Sunday, September 09, 2007

Realisation: Which Buddhist Tradition Do You Practise?

Being the teacher of many teachings, the Buddha gave no fixed teaching,
though all teachings centre around compassion and wisdom.
- stonepeace

A Buddhist friend asked, "Which Buddhist tradition do you practise?" I always hesitate to give a direct answer - simply because there is really no direct answer that is fair.
The usual answer I give is - I'm an "MTV Buddhist". "M" stands for the Mahayana tradition, "T" for Theravada and "V" for Vajrayana. (Together, these are the three main living Buddhist traditions.) It's kind of an fitting answer because many of my generation lived at the advent of colourful MTV culture - a metaphor for the melting pot of multiple genres of mish-mash "stuff". It was "traditional" to mix and match teachings of various traditions, though there is the danger of it being merely frivolous "window-shopping" . Usually, the next question asked is - "How is it possible not to choose one Buddhist tradition after years of studying and practising Buddhism?"

Yes, one should focus eventually, so as to cultivate deeper. I focus on "tradition X". It's Pure Land Buddhism in my case, as my main practice - but with Theravada meditation foundations, some Vajrayana flavouring, a touch of Zen etc... That's what I meant by "mish-mash"! If you can synthesise various teachings comfortably, why not? But I would still hesitate to pronounce myself as an "X-practitioner" - because there are more to the Buddhist teachings I try to live up to, than only the teachings popularly ascribed specifically to "X Buddhism".
It is perfectly natural that after exploring various Buddhist traditions, one eventually settles on one that one has strong afinity with. But it is also perfectly natural that the more one explores that tradition, one eventually discovers how it is interlinked to aspects of the Dharma found emphasised in other traditions.

As in the Hua-yen (Avatamsaka) teachings of universal interconnectivity, the stucture of the Dharma is a case of intricate "all-in-one" and "one-in-all". As such, it is difficult to pigeon-hole personal Buddhist practice in terms of one single tradition. As a monk I met once mentioned that though he is Theravadin in appearance, he considers himself not so much as "non-sectarian" in outlook, but "pre-sectarian" - adhering to Buddhism before segregation in terms of traditions. Me? "Multi-sectarian" sounds nicely inclusive.
It would seem ridiculously small-minded to miss wonderfully useful teachings that are conventionally outside of the illusory boundaries of one's tradition. Why not keep an open heart and mind, and make the best of whatever you encounter? After all, as the Buddha put it, just as the sea is salty everywhere, the universal "taste" of all his teachings is that of spiritual freedom. -Shen Shi'an

As all Dhama teachings are interconnected, to belittle one teaching is to belittle the Dharma.
- stonepeace

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