Inclusive Nature Of Buddhist Philosophy

by Bhartendu Sood, The Times of India, Aug 23, 2007

New Delhi, India -- When you understand the spirit of Buddhism correctly, you can follow and practise it while living in this workaday world.

In Buddhism, true renunciation doesn’t mean running away from worldly affairs, leaving your family or taking to ochre clothes.

The chief disciple of Buddha, Sariputa, said that you might live in a forest fully devoted to ascetic practices but if your mind is full of impure thoughts and defilements, then you are not practising Buddhism. On the other hand, an ordinary person who is not obser-ving ascetic disciplines but has his mind pure, is practising Buddhism in its true spirit.

A few people may like to lead a lonely life in a quiet place to practise Buddhism, for their own reasons. But it is certainly more praiseworthy and courageous to practise Buddhism living amongst your own people, helping them and to have empathy, mutual love and concern for all.

There is nothing wrong if a man spends some time away from the hurly and burly of life as a part of spiritual and intellectual training to come out stronger; such a person would be of greater help to fellow human beings. But if a man lives all his life in solitude without caring for family and community this is not in keeping with Buddha’s teaching which is based on compassion and service.

What then was the objective of Buddha establishing Sangha and monasteries for monks? This was done for those who were willing to devote their entire lives not for their own spiritual and intellectual development but also to serve others. In the course of time, Buddhist monasteries became not only spiritual centres but also centres of learning and service.

An incident in Buddha's life shows how much importance he gave to family life. A young man, Sigala, used to worship six cardinal points of heaven: east, west, north, south, nadir and zenith - as instructed by his religious head. When he met the Buddha to embrace his religious doctrine, Buddha told the young man that in his religious discipline the six directions were: east - parents, west - wife and children, south - teachers, north - friends, relatives and neighbours. At the bottom were others and at the top, seers.

These six family and social groups are treated as sacred in Buddhism and one could worship them only by performing one's duties towards them. Buddhism accords highest place to parents, like other religions. In Hinduism, parents are referred to as Brahma. Second in the order comes Guru, or teacher. Every pupil is expected to respect and obey his teacher. Third is the sacred relationship between wife and husband. Both husband and wife need to respect each other and express their love and regard by caring and sharing. The Buddha didn't forget to mention that a husband could gift clothes and jewellery to his wife - as a way of demonstrating the fact that he cared for her physical well-being, too.

It is clear that in order to practise Buddhism you are not expected to become a monk or retire to a forest or cave. You can practise it even while living with and caring for family and discharging your duties towards family members. Similarly, the caring and sharing is extended to entire society in which you live. It is through compassion that you evolve, and thereby raise your consciousness.

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