By Kat, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor
Until recently, everything I learned about Buddhism and the Dalai Lama I learned from Facebook memes, which meant it was pretty much limited to some feel-good pull quotes espousing some fairly logical, universal–sounding truths. It was a start and I was intrigued, so I looked up the Dalai Lama’s website. He’s a pretty hip dude who has accomplished quite a lot for being a “simple Buddhist monk.”
Instead of skipping straight to the Dalai Lama’s teachings, I instead decided to further investigate the origins of Buddhism. I listened to a few comparative religion podcasts and got some books about the subject.
I really liked what John Snellling says in The Buddhist Handbook, right up front on page 3:
Buddhism does not demand that anyone accepts its teachings on trust. The practitioner is instead invited to try them out, to experiment with them. If he finds that they work in practice, then by all means he can take them on board. But there is no compulsion; and if he happens to find the truth elsewhere or otherwise, then all is good.
This point is reiterated on page 43:
Buddhism is not a fundamentalist religion. Its teachings are not dogmas or articles of faith that have to be blindly accepted at the cost of suspending reason, critical judgement, common sense, or experience. Quite the contrary, in fact; their basic aim is to help us gain direct insight into the truth for ourselves. We are therefore invited to try these teachings in our everyday lives. If they work, then we will want to naturally take them on board. If they don’t work for us, then we can cast them aside with no qualms.
The Noble Eightfold Path (detailed on page 46) also holds basic appeal, and the echo (or are perhaps echoed?) by Paul in Philippians 4:8 (NIV) where he says:
… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
The Noble Eightfold Path is as follows:
- Right understanding
- Right thought
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
If people are focused on doing/thinking/acting on what is right, pure, lovely admirable, excellent and praiseworthy in all aspects of their life, then their lives will likely neatly mesh with the eight “right” things.
My take-away from Buddhism is this: I like the message, I like the aspect of kindness, the lack of dogma and faith. I’m a little fuzzy on the issues of reincarnation and nirvana, but Buddhism seems to encourage people to take what works for them in a way Christianity does not. I don’t feel comfortable labeling myself a Buddhist, but I do feel the noble eightfold path is a useful system through which to filter thoughts and actions.