Be a light unto yourself


Peace, Love and Unity
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Pathless made this rather astute observation, and I wanted to give it its own thread:

It's almost as if many Buddhists seem to have forgotten or missed out on Buddha's parting words, "Be a light unto yourself," and prefer instead to pick up the dying torches of others who have walked their own individual paths.

Has Buddhism grown into its own set of memes, where the original principles of the Buddha are not to be practiced, but instead intellectualised, ritualised, and turned into a personality cult.

I freely admit that I have never read much at all Buddhism - but where I have encountered apparent statements from the Buddha, the whole point of following the Buddha seems a ridiculous idea.

Apologies, of course, if that sounds offensive - my point being that the Buddha seems to effectively tell people to think for themselves, yet instead Buddhists seem to put that aside that to follow something alien to Buddha's key teachings themselves.

In fact, my perception has always been that the most enlightened Buddhist would neither claim to follow Buddha - or even be a Buddhist - but simply "be".

I mention all this because the statement by Pathless just seemed to hit the proverbial nail on the head.

Perhaps I can explain better by referencing the scene in Monty Python's "Life of Brian", where the people are gathered in the street to hear Brian speak. Is the following speech not the core of Buddhism: of both it's key principles, but also what it has become?

FOLLOWERS: Brian! Brian! Brian!...
Good morning.
A blessing! A blessing! A blessing!...
No. No, please! Please! Please listen. I've got one or two things to say.
Tell us. Tell us both of them.
Look. You've got it all wrong. You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves. You're all individuals!
Yes, we're all individuals!
You're all different!
Yes, we are all different!
I'm not.
Shh. Shhhh. Shhh.
You've all got to work it out for yourselves!
Yes! We've got to work it out for ourselves!
Tell us more!
No! That's the point! Don't let anyone tell you what to do! Otherwise-- Ow! No!
You can read what the Buddha said about what to believe in the Nikaya when he speaks to 'The Kalamas of Kesaputta'. should have it somewhere.

As for ritual etc... Well, I've just been discussing this point with Tibetans Buddhists in another forum. You'll never get anywhere though because they claim that revealing the workings behind Guru yoga will harm the actual practice. I'm sure Vaj can tell you more about this, or less, since he's follows this practice and is bound to it.

The whole emphasis on Vajrayana is about getting to Enlightenment quickly. So their route is not the conventional Buddhist route. I understand this and don't see it going against, 'Be a light unto yourself.'
After all, you choose to follow a guru, you choose to light yourself with his wisdom. If you had no choice, then that would be going against the statement. Unfortunately people try to find shortcuts too often, and they spend so much time trying to find these shortcuts that they miss out of time they could have spent enlightening themselves.

It's like education and work. You could quit school at 16 and try to find a job, which you'd probably get, but it wouldn't pay well, and you'd spend the rest of your life making slow progress. The other option is to continue school and go into medical school (all the while postponing money making-work.) Then after school, you find yourself a job and in a very small time, you catch up to where you would have been in the more conservative scenario, and indeed overtake. Some people, however, spend all their time getting educated and making money, that by the time they decide they have enough, they're lying on their death-bed avoiding the thought, 'What have I actually achieved in life?'
Meanwhile the conservative you has enjoyed life, which is what it's all about.
So if you're going to look for a teacher and go the ritual way, then do it quickly and get over the hump. If you find it isn't working, return to the basics. Follow your own light.

Don't re-invent the wheel, just ask someone about it, but know when it's time to think for yourself.
Namaste all,

interesting topic...

perhaps.. the best way to express this, in my view, is something that Bodhidharma has written:

There are many avenues of entry into the way, but they are essentially of just two types, referred to as principle and conduct.

Entry by principle is when you realize the source by way of the teachings and deeply believe that all living beings have the same real essential nature, but it is veiled by outside elements and false ideas and cannot manifest completely. If you abandon falsehood and return to reality, abiding stably in impassive observation, with no self and no other, regarding ordinary and holy as equal, persisting firmly, immovable, not following other persuasions, then you deeply harmonize with the principle. Having no false notions, being serene and not striving, is called entry by way of principle.

