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April 27, 2011


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"Why can't we have better Buddhist writers?"

Because ordinary mind is never satisfied, and words can never capture original mind.

The Dharma that can be written is not the Dharma. To fault those who try only repeats their error.


My point is that the Buddha’s life is an example of ‘enlightened activity’ which is expressed in the Three Pure Precepts (do no harm, be generous, and awaken) that are “the teaching of the Buddhas”.


Thanks, your response is very interesting. Whether the three pure precepts are progressive or not is a detail of interpretation where we disagree. By progressive I mean refraining from harm is the precept to skillfulness or "right resolves" and skillfulness is the precept to purifying the mind. Purifying the mind is the precept to Nibbana. To me this seems natural and clear as the Buddha said he taught a "graduated path" and evidence for this is to be found throughout his teachings. Whether or not this view is compatible with the Mahayana or not is more or less a sectarian point for which debate is probably futile.

While you offer the Buddha's ministry as an example in order to reinforce Thubten Chodron's statement by way of your emphasis of the bodhisattva path, this flirts with a strange tautology: that the "essence of the Buddha's teachings" is that he taught them. This tautology does not, to my sense of it, have any instructional value when compared with the Buddha's own suggestion that Nibbana itself is the essence of all that he taught. After all, the various teachings have but one flavor. He did not say the flavor is helpfulness.

For me such an emphasis of Nibbana as the true essence of the teaching does not obviate the Bodhisattva path as you seem to think it does. But on the other hand, Thubten Chodron's "essence" can be fulfilled to the letter without even approaching the liberation of all beings whatsoever. Someone could live their lives solely devoted to helping others, perhaps running a soup kitchen in all their waking hours and yet neither be liberated nor liberate any other from samsara. In fact many live such lives, I have met many such people who are admirable in their own ways but are really not Bodhisattvas. Do you see the difference and importance of properly naming the "essence of the Buddha's teachings?" For the Mahayana's part, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra also correctly identifies Nirvana as the essence of the Buddha's teachings.


It seems you see the Three Pure Precepts and the Eightfold Path as “progressive discipline[s]” (I don’t) and ask about a single principle or goal. It seems to me the Buddha was quite clear and when asked, the Buddha said that he taught “the way to the end of suffering”.

There is a further consideration. While awakening may be the goal, it does not seem to be the end! For almost immediately after the Buddha’s Awakening, he considered teaching the Dhamma.

“Then the Blessed One, having understood Brahma's invitation, out of compassion for beings, surveyed the world with the eye of an Awakened One.”

And he did teach. So it seems to me, based on the example of the Buddha’s life, the endless goal is ‘enlightened activity’ which is not “mere morality”.

I, too, wish there were better introductory books on Buddhism. When I'm asked for references, I tend to suggests books from 20 years ago, like Joseph Goldstein's "The Experience of Insight."

I've written a book on using Buddhist principles to help with chronic illness and I've been told that it serves as an excellent introduction to Buddhism. So, I offer that as a possibility to others here: "How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers."

I like my Buddhism straight -- not softened up or dumbed down.

Toni Bernhard

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