Sunday, December 17, 2017

the Buddhist pendulum swings

Today, returning from the mini-mart, I saw my neighbor Tina, who I had been thinking about since she told me a while back that her daughter, Isabella, was studying to become a minister in Texas ... a generalized course as I understood it. I wanted to send along a short thing I wrote ten or more years ago about Buddhism. "Not bad" was my reaction as I reread it this morning ... but it was as if someone else had written it. I dislike tooting my own horn, but don't mind a bit tooting someone else's. So here is what someone else wrote today:

Tina -- I wrote the summary below some years ago for a young Christian woman who came to my small meditation hall in the backyard as a means of gaining what she called "tolerance." It's short and fits nicely in the waste basket but I thought Isabella might enjoy it as she pursues her ministerial studies.

Best wishes,


PS. I never did learn if she became more tolerant. :)


The truth of Buddhism does not come from a book. It does not come from a temple. It does not come from someone else. It is not written on a piece of paper. The truth of Buddhism comes from the individual effort to investigate, verify and actualize a clear understanding of this life.

Shakyamuni Buddha, the man most often referred to as the founder of Buddhism, was born on the border of India and Nepal in about 565 BC. He attained what is sometimes called enlightenment at 35 and preached until his death at 80. Many schools of Buddhism sprang from his teachings … in India, Tibet, China, Korea and Japan among others. Uncertain estimates put Buddhist numbers at about 350 million worldwide.

All Buddhist schools agree on at least two things:

1. THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS: These are observations about the world around us.

The Four Noble Truths are:

***1. There is suffering (dukkha – the uncertainties, dissatisfactions and doubts that life can dish up); 2. There is a cause of suffering; 3. There is an end to suffering; 4. There is a way to end suffering.

2. THE EIGHTFOLD PATH: These are the tools suggested as most useful when seeking out a truly peaceful life in a changing world.

The Eightfold Path is:

*** 1. Right View 2. Right Intention 3. Right Speech 4. Right Action 5. Right Livelihood 6. Right Effort 7. Right Mindfulness 8. Right Concentration.

The word "right" is sometimes translated as "complete." A “complete” effort is thorough-going and whole-hearted. Nothing is held back. Buddhism is not a threat-based persuasion: You won’t go to heaven (right) if you practice it and you won’t go to hell (wrong) if you don’t. But honesty is required -- complete honesty. 

The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path carry with them the verifiable observation that everything in life changes. There is nothing that does not change. Joy turns to sorrow, love turns to anger, birth turns to death, and the family car always gets a flat. All Buddhist schools agree on such things, but how they approach them may vary.

But as the Dalai Lama put it once, "Everyone wants to be happy." And that is probably as good a summary of Buddhism as any.