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Buddhism: the self, words, labels, and other practices.

January 8, 2015

Here are some thoughts I’ve come up with.

The impermanent self.

We use the words “self,” “me,” “my,” etc. to navigate through this world and make it possible to communicate with each other. Even though we use these words, we should not get too attached to our current identity or life, because we are impermanent. Life is impermanent.

If we are not so attached to our lives, we can lead lives involving sacrifice and helping others.

For those who believe in reincarnation (not all Buddhists do), we can work in this life to have a better rebirth in the next.

However, we should not be too attached to the idea of having a better rebirth. If we become attached to this concept, we are not living in the present moment. We need to live in the present moment to be fully engaged in this life. It is not possible to be mindful of the present if one focuses on a future rebirth. I think it is best not to think much about reincarnation and future lives.

Words.

Words, although very useful, are imperfect. It is not possible to fully explain or understand truth using words. Some truth can only be realized by committing to the practice of meditation. It is through meditation that the Buddha became enlightened. Yes, words and teachings are important, but meditation is even more important.

Labels.

I’ve been dealing with internal conflict over whether or not I should call myself Buddhist. I shouldn’t worry about that. Labels are temporary. I should not get attached to labels, but use them wisely, in keeping with the teaching of Right Speech.

I will not call myself a Buddhist yet. I have found a Buddhist studies group with a very comprehensive curriculum. The teachings are free and I plan on attending the group for beginners.

Perhaps, in time, once I learn more, and have spent much time in meditation, I will call myself a Buddhist.

However, I will not call myself a Buddhist now, because I have not learned much about Buddhism compared to what there is to learn, and I have not spent much time in meditation.

Buddhism is not enough for me.

As I wrote in a previous post, most Buddhists in Asia not only practice Buddhism, but some other faith as well. Buddhism is a non-exclusive religion. This is wonderful, but hard for Westerners to understand. It seems strange to us that people from other parts of the world practice more than one faith.

The Chinese practice Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The Japanese practice Buddhism of various kinds and Shinto. Many people in Southeast Asia practice Buddhism mixed with local animist folk religions. The Tibetans practice a form of Buddhism that is mixed with an earlier Tibetan tradition called Bon. It is not only alright to practice Buddhism and another religion, but probably even beneficial to do so.

I want to practice Buddhism, and some other spirituality as well. I’m not sure what else it will be. If I can find someone to teach me Shinto, or learn from books, I will adopt some Shinto practices. Perhaps I can incorporate some Native American shamanistic rituals, or modern pagan rituals.

I am not yet sure what I will do, but I feel that my spiritual and emotional needs will not only be met by Buddhism. Like the Asians, I think I will feel best practicing more than just Buddhism.

I have a lot to learn.

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