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What Makes You Not a Buddhist

So, apparently, according to someone named Dzongsar Khyentse, I am not a Buddhist.

I got a book for Christmas called The Best Buddhist Writing 2007, the first essay in which is titled "What Makes You Not a Buddhist." According to its author, Dzongsar Khyentse:

If you cannot accept that all compounded or fabricated things are impermanent, if you believe that there is some essential substance or concept that is permanent, then you are not a Buddhist.

If you cannot accept that all emotions are pain, if you believe that actually some emotions are purely pleasurable, then you are not a Buddhist.

If you cannot accept that all phenomena are illusory and empty, if you believe that certain things do exist inherently, then you are not a Buddhist.

And if you think that enlightenment exists within the spheres of time, space, and power, then you are not a Buddhist.

Now, I'm fine with numbers 1 and 4. Number 2 is iffy for me, but I'm willing to postulate that all happiness bears within it a fear of the loss of that happiness. But number 3, well, number 3 I have a problem with. I am quite certain that my body exists, for example. I'm quite certain that Shannon exists. I'm quite certain that this book exists.

So I guess I'm not a Buddhist. According to this guy, anyway. But I find the whole concept of the essay troubling, because it seems very un-Buddhist to be dividing the world into Buddhist and not-Buddhist, into us and them. I've never seen it before in the other Buddhist reading I've done.

So I think I'm writing this guy off. I may not be his kind of Buddhist, but I'm my own kind of Buddhist and it doesn't really matter if I fit his definition. Maybe I'll read some Thich Nhat Hanh to cleanse my brain. I like the way he looks at the world much more than this guy.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 26th, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Not Buddhist?
Oddly enough, there are evangelical Buddhists out there that really do want to separate the world into us vs. them. It's not a large sect though. It seems that you're a better judge of your own buddha nature than some guy even if he's featured in a book on the best buddhist writing 2007 but I could be wrong.

Personally, I think that this distinction between Buddhist and non-Buddhist is the most illusory and empty phenomena of all.
Dec. 27th, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Not Buddhist?
Maybe other Buddhists would not consider me Buddhist, since I don't believe everything the dharma says. I don't know. Maybe instead of saying that I'm Buddhist, I should say that I'm interested in Buddhism, but I find the distinction not very meaningful.
Dec. 27th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
I think there was a discussion of all this in the buddhism community.

I don't have a problem with #3. I believe that all phenomena like my body and a book seem to exist, but are illusory.

I have a problem with #2. Maybe if he said that all emotions are a source of pain. Otherwise it makes it seem as though all emotions are painful and I don't think that's what he means.

Zen Buddhists would say what does it matter, why divide into Buddhist and non Buddhist? And I'm fine with that. But I do think it's useful for me to ask myself these questions. Do I really believe in the tenets of Buddhism, or do I just like the idea? Of course for me, with a Zen background, the question I find most meaningful is "do I have a practice? Am I sitting regularly? If not...go sit more!" Anyway, I hate the idea of being a wannabee something and like checking to see if I'm doing more than lip service to something.
Dec. 27th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
Have you found a good Buddhism community on LJ, or are you talking about elsewhere? When I looked for Buddhist communities on LJ in the past, I found only a lot of pretentious people talking about how wise they were.
Dec. 28th, 2007 05:34 am (UTC)
buddhism has some interesting discussions at times. There are some pretentious people, like everywhere.
Dec. 27th, 2007 07:58 am (UTC)
Seems better to write him off than to let him write you off.
Dec. 27th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)

I'm not a buddhist, either, but that's no big surprise. :-)

I used to admire the Dalai Lama until I read an interview he gave the Telegraph where he came down against same-sex unions and any sort of sex (including hetero oral) that can't produce babies. You can read that interview here.

Dec. 27th, 2007 06:46 pm (UTC)
I've heard that about the Dalai Lama before. While I disagree with him on those counts, I don't think they invalidate all the good he has done. Martin Luther King, Jr., would almost certainly have been against same sex unions, too, but that doesn't change the fact that he was an amazing man.
Dec. 27th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC)
And to give the Dalai Lama credit, his comments appear to apply only to buddhists. Few right-wing so-called Christians would say that it's okay for non-Christians to have abortions.
Jan. 1st, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC)
I get a daily newsletter from Tricycle, with Buddhist quotes. Today's made me think of this discussion:

Being a Buddhist
Have confidence in your own spiritual potentiality, your ability to
find your own unique way. Learn from others certainly and use what you
fine useful, but also learn to trust your own inner wisdom. Have
courage. Be awake and aware. Remember too that Buddhism is not about
being a Buddhist; that is, obtaining a new identity tag. Nor is it
about collecting head-knowledge, practices and techniques. It is
ultimately about letting go of all forms and concepts and becoming
free. - John Snelling, Elements of Buddhism from Everyday Mind, a
Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Jan. 2nd, 2008 12:53 am (UTC)
I like that.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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