Author Topic: "Requirements" to be Buddhist  (Read 1012 times)

Offline Kevin

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"Requirements" to be Buddhist
« on: February 21, 2015, 11:02:29 am »
What makes a person a Buddhist?

In my research on Buddhism, it appears that there is a lot of room for acceptance and tolerance of various definitions for what it means to be a Buddhist. There are a lot of variations in ideas and philosophies, but many people still describe themselves as being Buddhist. Is being Buddhist, then, broadly defined as someone who attempts to follow in the teachings of Buddha, or are there more definite and concrete beliefs that must be adopted before one can be identified as a Buddhist? Does one need to believe in samsara, the importance of vegetarianism, and other ideas that are commonly ascribed to Buddhism to be a Buddhist, or is an appreciation of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path enough to define one as Buddhist? I suppose that there are a lot of different answers to this question, but I am curious to hear the thoughts of those who are more experienced with this than I am.

I have never enjoyed being labeled with an "-ist" or "-ism", since they seem limiting and insufficient for accurately categorizing the content of a person's beliefs or ideas. I read something recently about Dependent Origination that led to me to believe that the reluctance to adopt such labels could be an important element of Buddhism as well.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and consideration.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: "Requirements" to be Buddhist
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2015, 12:01:56 pm »
Hi Kevin.

For all intents and purposes, you officially become a Buddhist upon taking refuge in the Triple Gem, after which you receive and keep the minimum of the Five Precepts --- they're not "commandments" that one is compelled to live by, but rules of training that are taken voluntarily: (1) to abstain from destroying living creatures; (2) taking anything not freely given; (3) abstaining from sexual misconduct; (4) abstaining from false speech; and (5) abstaining from taking intoxicants.

Samsara isn't something you believe in, per se, but where you and I and everyone else is right now in this present moment. As for vegetarianism, it would depend on the sect and tradition --- not all Buddhists are vegetarian in their diet. And yes, an appreciation of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path would be enough, especially in the beginning:

"Buddhism is always a question of knowing and seeing, and not that of believing.  The teaching of the Buddha is qualified as Ehi-Passiko, inviting you to come and see, but not to come and believe.” (Ven. Dr. W. Rahula, 'What the Buddha Taught')

Offline thegchokgreg

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Re: "Requirements" to be Buddhist
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2015, 01:13:14 pm »
Hi Kevin,

Usually what makes the difference between buddhist and non-buddhist is what is called "taking refuge" this is referring to taking refuge in the Buddha , Dharma and Sangha.
So this can be done through a kind of ceremony with a buddhist teacher and after you can say that you are "buddhist" haha
But this i call the outer "taking refuge" and i think that the more important is the inner taking refuge the attitude of knowing and seeing the qualities of Buddha ,Dharma ,Sangha : the teacher ,the teachings ,the followers of the teachings (disciples).
Mainly it is about to know and see the Dharma when you see and come to know the quality of the dharma it becomes a refuge from suffering and naturally you also understand the quality of the one who taught the dharma (the teacher buddha) and the one following this teachings (the sangha)

So in this way i feel like taking refuge is more like a process an inner attitude that develops when you study/practice the dharma.
And when you develop this attitude there is indeed few consideration about being called "buddhist" but as we live in a world of conventions we can still say that we are buddhist , followers of buddha's teachings and by understanding what in means ( meaning is going to a direction that bring happiness and freedom from suffering for oneself and others) you can even rejoice and feel happy to be buddhist  :)

Offline mysticmorn

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Re: "Requirements" to be Buddhist
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2015, 04:18:36 pm »
This is a great question that tends to come up periodically on Buddhist forums, OP.  Speaking as someone who was self-taught in Buddhism at an early age, and who didn't know anything about refuge vows at the time, I'd say that one is a Buddhist when one takes on one or more vows as a practice (from the basic 5 precepts), and who understands and appreciates the 4 Noble Truths, and attempts to follow the Eightfold Path and practice compassion.  Vegetarianism is not required at all; that's a misconception people have about Buddhism. I see those elements I listed as the core basics. I don't know, others may have a different list, or may wish to add meditation to the list, but there are monks who don't practice meditation, except to say prayers, so I wouldn't say it's a "must", especially in the beginning.

Just my 2 cents.

Offline cosmic_dog_magic

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Re: "Requirements" to be Buddhist
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2015, 04:37:09 pm »
to me, it's all about attitude:

- Openness
- Being completely open to all the situations that arise, even the ones that hurt most, processing rather than shutting down and learning to let go when confronted with impermanence
- Learning what openness is
- Learning to love oneself (same as being open ; ) )and therefore learning to love others
- Being dedicated to yourself to be a proper human being, that you and you alone (that in fact you are alone and you are you're own island - as one person said to me) are the only one that will pick yourself up through suffering.

Keeping these things in mind, and learning about them, possibly in a deep somatic sense, are all you need to be a buddhist.  Your life practice is one of being more open.

Offline Kevin

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Re: "Requirements" to be Buddhist
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2015, 05:22:35 pm »
Thank you for such great responses!  It is interesting to see how your responses have more commonalities than differences.

Dharmakara:  Thank you for addressing the question so fully. You are right..."belief" was not the best word I could have used when talking about samsara. However, I greatly appreciate the information about taking refuge in the Triple Gem and keeping the Five Precepts. These are things that I need to look into more fully.

Thegchokgreg:  I like your approach to the issue of labeling ones self as a "Buddhist". It does seem to be more of an internal state, at which point the label is not important, but rather the lifestyle. But, as you pointed out, since we live in a world that categorizes ideas and practices, "Buddhist" can still be appropriate. I had not given much thought to the idea of taking joy in being called a Buddhist, but that is a great lens through which to see the issue. :)

Mysticmorn:  Your two cents is worth a lot!  Thank you for helping clear up the issue about vegetarianism (although I don't have any objection to it, anyway). It is interesting to see that everyone's response has included a definition of "Buddhist" as an internal state, rather than an entirely external proclamation or demonstration.

Cosmic_dog_magic:  I will need to do some studying to learn more about the concept of openness. Learning to love oneself is something that I am only recently beginning to do, but I am finally beginning to see the importance of it. Thank you for responding and giving me more to think about.


Offline mysticmorn

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Re: "Requirements" to be Buddhist
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2015, 06:52:25 pm »
Kevin, practicing compassion includes compassion towards oneself. So don't beat yourself up, and be kind to yourself.  <3

 :namaste:


Offline Kevin

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Re: "Requirements" to be Buddhist
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2015, 02:25:09 pm »
That's great advice! Thank you.  :)

 


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