Entry by conduct refers to four practices in which all other practices are included. What are the four? First is compensation for opposition. Second is adapting to conditions. Third is not seeking anything. Fourth is acting in accord with truth.

The practice of compensation for opposition means that when people cultivating the way are beset by suffering, they should think how in past times they themselves neglected the fundamental and pursued the trivial over countless ages, flowing in waves of existences, arousing much enmity and hatred, with no end of offense and injury. Although they may be innocent right now, they think of their suffering as the results of their own past evil deeds, not something inflicted upon them by gods or humans. Thus they accept contentedly, without enmity or complaint. Scripture says, "There is no anxiety when experiencing suffering, because of perfect knowledge." When this attitude is developed, you are in harmony with the way. Because we make progress on the way by comprehending opposition, this is called the practice of compensating for opposition.

Second is the practice of adapting to conditions. Living beings have no absolute self; they are all influenced by conditions and actions. Their experiences of pain and pleasure both come from conditions. Even if they attaing excellent rewards, things like prosperity and fame, these are effects of past causes only now being realized. When the conditions wear out, they return to nothing, so what is there to rejoice about? Gain and loss come from conditions; there is no increase or decrease in the mind. When the influence of joy does not stir you, there is profound harmony with the way; therefore, this is called the practice of adapting to conditions.

Third is the practice of not seeking anything. Worldly people wander forever, becomming attached by greed here and there. This is called seeking. The wise realize that the principle of absolute truth is contrary to the mundane. Mentally at ease in non-striving, physically they adapt to the turns of fate. All existents are empty; there is nothing to hope for. Blessings and curses always follow each other. Living in the world is like a house on fire, all corporeal existence involves pain - who can be at peace? Because of understanding this point, we let go of all existences, stop thinking, and seek nothing. Scripture says "Seeking is painful; not seeking anything is bliss." Not seeking anything is clearly the conduct of the way, so it is called the practice of not seeking anything.

Fourth is the practice of acting in accord with truth. The principle of purity of essential nature is called truth. In terms of this principle, all appearances are emtpy; so there is no infection, no attachment, no this, no that. Scripture says, "In truth there are no beings, because it is free from the defilement of beings. In truth there is no self, because it is free from the defilement of self."

Therefore, if the wise can believe in this principle, they should act in accord with truth. The substance of truth has no stinginess: practicing charity with one's person, life and goods, the mind has no regret. Liberated from empty personality and things, independent and unattached, with the sole purpose of getting rid of defilement, edifiying people informally, this consitutes your own practice, and can also help others. It can also adorn the path of enlightenment.

As this is true of charity, it is also thus with the other five perfections, or ways of trancendence. Practicing the six ways of transcendence in order to get rid of false ideas, without objectivizing practices, is called practice in accord with truth."

a more compact explanation of this would be something that is a well known Buddhist parable...

you should seek liberation on your own. when you have attained liberation seek clarification from a master.

this is the role that the guru plays in my tradition... each being must do the work for themselves... the Buddhas words and the words of all the enlightened teachers that have come afterwards are like bits of stone and tile.. useful for knocking on the door of enlightment.. but that is all.

the words aren't the teaching.. they give us some ideas and areas to investigate... but they aren't it. what constitutes the true dharma transmission is the mind to mind transmission of the treasury of the true Dharma eye which Buddha established during his First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Deer Park.

this is a very difficult and subtle point that needs to be properly understood to get an idea of how the Dharma has continued in an unbroken transmission from the historical Buddha to our present day. moreover, this is something which cannot be spoken.. it is beyond the ability of words to capture.. and this poses it's own sorts of problems for the modern reader and their ability to grasp the teachings.

it is commonly said in my tradition... until you understand a thousand books of scripture are not enough. once you understand even one word is too much.