Buddhism originated approximately 2,600 years ago and is based on the teachings of Siddartha Gautama who is said to have been born in Lumbini (near the Nepalese/Indian border). At approximately 29 years of age, Prince Siddartha is believed to have left behind worldly and palatial life (against his parent’s wishes) to become a homeless mendicant who attained ‘enlightenment’ approximately six years later whilst meditating under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya in east India. He henceforth became known as Shakyamuni Buddha who ‘turned the wheel of Dharma’ in Varanasi and taught elsewhere throughout India before passing away in Kushinagar (north India) at approximately 80 years of age.
Although accounts of the Buddha’s life are well-documented, rather than the worship of an historical figure, Buddhist practice is quintessentially concerned with the everyday application of spiritual and meditative principles as a means of transforming suffering and realising the ‘Buddha nature’ (Sanskrit: sugatagarbha) that lies within each and every one of us.
To call ourselves a real Buddhist, we have understood that the Buddhist teachings are just one means of actualising a universal truth. They are a finger pointing to the moon and not the moon itself. For this reason, the Buddhist practitioner should be as comfortable with visiting a church, a synagogue, or a mosque, as they are with visiting a Buddhist Temple. In other words, to call oneself a real Buddhist, one has to let go of any kind of attachment to that label.
In this section we explore what it means to be a Buddhist, and how to integrate the Buddhist teachings into everyday living. As you progress in your dharma practice, try to keep the following in mind:
Please don’t try to own the Buddhadharma. Please don’t try to make people become Buddhists. Please don’t feel the need to retaliate against those who defile it. Please don’t try to become a great meditation teacher. Just simply be the teachings. Work in harmony with the conditions around you and allow your enlightened presence to grow organically. In time, that presence will be felt by everyone you meet. It will sound throughout the entire universe – like the roar of a lion in full prime.
Ven Dr Edo Shonin and Ven William Van Gordon