Many years ago I started a Dhamma Discussion group at the Blue Lotus Temple. The purpose of the group was to open up dialogue about the practice and ask questions about Buddhism. A monastic was always in attendance as a resource to all of us.
At one of these meetings, I posed the question “how many of you consider yourself a Buddhist?”. Some, like myself, answered yes while others answered no. Being fully aware that some of the attendees were either new, or folks who just attend the temple for the benefit of meditation, I was not surprised by the answers. But then the question was posed to the monk who was present, and his answer floored me. He firmly responded that “no, I am not a Buddhist!”.
The foundation of my thinking was rocked, and my first inclination was somewhat outraged. Thinking to myself, if he is not Buddhist, then who is?
The monk who said this was later strongly criticized for doing this, but you can’t really take words back once they’re out there.
It took me a long time after before I finally began to understand what he meant when he said he was not Buddhist. In fact, it might have taken right up until now to fully get it!
One of my most recent posts talks about studying Jainism. And I really do align, in many ways, better with the Jain teachings. But that is not to say that I do not also align strongly with the teachings of Buddha. In fact, I align well with most of Christ’s teachings also!
You see, the human race has had the benefit of so many wonderful teachers who have shown us a path toward peace and acceptance. There is no reason to hold any attachment to one particular teacher. In fact, by doing so I believe we only create more separation and suffering. And hence we have the issue of stating that I am anything. So no, I am not Buddhist, nor Jaina, nor Christian. I am however a student of all these wise and benevolent teachers.
It’s hard not to see how religion has caused so much hostility in the World. People are forced to follow one or the other, lest they be ostracized or worse. And in seeing this, wouldn’t it be much more beneficial to just accept one another as fellow living beings? Understanding that all living beings, all livings things, are born and then die. It is all impermanent, and no clinging to any religion can change this.
As Jesus said so clearly, just love thy neighbor.