This series titled Practical Companion is for intermediate practitioners.
This post covers some sensitive issues in the Buddhist world in regard to the various traditions and methods of practice. How do we know which method is suitable for us? How do we know if we have joined a credible Buddhist organization? How do we know if our teacher is qualified?
Examine our method of practice
Browsing courses for enlightenment
Buddha did too.
I always believe that we can learn something from Shakyamuni Buddha’s biography. When Buddha renounced his layman’s life and entered monkhood, He sought guidance from 2 renowned masters. According to some history scholars, one was from Hinduism and the other Jainism. This is not surprising because it is something that any logical person would do; Just like you and me. We look for the most reputable teacher, don’t we? We want to learn from the best.
What is more important is that Ascetic Gautama (Buddha was known as Ascetic Gautama before he attained enlightenment) left both of them when he realized that their method doesn’t lead to Ultimate Happiness. He made that decision after attaining the same achievements as His teachers. He decided to look for Ultimate happiness in his own way and attained Enlightenment after relying on His own method.
There are a few points that we may conclude from this:
- We shouldn’t “enslave” ourselves to 1 teacher
- However, we must have attained the same achievements before we can make an informed decision to quit.
- Gautama Ascetic departed from his teachers on good terms without any animosity
NOTE: We have decided that Buddhism is good. If that is the case, then we need to at least be a Sotapanna (1st enlightened stage) before we decide that Buddhism is not for us?
If we have decided to study under a particular Buddhist teacher or try a particular Buddhist meditation technique, we should at least have some accomplishment before we give up on it.
Sudhana is a Mahayana Buddhism character and during his quest for enlightenment, he learned from 53 Buddhist teachers. As the teachers were miles apart, Sudhana had to travel great distances and overcome various obstacles before he met each of them to study.
From this character, we can understand that Buddhism is not opposed to us studying from various Buddhist teachers.
In this Theravada sutta, Buddha visited a village and encountered a population of bewildered villagers. The villagers were confused because many religious teachers from different religious lineages had visited them and each one of them proclaimed themselves to be enlightened or messengers of Gods or having some insights into the Ultimate Truth. Each of these teachers proclaimed their teachings as the Ultimate Truth while condemning the teachings of others as heretical. In that manner, each of these teachers tried to convince the villagers that only he/she was deserving of their alms and respect. Since their doctrines defer or contradict each other, the villagers no longer know who to believe and became bewildered.
Buddha advised the villagers to rely on their common sense to evaluate those teachers and their doctrines (Including Buddha). Does a doctrine promote good or bad conduct? Will it be beneficial or detrimental to oneself? If it is good, then there is no harm in accepting it. If it is bad, then it should be rejected.
Although this sutta was preached to non-Buddhist (the villagers weren’t convinced of Buddhism at that point in time yet), it is equally useful for Buddhists. This is because we also encounter similar situations in Buddhism sometimes. One tradition/teacher would critique another tradition by saying that their method of practice is outdated or no longer suitable for the current age. Or another tradition is not authentic Buddhism. etc.
- It is okay to evaluate the claims of so-call “holy” men/women and Buddhist teachers/masters. Use our common sense to think and judge whether a particular teaching or method of practice will bring us good. Don’t accept things at face value. (Kalama sutta)
- It is okay for us to reject and walk away from fake Buddhist teachings, unqualified teachers, toxic groups, etc. If your “Buddhist” group threatens you with eternal hell or divine punishment for walking away, it is probably a Buddhist cult. Buddha never teaches that kinda stuff. Ever!
- It is okay to seek different traditions and study from various Buddhist teachers. (If they are Buddhism, the essence of their teachings will not contradict one another.)
- We have to put in real effort to practice and try out what we learned before we form our opinion. Just as we cannot accept a teaching/teacher through superficial observation, likewise we shouldn’t reject a teaching/teacher through our superficial understanding/insight.
This post is meant to convince you that one is free to shop or browse for methods of enlightenment. However, we need to do so responsibly. May all be well and happy.
Buddhist Cult Group – It is okay to leave. To be continued in the next post
Theravada Buddhism – To be continued in the next post
Mahayana Buddhism – To be continued in the next post
Vajrayana Buddhism – To be continued in the next post
Core Buddhism – The Dharma Seals