become his students. Coming to the West in the 60ies as a young and innocent Tibetan monk, I wonder how he could've achieved some real contact with his audience if he stuck steadfastly to his precepts. I also wonder about the shock this vastly different culture and the permissiveness in particular, would have had on someone raised in a monastery in medieval surroundings. Perhaps this is a failing of Mahayana - if you enter the cesspit, it is hard for the dirt not to rub off. It would surely have been easier for Trungpa to stay in the Himalayas in his monastery where he was worshipped and respected rather than do what he had done. And though his successor was a disaster by most accounts, we have some great teachers coming out of Shambala, like Pema Chodron, and others and the organisation is very much alive to this day - Naropa University, publishing Dharma books at Shambala, translating and teaching at Vajradhatu. His legacy, whether we like it or not is very powerful and much of it, if not all, is very much in line with the Buddha's teachings as preserved in the Pali Canon, though his own life deviated from the them in some significant respects, it is true.

In any case, all this is of little relevance to most people here. Except perhaps insofar as it points out that life is not always so clear-cut and neat as many of us would like to think.
_/|\_

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Sun Sep 02, 2012 12:08 am

Dan74 wrote:Hmmm... I don't think moral authority is derived from making judgments about others.
Moral authority is derived from making reasonable judgements about what is and isn't appropriate behavior and then sticking to those judgements with integrity.
As for Trungpa, apparently he used to go to pubs, talk to the alcoholics about the Dharma and they would become his students. Coming to the West in the 60ies as a young and innocent Tibetan monk, I wonder how he could've achieved some real contact with his audience if he stuck steadfastly to his precepts.
Are you suggesting that we should act immorally in order to gain followers? Should we hold our talks in brothels or teach meditation while we go out on hunting trips? I'm all for reaching out to those who might not come across the Dhamma, but not by casting aside the Dhamma itself.
I also wonder about the shock this vastly different culture and the permissiveness in particular, would have had on someone raised in a monastery in medieval surroundings. Perhaps this is a failing of Mahayana - if you enter the cesspit, it is hard for the dirt not to rub off. It would surely have been easier for Trungpa to stay in the Himalayas in his monastery where he was worshipped and respected rather than do what he had done.
By "what he had done," do you count the sexual misconduct? The descent into alcoholism? The general misuse and exploitation of his religious authority? I can't say whether or not it would have been easier, but it certainly would have been more in line with the Buddha's teachings.
And though his successor was a disaster by most accounts, we have some great teachers coming out of Shambala, like Pema Chodron, and others and the organisation is very much alive to this day - Naropa University, publishing Dharma books at Shambala, translating and teaching at Vajradhatu. His legacy, whether we like it or not is very powerful and much of it, if not all, is very much in line with the Buddha's teachings as preserved in the Pali Canon, though his own life deviated from the them in some significant respects, it is true.
I have nothing bad to say about his legacy. What I'm asking here is at what point do someone's actions stray so far from the Dhamma that they can no longer honestly be described as walking the Buddha's path? Bhikkhu Pesala is right that we should focus only on what is and isn't vinaya - but what should we do when we go down the list of someone's major life decisions and have to check "not vinaya" at every turn? Do we just stop before we make the obvious step from "their life was lived with a complete disregard for the Buddha's path" to "They were not on the Buddha's path?" Because it seems to me that such reservations are intellectually dishonest.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

Gazelle
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Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2012 11:26 am

Re: What makes one a Buddhist?

Post by Gazelle » Sun Sep 02, 2012 5:08 am

According to the Alagagaddupama Sutta (MN22) it didn't seem Buddha held back with anyone who misrepresented his teachings. And yet as soon as I question a teachers conduct which seems so in contrast to the current teachings we have at our disposal, I seem to get mild hostility? :shrug:


Then the Blessed One addressed a certain bhikkhu and said, "Come bhikkhu, in my name, call the bhikkhu Arittha, tell him the Teacher wants him." That bhikkhu consented and approached the bhikkhu Arittha and told him, "Friend, the Teacher wants you." The bhikkhu Arittha said "Yes, friend" and approached the Blessed One, paid homage and sat to one side. Then the Blessed One said, "Arittha, is it true, that such a view has arisen in you: 'As I understand the Teaching of the Blessed One, those things declared as obstructions by the Blessed One are not able to obstruct one who engages in them'?" Then he said, "Yes, venerable sir, as I understand the Teaching of the Blessed One, those things declared as obstructions by the Blessed One are not able to obstruct one who engages in them."

"Foolish man, to whom do you know I have taught this? Haven't I in many ways taught that obstructive things are obstructions; indeed to one who pursues them they are obstructions. I have taught that sensuality brings little satisfaction, much suffering and trouble; the dangers here are many. I have taught that sensuality is comparable to a skeleton, a tendon of flesh, a burning grass torch, a pit of burning charcoal, a dream, something borrowed, a tree full of fruits, the blade of a weapon, the head of a snake, I have told it has much suffering, much trouble and the dangers there are many. Yet you foolish man, on account of your wrong view, you misrepresent me as well as destroy yourself and accumulate much demerit, for which you suffering for a long time."


:shock:

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