By: David Shi Shen-Xi
As we gain perfected readiness in understanding the core tenets of what we learn when studying many of the Buddhist principles, and begin to find them reflected in the lessons from our everyday experiences, our unconditioned conscious state will open up to a new beginning that drives the acquisition which helps us acquire an awareness of the wisdom they represent that shows us how the Universe reflects it’s reality all around us and how we relate to these individual expressions, and perhaps even allowing us to see the shadows also reflecting their unity with all other mutual relationships. During any explanation of Buddhist thought representing the beliefs of any specific Buddhist tradition, you will always hear of the important fundamental teachings of the Four Noble Truths as we have done from a pragmatic perspective so far. But in addition to these, there are other core principles that are teachings accepted by all traditions too. These are the principles of interdependent co-origination (or dependent origination), impermanence, no-self, and contingent-causality. There are others, but these are the core principles from which all others stem from. When I speak about the Zen teachings of the Chinese and Japanese masters as they speak about the nature of self and other, we can also find them discussing some or all of these core principles as well. Our legacy teachers speak about the enriching empowerment of nature, as well as the psycho-emotional self-help tools that can promote human flourishing. The study of history can bring the ancient Buddhist culture into contemporary perspective that all of us today can relate to, somewhat.
We need to be careful in how we study Buddhism, as in doing so we are really studying a REFLECTION of what the Buddha taught, not his actual thinking. While words are thoughts, we have to ask ourselves who’s thoughts. Just because a specific scripture is attributed to the Buddha, for example, they have become unverifiable from a historical perspective. That would be impossible as he is not here to explain away any misunderstanding we have of what we THINK truly represents his mind 2600 hundred years ago. In fact, the Buddha lived before Buddhism was ever developed into a philosophy and spiritual practice as seen through the eyes of an ancient Asian worldview, and now those views are challenged in order to reflect Western 21st century realities. Just like Jesus lived before Christianity was created into a unique theology. When we study Buddhism we must be keenly aware of what we are reading relative to how the subject or topic was most likely spoken of in the Buddha’s day. When we read a text in the Pali canon or other comparable source, if something said there by the Buddha could just as well have been said by a Jain or Brahman priest, then you put that aside as simply part of the broadly accepted worldview of the period. It’s not something unique to the Buddha’s dharma, you see. Although, the Buddha was like any of us and was no doubt influenced by the cultural expectations and moral structures of his time, they acted as the basis from which he sought ways to change things to reflect his awakened view point. We need to learn to apply “Buddhist math” in order to arrive at our own understanding of what it is we too believe that helps us make sense of this world we call home. By pursuing this process of math, specifically subtraction, we can start to separate out the generic cosmology and metaphysics of his time and space and use our days knowledge and technical tools including science to aid in a greater understanding of what it is he was teaching. And what remains standing can then be considered as what made the Buddha’s teaching so distinctive. This is also true when you study the precepts, as two human views are being confronted – the teachers and the students. Continue reading