148 view

Open-mindedly Sceptical

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“Prior to sharing some thoughts on a question I was asked a few years ago, ‘According to 2010 statistics, the number of Buddhists around the world is consistently increasing by approximately 5% to 10% per annum. What do you think are the main causes for this increase?’, I should mention that I’m often ‘open-mindedly sceptical’ about such surveys, and the statistics gathered during such surveys. For where does the information come from and how is the information gathered, and for what purpose, and so on and so forth.By ‘open-mindedly sceptical’ I mean that I don’t just believe the information blindly, nor do I disbelieve the information blindly. I’m open-minded and realise that such information may in some way be helpful on many levels. To further clarify what I mean, it may be helpful to reflect on the following words of the Buddha in the Kalama Sutra:

“Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.                                                 
Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumoured by many.                 
Do not believe in anything (simply) because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.       
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it.”

I’d now like to share a few thoughts on this subject. My intention here is not to give a definitive answer, but to give readers ‘food for thought’, something to mentally chew on, to contemplate, to enable each of us to be responsible and think for ourselves. So that each of us can develop genuine insight.

Perhaps we can begin by noting that the world’s population is rising rapidly, and this is one of the causes of the rise in the number of Buddhist practitioners in the world. In addition, it might be helpful to note that due to so-called ‘popular culture’, the number of practising Buddhists, as with other religions, may fluctuate depending on what is regarded as ‘popular’ or ‘not popular’ at any given time.

‘Popular culture’ is strongly influenced by the various types of media, and the various types of agenda’s within the media. We people are often very fickle, following one thing after another, depending on what we are confronted with and what we feel attracted to at any particular time.

In recent times, Buddhism has spread to many countries throughout the world, especially during the last few decades. This is due in part to people migrating around the world from various Buddhist cultures, and to their ‘2nd generation’, who either moved to these countries as children or were born there.

It is also due in part to the genuine interest in these precious teachings and way of life shown by people of all backgrounds. Some of whom have deep virtuous roots from practising the Dharma in previous lives, and others who are totally new to the Dharma, having a strong attraction to the peace, harmony and understanding that results from the Buddhist practises of morality, meditation and wisdom.

Many people also understand that Buddhism is inclusive, non-biased and freely available to people of all backgrounds. It is a non-aggressive and peaceful spiritual path with no mission to proselytise.

I think that the ‘main’ reason that the number of ‘genuine’ Buddhist practitioners has increased worldwide is the fact that the Buddha’s teachings are timeless and pragmatic, effective and experiential, and can be practically applied to our daily lives. I also feel that modern scientific findings have a great deal to do with more and more people studying and practising the pure Dharma.

As Albert Einstein so poignantly stated: “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind”; “Buddhism requires no revision to keep it up-to-date with recent scientific finding”; “Buddhism does not need to surrender its views to science, because it embraces science as well as goes beyond science”; and “If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism”.

The Buddha recommends, invites and encourages all who are interested to thoroughly investigate, analyse and test the Dharma teachings. Just as a goldsmith tests for real gold. Not to just believe in them with blind faith.

He then advises us to wholeheartedly put them into practise and to work diligently towards realising the result of the Dharma path, Enlightenment.

If we do as he recommends, we will realise that his teachings are very clear and that they make perfect sense. That they are perfectly logical when tested with critical analysis and that they are in accord with modern scientific findings. In more than 2,600 years they have never been proven wrong.

Take for instance the Buddhist belief in the Law of Karma, which is a view that has been checked and analysed by many great practitioners and realised masters. Conviction in its validity is gained through logical reasoning. It should not simply be followed blindly.

I’d like to conclude with the following statement by historian, Arnold Toynbee: “The coming of Buddhism to the west may well prove to be the most important event of the 20th century.”

I hope that these words are somewhat helpful and beneficial on your path to Enlightenment. May the precious Buddha Dharma flourish throughout the whole world.”

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~Dharma Master Andrew. J. Williams~
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“I think we can all agree that the practise of Buddhism is extremely important and absolutely essential for the sake and benefit of all humankind, as well as for the sake and benefit of all sentient beings, and the wondrous nature that surrounds us on this vast world we call home.
Again my aim here is to give readers some ‘food for thought’, so that we can mentally chew and digest it (contemplate it), allowing us all to think and understand for ourselves.
Dharma is for the ultimate good of all, whether one is a Buddhist or not. All sentient beings benefit from the Dharma, as it points directly to the mind. We practise the Dharma to purify the mind. When the mind is pure, physical and verbal actions will follow suit.
The nature of human beings is to be curious. We seek answers to the important questions in life, to alleviate our confusion and fear. Buddhism clearly answers all of these important questions.
Throughout its 2,600 year history, Buddhism has enriched and brought peace and harmony to wherever it has travelled. Practising Buddhists are moral, compassionate and wise, and of benefit to all sentient beings, by at the very least refraining from causing harm, conflict and trouble. Therefore, when we migrate to different regions around the world, we tend to enrich our adopted culture with peace, harmony and understanding.
We are kind and friendly, and engage in peaceful and harmonious interaction with others, based on understanding, and therefore we tend to be a positive influence on those around us, often silently encouraging others of varying persuasions to do likewise.
From my observation and experience teaching the Dharma in both Australia and the USA, Buddhists and Buddhist communities have done exactly that, been a positive influence and brought benefit to the regions where we live and the people around us. We abide by the law of the land and assimilate peacefully within our chosen communities.
Buddhism is held in high regard as a way of peace. A blameless religion with a history that has caused peace, harmony and understanding wherever it has travelled.
Central to Buddhist practise is the noble eight-fold path of morality, meditation and wisdom, along with the practise of the four immeasurable’s of universal love, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. We are responsible for our own mental and physical wellbeing, as well as taking it upon ourselves to do whatever is possible to bring benefit to others.
The Buddha said, “All beings tremble at the thought of being harmed, knowing this, how can we harm them”, and “Knowing that we all seek happiness, cultivate love for all”. All sentient beings seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. Not only does the practise of Buddhism provide the way to realise these two aims that are common to all, ultimately it leads to the unconditioned supreme happiness that is beyond suffering, unsurpassed supreme enlightenment.
It may be helpful for us to contemplate the following inspirational verses below from the great Indian master Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara (The Way of the Bodhisattva), from the chapter on ‘Commitment’.
“…..By the virtue I have just amassed,
May all the pain of every living being
Be wholly scattered and destroyed.
For all those ailing in the world,
Until their every sickness has been healed,
May I myself become for them
The doctor, nurse and medicine itself.
Raining down a flood of food and drink,
May I dispel the ills of thirst and famine.
And in the ages marked by scarcity and want,
May I myself appear as drink and sustenance.
For sentient beings, poor and destitute,
May I become a treasure ever plentiful,
And lie before them closely in their reach,
A varied source of all that they might need…..
…..May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey the road,
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.
May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for light;
For those who need a resting place, a bed;
For all who need a servant, may I be their slave…..
…..Like the earth and the pervading elements,
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For boundless multitudes of living beings,
May I be their ground and sustenance.
Thus for everything that lives,
As far as are the limits of the sky,
May I provide their livelihood and nourishment
Until they pass beyond the bonds of suffering…..”
I hope that these few words are somewhat helpful and beneficial on your path to enlightenment. With the help and support of the noble triple gem, may you be well and happy, and may you swiftly attain the enlightened state.
May the immeasurably precious Buddha Dharma flourish throughout the whole world and throughout infinite space.”
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~Dharmacharya Andrew. J. Williams~
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