First, I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Society for helping to extend the Buddha Dharma to Canada. There is an increasing interest among westerners but we need guidance to obtain a true understanding and practice. I believe the establishment of the temple and its activities and programs will do much to provide this.
are a few comments for western newcomers to orientate themselves to Buddhism.
It is natural to approach Buddhism from the current western cultural mind-set.
After all, this is how we have been educated to see things. However, this will
not provide a true appreciation of Buddhism. In the west we say Buddhism, implying
it is a religion or a philosophy. Buddhism is not an ...ism, not some category
like physics or medicine. A better term may be Buddha Dharma or fundamental way.
Dharma means the principle or law of existence and the teaching of this. Buddha
Dharma is Buddha's or Shakyamuni's understanding of Dharma. Buddhism is not part
of existence, but Buddha Dharma is existence. Of course, as an organization, Buddha
Dharma can be seen as one way among many in this world, yet the deep principle
of the Dharma underlies all activities. The Buddha Dharma includes many, many
teachings and methods to make clear our self, our mind and the way we respond
and contribute to life.
The following is a fundamental view of the Buddha Dharma and one of the fundamental teachings: At the core of ourselves is the awakened mind called Bodhicitta, a mind or self that is clearly aware of and awakened to all things and is free or liberated to respond to situations appropriately. There are teachings and methods to examine how we loose touch with this mind. We are taught that when we separate from object, when we see objects outside of ourselves, we start a chain of reactions. Having seen an object as outside of ourselves we name it and then give value or judgements to it. Then we like or dislike it, we say it is good or bad based on a subjective feeling. From this we tend to grasp or become attached to what we like. We tend to avoid what we dislike. Living this way we suffer from having a self-concerned view-point, a narrow and selfish standpoint.
Buddha Dharma teaches us to recognize
and to let go of this standpoint. When we see, hear, smell, taste, touch something
we should practice embracing that thing without separation, without duality. This
is true love. A very natural form of this is the relation between parents and
children, especially the mother with her baby. The baby's concerns are also the
mother's concern. The well-being of the children is also the parents' well-being.
My teacher talks of producing a spacious mind where all things can equally exist. Where all things equally exist then mutual respect and harmony can arise. This is the awakening of Bodhicitta. It is where experiencing someone else's happiness is also our own happiness. To only be concerned with our own happiness is the worldly view. The spiritual or a Bodhisattva's view is to experience other's sadness or happiness as our own.
This is not to take a narrow view of ourselves. A view where we feel miserable because we deny our desire for pleasure. It is natural to want to feel happy and experience pleasure, to enjoy life. We need to see our practice of the Buddha Dharma as a way to turn and transform these desires from a selfish standpoint to the Bodhisattva's viewpoint. It is not to deny pleasure and happiness. We can first gain an understanding of Bodhicitta, awakened mind, and then carefully and consistently practice it. This way we keep our pleasures and happiness but these have become pleasure and happiness at other's well-being.