Sunday, October 26, 2014

One World, One Family, by Shang Rinpoche

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog ImageFor the past few years, I have had the profound feeling that we have truly entered Generation N. If all the different religions remain stuck in their old ways and isolated within their own customs, there is no doubt that they will be of zero benefit to modern beings and such rigidity may even lead to their own downfall. As such, for the past decade, I have been actively engaged in frequent exchange with people from different faiths. When the opportunity arises, I also openly and willingly contribute the little that I know for the benefit of those belonging to the Christian, Catholic, Islam, and Daoist faiths. I have a few friends from Germany and Greece with an erudite understanding of Buddhism who originally followed the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was also very surprising for me to learn that in Germany, a country with more than 50 million Christians, there are people who are so interested in Buddhism, and have sunk their teeth into it. As such, when one friend asked me about the meaning of sila (discipline), samadhi (stillness) and prajna (wisdom), it was quite unexpected. I had to consider for a moment what kind of reply might be most appropriate for him. During our discussion, he mentioned that during his time in middle school, he had the choice to attend a weekly class in religious studies. He chose to study Buddhism for a year and as a result, he had bought a few translated sutras to read. I then decided to give him a simple explanation to his question, “You could say that the meaning of sila is preventing all bad thoughts and stopping all unwholesome actions. You could say a state of samadhi is when your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and body are not disturbed by any external stimuli. Regarding your question about prajna, we might go a bit deeper to say that when something impedes on the mind as we face external circumstances or unexpected happenings, it is able to remain stable and unmoved. You could say that this is a kind of wisdom.”

Next, he asked me about the Diamond Sutra, which he had previously studied. There is a phrase in the Diamond Sutra — “there is no Dharma to be attained” — which he had a hard time understanding from the English translation and asked me if I might elaborate. I told him, “Shakyamuni Buddha used more than half of his life to teach the Dharma to people from different backgrounds, upbringings and mental capacities. According to their conditions and varying needs, he would offer them the teachings which would be most beneficial to them. Yet the final goal was to make it clear that all sentient beings, all people, all bodhisattvas, all buddhas and all the beings of the six realms possess Buddha nature. In addition, contained within every person’s mind is a storehouse of Dharma treasure. At the time when Dipamkara Buddha (the former Buddha before Shakyamuni) transmitted teachings to Shakyamuni Buddha, it was only when no Dharma was left to be attained that Shakyamuni Buddha truly understood the original mind of Dipamkara Buddha. This relates to the concepts found in Buddhist sutras about the absence of a self, others, living beings and a lifespan; that all Dharmas are equal, that there is no distinction of lofty or lowly and that the most important thing in practicing all Dharma methods is to be unattached to all appearances.” After I used this straightforward approach to explain my thinking to this friend visiting from afar, it seemed as though he came to a sudden and unexpected realization, vigorously nodding his head in understanding. Later on he asked me an even deeper question. He said that out of curiosity he had gone to attend a seven-day Chan (Zen) meditation retreat in Germany, and so he asked me a very specific question. “What is the meaning of a sudden or a gradual approach?” To this I replied, “Actually, everyone is just the same. Perhaps there is an issue with people’s differing levels of wisdom, but there is in fact no difference between someone with a favorable capacity or a blunt capacity. The only difference relates to a person’s motivation and view. So long as your motivation is right, you are of the highest capacity. But in the current era, no matter whether you are of the highest capacity or not, I advise people that it would be relatively more secure to match your practice with some of the gradual practice methods. It is kind of like how you can’t expect to be full after eating only a single mouthful of food.” After several hours of jovial discussion during which my guest seemed to feel quite delighted, I also let out a sigh of relief, for it appeared I had not disappointed him.

Over the past few years, I have sought to investigate and understand the perseverance and understanding of Christians and Catholics towards the three virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love, as well as the basic credo and doctrines of Islam. Moreover, regarding the five daily prostration periods facing the Ka’aba in Mecca that Muslims so respectfully undertake, as well as their practice of zakat, I must confess my profound admiration. Regarding the principal teaching in Daoism which places equal emphasis upon both physical and mental practice, as well as the practice in which one must progress through the stages of appreciating, nurturing and transcending life until one reaches the stage where oneself and the Dao are indistinguishable — being diligent and never slacking in one’s attitude towards attaining the Dao — I am also full of admiration. In these times, if we can manage to integrate the devotion and love of all great religions, engage in unceasing prayer in order to bless this world and eliminate calamities, dedicating all positive merits for the aversion of disasters, and flooding all of the people of this world with love regardless of political inclination or racial distinction, then the positive vibrations from such endeavors will spread into the lives of all humanity on an instinctual level. This I believe without a doubt.

Herein expressed are some of the concerns that I, Shang Longrik Gyatso, have long felt regarding our environment, global warming and the increased frequency of natural disasters. I hold the profound belief that if the selfless love and concern embodied in all great religions could be combined, so that they might unanimously join forces to proffer unceasing blessings, then by means of this great force, we ought to be able to benefit the well-being of the beings of Jambudvipa. For a very long time, this has been my hope and expectation, as well as the subject of my dedications, day after day.

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