Conversations

posted in: Teachings - Bhante | 0

This is an ongoing conversation with Bhikku Bodhi and Bhante Sathi. You may join this conversation by Contacting Us with your questions.

Question:

Some people  think Buddha’s teaching is well understood by people who were born in east and is difficult to westerners. Because the east have the culture in relation to Buddha’s teaching. So in my opinion its not the region, and where you come from. It is the understanding and having an open mind. But it is my opinion. What do you say about this matter? As a westerner who opened the mind to a different teaching, you might have the best explanation

Answer:

Buddhism is not a matter of a particular culture, but of the truth. We should actually distinguish between “Buddhism” and the Dhamma. Buddhism is a cultural, historical, and social phenomena; thus we can speak about Sri Lankan Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, Thai Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism. Or we can speak about Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana Buddhism, etc. But Dhamma/Dharma is not about a culture, or about social phenomena, or about history, but about the truth. At the heart of the Dhamma is the truth about suffering and happiness. All human beings want to avoid suffering and to find true happiness. This is a common aim of human beings, no matter what part of the world they might come from, no matter what their cultural background might be, no matter what type of society they might come from. To find freedom from suffering and attain true happiness we have to understand the causes of suffering and the causes that lead to true happiness. The Dhamma is about the causes of suffering and the means to  find true happiness. The Buddha’s purpose was not to establish a particular religion called “Buddhism,” but to teach human beings the Dhamma, the truth about suffering and happiness, the path to true happiness. These truths are the same for all human beings. The path of Dhamma consists in observing moral discipline, purifying the mind of its defilements, and realizing the truth with wisdom. These principles of practice are the same for all human beings, no matter what their social or cultural background might be. We follow these principles, not because we want to follow an Asian religion rather than a Western religion, but because we understand that the Buddha’s teaching, the Dhamma, teaches these principles more clearly, more precisely, with greater rigor, than any other philosophy or religion.

Question:

As a person who stat to practice Dhamma You may have come across Difficulties as everybody else. Did you experience any difference in those difficulties, you felt like an easterner will face them differently?

Answer:

Of course, as a Westerner, I did not grow up with the worldview of Buddhism as part of my culture and intellectual background. Thus I had to struggle with Buddhist concepts in order to understand them and accept them. But this was an advantage. Since I did not inherit the ideas of Buddhist thought, I could not just adopt them blindly, but had to examine them and explore them in depth before I could decide they were valid. Asian Buddhists, in contrast, tend to take their Buddhist heritage very casually. While they may believe in the principles of Buddhism, often they don’t face the Buddhist teachings as a challenge that requires them to act, but simply take them for granted, just as they take the sun and moon and stars for granted. In school we are taught not to accept anything uncritically, and we Westerners apply the same approach when we come to Buddhism. We feel that we can’t put the teachings up on a holy altar, as too sacred to examine critically. Rather, we want to examine the teachings as rigorously as we can. Sometimes this can lead to skepticism and excessive doubt. But through practice and gradual training, especially when we meet well disciplined and accomplished monks, we acquire trust and confidence in the Dhamma

Question:

As a person who born in west what is your advice for people those who seek this path.

Answer:

My advice is that they approach Buddhism very carefully. They should not be in a hurry to adopt an “exotic” Eastern culture. At the same time, they should not be turned away from Buddhism because it comes in an Eastern cultural package. They should try to look behind the outward forms of Buddhism and look at the essential principles of the teaching, and ask whether these principles can be used to benefit their lives. If they think the principles are of no benefit to them, then they should simply put Buddhism aside and need not explore it further. But if they find the principles of Buddhism are beneficial, then they should begin by taking what they need and investigate the teaching as a whole. They should look at the original teachings of the Buddha, as taught in the Nikayas, especially in the Majjhima Nikaya.

I suggest that they try to balance meditation and study. Many Westerners want to take only meditation from Buddhism and leave the rest of the teaching aside. But in order to obtain the full benefit from meditation, it should be practiced within the full context of the Dhamma, the Buddha’s teaching. One needs right understanding and right thinking, sammaditthi and sammasankappa, and one can only obtain these by examining the Buddha’s teachings. One must also apply the teachings to one’s everyday life. One should not think meditation is something one practices for an hour or two a day, and then leaves the Dhamma on the side. One has to apply the Dhamma to all aspects of one’s life: to one’s attitudes, one’s emotions, one’s personal relationships, one’s actions and speech. Then all life becomes one with the Dhamma, and the Dhamma becomes all of one’s life.