Teacher or King

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There is no such thing as “disengaged” Buddhism, or Buddhism divorced from a life of responsibility and connection. There can be no such thing as a purely transcendental Buddhism. The teachings of the Buddha are by their very nature concerned with interconnection, responsibility, causes and results.

A core assumption, and one that makes Buddhist teachings revolutionary to this day, is that all things and all beings are interconnected, and that everything we do has significance and impact.

Buddhists engage with the world, and are active participants in social, economic, and political reality. It is inescapable. The choice is whether we support exploitation, suffering, and oppression through commission or omission, or promote well-being, happiness, and liberation.

However, we must not seek to impose our views through force. The union of political power and religious authority is pernicious. There is a powerful reason why the Buddha Shakyamuni chose to be our Teacher, rather than our King

Although in the West we tend to think mostly about the past and present influence of the Christian churches on the state, we have seen this unholy mix among Buddhists since the times of the Indian Emperor Ashoka.

The impulse to theocratic rule has been accompanied by intolerance for dissent and persecution of minorities, whether in Tibet, Japan, Burma, Sri Lanka, or Thailand. One cannot exercise religious authority and political power simultaneously, as one will place the former in the service of the latter.

The separation of church and state (including the Buddhist “Church”) is not only a social imperative; it is a spiritual necessity.

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The Good Death

15181374_1440365842670610_5789672965403089484_nHaving slain anger, you sleep in ease.

Having slain anger, you do not grieve.

The noble ones praise the death of anger

—with its honeyed crest and poison root—

for having slain it, you do not grieve.

—Buddha Shakyamuni, Ghatva Sutta

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Social Dimension

sulaksivaraksa2011-jpg-sizedBuddhism is not concerned just with private destiny, but with the lives and experiences of all beings. Any attempt to understand Buddhism apart from its social dimension is fundamentally a mistake.

Until Western Buddhists understand this, their embrace of Buddhism will not help much in the efforts to bring about meaningful and positive social change, or even in their struggle to transform their own egos.

—Sulak Sivaraksa, International Network of Engaged Buddhists

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Ethical Values

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Religion must affirm, in the clearest terms, that morality and ethical values are not mere decorative frills of personal opinion.

They are not a subjective superstructure, but intrinsic laws of the cosmos built into the heart of reality.

—Bhikkhu Bodhi

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The Difference

13227047_10207892683547891_5413001315463682774_nIf we want to be loved,

we are looking for a support system.

If we want to love,

we are looking for spiritual growth.

—Ayya Khema

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This Is Liberation

wpid-taranatha-e5a49ae7bd97e982a3e4bb96e5a4a7e5b888-5-jpgLiberation is not a place, another realm, or a destination.

It is an uprooting of the emotional afflictions in my mind,

so that they never arise in the future

and are purified within the expanse of suchness.

 

“Once the seeds are scorched, the fruit cannot arise.”

The final result of the exhaustion of the afflictive emotions

of the three realms of cyclic existence

is simply stainless awareness . This is liberation.

―Jetsun Taranatha

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Four Defining Moments

15032675_688293991345698_7058657873331287292_nOur society has progressively exiled the four defining moments of our life experience: birth, disease, aging, and death.

We are born, are ill, and die mostly in hospitals, and the old live in institutional ‘homes’ or artificial aging communities, separated from their families due to geography or the dominant culture of age segregation.

We value youth and the appearance of health above all else, and attempt to avoid at all costs all contact with whatever reminds us of the precariousness of our lives. Specifically, the fear of illness and death has led us to separate ourselves from these experiences, as if ignoring them will postpone them indefinitely, or prevent them altogether.

The Dharma, however, invites us to contemplate these four moments and integrate them in our experience, because without them our view of life is narrow and shallow. Maintaining close contact with sick friends and family members, and cultivating a relationship of gratitude with our dead, are essential practices on the Buddhist path.

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