Awakening the Mind

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“The whole emphasis of our spiritual practice should be directed to create positive and healthy thoughts and actions.”
-from the Dalai Lama’s book, Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart

I didn’t know much about Buddhism, so I wanted to learn a bit.  In some Christian communities, I’ve observed a surprising amount of fear of learning about and understanding various religions – and why?  Because those who seek to understand will become brainwashed?

I’ve come to find it’s just the opposite.  I’m not exactly a conventional follower of Christianity (I find more value in understanding Jesus’ teachings as a philosophy and way of life rather than “religion,” which unfortunately can sometimes be a dirty word).  But I place great importance on true Christian morals: loving thy neighbor as well as thy enemies, respecting wisdom, giving of yourself.  However, I don’t buy into the disregard and discrediting of the other world religions.

One problem with this is misunderstanding.  Maybe some people feel like they’ve been beat over the head with this talk, but there are still others who don’t seem to grasp the concept.  A fear to learn is irrational and leads to lack of understanding; this leads to more fear, and even hatred, of the unknown.

We like for things to be concrete; then we cannot fear the unknown.  In Buddhism, a great emphasis is placed on overcoming the misconception of self — a notion, a firm idea of the self being inseparable from the body and the mental state.

I think to understand the misconception of self, I would have to read more deeply.  My goal in reading this book was simply to understand more about the basis for and goals of Tibetan Buddhism.  But, the misconception of  self (and further the realization of this “ignorance,” or the development of selflessness) reminds me of something my dad said he learned from his first job at a funeral home: they’re just dead bodies.  They aren’t people.  It’s a body.  Buddhists would take this further – we are separate from our bodies (and our mental components, which are viewed as different from our spiritual components) during life.  This is part of the idea of reincarnation: “If the physical and mental components are the “I,” when they disintegrate at death, the “I” will also disintegrate.  Similarly, just a a person leaves her body behind when she dies, the “I” will also be abandoned.”  Hence is the justification of a separate “I” from the physical and mental parts; the “I” lives on into further lifetimes.  Has anyone seen any research out there (I’m sure there’s plenty) about science versus Buddhism in this regard?  I’d like to read it.

And, in a way, it reminded me of Inception… what one views as real or illusory.  How’s that for a weird connection?

But in reading the Dalai Lama’s book, I was impressed by the openness toward other religions.  He explains that Buddhism is not for everyone, and individuals should respect and appreciate other religions who teach values to others who do not agree with all the doctrines they do.  Religious tolerance can lead to religious intersection, and following this interesting topic, I read Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers by the popular Thich Nhat Hanh.

Although I’m not as worried as Hanh about the impact of certain TV shows, films, and other elements of modern artistic expression, I was drawn in by his simplistic views of living.  I was encouraged by his comparison of Buddhist values and Christian values.  It’s nice to know that we all want the same things – love, compassion, and harmony.  He says we can learn from other religions, and if you keep an open mind, it’s very rewarding to do so.

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