You’re a Zen Buddhist, Right?

I went to a study group that’s reading “Way of the Bodhisattva”.

It’s one of my favorite texts. I feel like Shantideva is one of the greatest Buddhist teachers of all time. We studied the chapter on Patience and then we studied the chapter on Diligence. It’s been such a wonderful opportunity. The group is called Younge Drodul Ling-Kansas City and they’re part of a bigger community. It’s called a “Rime Practice Lineage.” I think some people call this group Dzogchen Buddhism or Vajrayana Buddhism. It’s been a great experience studying this text with this group.

Someone at this group said to me, “You’re a Zen Buddhist, right?”

I was a Zen Buddhist. I don’t know what I am anymore.

I became a Zen Buddhist and even did some training as a monk. I realized I didn’t want to be a monk but I kept studying and practicing Zen for a long time. I resisted anything else even though I was practicing with a Tibetan Buddhist community called the Rime Center.

The truth is that I don’t sit facing a wall anymore. I sit facing a Buddha statue in my living room. And I’m studying all the Bodhisattva teachings instead of the Zen teachings. The Bodhisattva teachings are what have carried me. And I’m doing a liturgy in front of my statue in the living room every day.

The truth is I was telling myself that Zen is more secular than it is anyway. I’m not the only one. Buddhism is a religion (sorry) and I’d argue meditation is a spiritual practice too. I think plenty of people don’t like hearing that but I think I want to be honest about such things. I’ll always probably have a soft spot for some of those Zen teachings though.

I set up a statue garden in my backyard that I call “The Garden of Virtue” I read a text that said Buddhas and Bodhisattvas dwell in sacred spaces like that. I’m starting to wonder if that’s true. I’ve never been someone to believe in such things. What I know is that the thing that’s been growing in my statue garden is me.

I’m not a Zen Buddhist. I follow the Bodhisattva Path. And that could be enough.

Maybe I’ll become Dzogchen Buddhist. I’ve had some empowerments (other things I used to not believe in) and maybe I won’t.

But also maybe names don’t mean anything anyway. I don’t know what kind of Buddhist I am and I don’t need to know.

Saving Ourselves

The path of Buddhism is called the Dharma. It is a method for saving ourselves.

I don’t mean that as a trite platitude. The Dharma will save you. Not save your soul from damnation. As Buddhists we don’t believe in that. The Dharma will save you from yourself. It will save you from your own greed and delusion. It will save you from that feeling that you are hopeless or broken or weak.

The Dharma is direct and precise. It can lead us to a state of realization that is beyond the state of delusion in which we spend most of our time. Practicing the Dharma is nothing less than the highest human aspiration. We are trying to attain Enlightenment and transcend our egoic self.
We use mind training to work on our poisons, these are the things that hold up back from our potential. Greed, hatred, and delusion are the things that feed our ignorance and keep us mired in suffering. We also work on transcending our habitual patterns, those old ways of thinking that are with us all the time, the preconceptions and baggage that we all carry that prevent us from seeing things as they really are.
We want to learn how to understand our own minds, how to accept what’s around us instead of rejecting it.

There is a truth about life that the Buddha realized and we need to realize it too. The truth is that life is painful with occasional moments of pleasure. The Dharma shows us that we can have a healthier relationship to that pain. We can experience it without letting it overcome us. We can get out of this ocean of suffering.

Enlightenment is like seeing the sun. It’s something you can do. It’s something we all can do. The most important thing about the Buddha’s life is that he was an ordinary person, like us. He wasn’t some kind of god or spirit. Because of that we can aspire to do what he did. You can do it. In fact, no one else can do it for you. It’s up to you to experience reality as it is.

 

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