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This blog is created by a Buddhist living in Singapore. He embraces the Mahayana spirit of Bodhicitta, deeply respecting all Buddhist Traditions as expressions of Kindness guiding us on the path towards human perfection ~ Buddhahood.

He likes to post stuff that he had read or think is good to share here, sometimes he adds a little comments here and there... just sometimes..

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“Sariputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who are about to make the vow, ‘I desire to be born in Amitabha’s country,’ these people, whether born in the past, now being born, or to be born in the future, all will irreversibly attain to anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Sariputra, all good men and good women, if they are among those who have faith, should make the vow, ‘I will be born in that country.’”

~ Amitabha Sutra

When I obtain the Buddhahood, any being of the boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds of the ten quarters whose body if be touched by the rays of my splendour should not make his body and mind gentle and peaceful, in such a state that he is far more sublime than the gods and men, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

~ Amitabha Buddha's Thirty-Third Vow

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Engaged Buddhism

The vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh who left Vietnam in the 60's to live in the west is now one of best known Buddhist figures in the West, thanks to his interactions with various Buddhist and non Buddhist figures and thanks to his hundreds of lectures and writings. The BBC calls him "a world renowned Zen master, writer, poet, scholar, and peacemaker.
With the exception of the Dalai Lama, he is today's best known Buddhist teacher".

His writings are clear and concise, these include "Call me by my true names", "The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation", "The Five Pillars of Wisdom", "Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers","Interbeing:Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism".

The first is a collection of texts and poems, the last is the book which elaborates Engaged Buddhism, a term he had introduced.
Some say that his writings have made Buddhism more palatable for the West, just like Chinese food which have been adjusted for the Western taste. The Five Pillars, for example is the five precepts or Pancasila, but Thich Nhat Hanh uses positive statements, instead of saying "Thou shall not kill", he said "Respect for life", and Generosity instead of "Thou shall not steal".

I do not think that his main contribution is to make the Dhamma palatable, he is a great communicator, and one of the Buddhist doctrines he always holds true, is dependent origination or dependent co-arising, which means interdependence and inter-penetration of everything. Interbeing is a subset of dependent origination.

In an entity A there exists entities non-A, A exists because of non-A. Think A as the human body, and non-A as all the molecules in us. The sun, the rivers, the clouds and the flowers are in us, and we in them.
"The good, the bad and the ugly" are also within us, and we inside them.
On Nov 3, the Guardian carried an article showing how George Bush is considered dangerous by America's allies in Britain, Canada, Mexico, and even Israel. He is considered more dangerous than Kim Jong-Il, and only Osama bin Laden is able to outrank Bush.
What Thich Nhat Hanh is saying is that Bush, Osama are all part of ourselves.
If you can't stomach this, you will have a hard time understanding interbeing, however, if you can, then you will never really hate, be angry at someone or envy anybody anymore.
In the same manner, you understand that, in a Buddhist, there is Christianity, Islam, Hindu etc. Everything is interconnected with everything.
That's why Thich Nhat Hanh is able to bridge a rapport with leaders of different religions.

You are me, and I am you.
Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy"

Thich Nhat Hanh

Engaged Buddhism is a corollary of dependent origination, by making a commitment against social, economic and political injustice through peaceful means.

To get a quick summary of Engaged Buddhism, read the 14 quidelines formulated by Thich Nhat Hanh in the book "Interbeing":

1. Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

2. Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth.
Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge.
Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

3. Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education.
However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrow-mindedness.

4. Do not avoid suffering or close your eyes before suffering.
Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world.
Find ways to be with those who are suffering, including personal contact, visits, images and sounds. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.

5. Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry.
Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure.
Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

6. Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.

7. Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings.
Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment.
Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you.
Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.

8. Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break.
Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

9. Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people.
Do not utter words that cause division and hatred.
Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain.
Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure.
Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.

10. Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit,
or transform your community into a political party.
A religious community, however, should take a clear stand
against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the
situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

11. Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature.
Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live.
Select a vocation that helps realise your ideal of compassion.

12. Do not kill. Do not let others kill.
Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.

13. Possess nothing that should belong to others.
Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or
the suffering of other species on Earth.

14. Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect.
Do not look on your body as only an instrument.
Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realisation of the Way. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns:)
Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment.
In sexual relations, be aware of future suffering that may be caused.
To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others.
Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world.
Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.

The first and second guidelines clearly shows that Buddhism is agnostic, but open to scientific discoveries. Should science one day prove that there is a beginning of time, Buddhism would embrace it, unlike Stephen Jay Gould (see here) who maintains that science and religions are entirely separate domains.


* Wikipedia entry on Thich Nhat Hanh
* Plum Village Website
* Thich Nhat Hanh books

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way"
Thich Nhat Hanh
This is a nice contribution, I want to share my reflections and experiences too!


1 comment:

  1. The first and second guidelines clearly shows that Buddhism is agnostic, but open to scientific discoveries.

    I think it is more non-theistic than agnostic.


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