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Am I a Buddhist? Buddhism in a Nutshell

I make a distinction between Buddhism, the religion, and what the Buddha seems to have taught.

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This is a short article. Am I a Buddhist? No, not in the sense of following the Buddhist religion.

I personally make a distinction between the historical Buddha, who lived (probably) in India 2500 years ago, and the mythical or religious Buddha, who is the object of the present day Buddhist religion.

Religion is a tricky subject to write about, so I will just say that for me, personally (and this is personal), most of what is done in the Buddhist religion (all that bowing, chanting etc) is quite separate from the meditation the Buddha taught as we have it in the Pali Canon Suttas. I am not negating it, or saying anything negative about it, but simply that it is not for me.

Meditation is for me, however, and as I have explained elsewhere, it is a powerful validation to find my practice and experience of meditation supported by the Pali Canon Suttas.

So what is the essence of the Buddha's message? Well, countless books have been written about that, the best in my opinion is Thanissaro Bhikkhu's book Wings To Awakening, which can be obtained free from the BCBS.

And the Buddha's message in a nutshell? The best one-liner I have found is Leigh Brasington's:

Clean up your act, focus your mind, use your focused mind to see things clearly.

The Buddha himself put his own teaching in a nutshell. He was being hassled to give a summary by someone called Bahiya, and after refusing a couple of times, he finally said:

Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how your should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress (suffering).

[Return to list of Buddhist articles]    [first article] Last revised Jan 18 2004

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