– The Journey Begins –
If there is any religion that would
cope with modern scientific needs,
it would be Buddhism.
– Albert Einstein
Mingyur Rinpoche starts out the first chapter and the whole book with clarifying how a Buddhist relates to Buddhism by saying:
“When you’re trained as a Buddhist, you don’t
think of Buddhism as a religion. You think of it
as a type of science, a method of exploring your
own experience through techniques that enable
you to examine your actions and reactions in a
nonjudgmental way, with the view toward recognizing,
‘Oh, this is how my mind works. This is what I need to
do to experience happiness. This is what I should
avoid to avoid unhappiness.’”
I find for myself that this is really a crucial point. I hear people say that Buddhism is a religion, it’s not a religion, it’s a philosophy, it’s a way of life and so on. But as a Buddhist, whatever people like to call it doesn’t really matter, because it doesn’t change the essence of what Buddhism is, namely, a method for looking into the essence of your own mind in order to see things as they are. The true nature of reality does not change whether one calls it a religion, philosophy, or anything else.
Another important aspect of Buddhism is that it’s not based on ‘faith,’ or certain beliefs that one has to accept in order to be or become a Buddhist. The only prerequisite required in order to become a Buddhist is that one is experiencing some dukkha (dissatisfaction) in one’s life. So, if you never experience any problems, anger, impatience, jealousy, greed, and so on, Buddhism will be completely useless to you, because no matter what situation you’re faced with, you’re always fine. (Un)fortunately, for most of us, it won’t take too long to realize that we all face situations, people, feelings, and circumstances each day that troubles us in some way. And as long as we have these experiences, looking into our own minds I learn to see things for what they are, will be of tremendous benefit, not only for our own lives, but hopefully to the life of others as well.
Staying in the context of what Buddhism is all about Mingyur Rinpoche says:
“The essence of Buddhist practice is not so much an
effort at changing your thoughts or your behaviour so
that you can become a better person, but in realizing
that no matter what you might think about the
circumstances that define your life, you’re already
good, whole, and complete. It’s about recognizing the
inherent potential of your mind. In other words,
Buddhism is not so much concerned with getting well
as with recognizing that you are, right here, right now,
as whole, as good, as essentially well as you could
ever hope to be.”
When one begins to get a glimpse of this truth that Mingyur Rinpoche points out, through one’s own practice, one will start to appreciate how profound these methods of looking into the essence of one’s mind really are. It’s not some dry theory regarding how the mind works, but there’s a path of how one can apply these methods into one’s own life and thereby see for oneself the truth of it. Buddha never told us to trust in him out of respect or because it must be true because the Buddha said it, but he really encourages us to test what he said and see if it works for ourselves. Then, and only then, after examining and trying out for ourselves should we accept his teachings. However, once you have tried these methods for yourself and seen how profound they are, it’s no longer an acceptance made on blind faith, but and acceptance in line with the true nature of things based on your own experience and reasoning. As the Dalai Lama says: “The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.”
So Mingyur Rinpoche, just as the Buddha, encourages us to look into our own minds and see for ourselves that right now we are as good, whole, and complete as we could ever hope to be. Just like the Buddha told his monks: “Sons of noble family, remember who you truly are.” He didn’t say that we should meditate in order to become who we truly are, or that we should change in order to see who we truly are, but he simply said “Remember who you truly are” indicating that there is nothing new to add or gain, but it is simply a matter of recognizing and remembering that you’re already as good, whole, and complete as you ever hope to be.
I invite you to share your experience…
Ps. This post is part of a series based on the book “The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness” by Mingyur Rinpoche