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What Do I Need To Do?

Question:

Hello, I am a student, and I grew up in a Extremely Catholic home and have found that I do not agree with the Catholic way of life but more of the Buddhist ideology of Karma. I was wondering if you can give me any guidance as to be more of a Buddhist and a better one. What do I need to do?? Thank you for your time

Answer:

Some people look at Buddhism as a religion. Others see it as a philosophy. Most, however, will agree that it is first and foremost a practice; it’s something that you do. It’s a way of life.

I’ll recommend three things that I think are essential to calling yourself a Buddhist. I will point out that “Buddhist” and “Catholic” are just labels and concepts, and should not be taken too seriously. There are people who live their lives following the five precepts who have never heard the words “precept” or even “Buddhism.” Here are my three things:

1. Follow the Five Precepts – I think this is the big one. I have a link below to read more on the details, but essentially, they tell us don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t have inappropriate sex, and don’t get intoxicated. These are the general rules that the vast majority of Buddhists try very hard to follow. There is always some debate on the interpretation of some of the meanings (is caffeine an intoxicant? What is “inappropriate” sex?), but the overall rules are generally accepted.

2. Learn more and continue studying – I believe that more than any other belief system, Buddhism appeals to “thinkers.” Buddhists concentrate on ideas and situations and try to use logical thought to come to conclusions. Unlike Christianity, which has only one “must read” book, there is no single set of documents that claim perfect truth. It’s a good idea to read from a wide variety of authors and thinkers, both inside and outside the world of Buddhism and apply these ideas to what you already know. There is a definite sense of “continuing education” within Buddhism. It’s easy to learn the basics, but there is so much more to learn once you get comfortable with the foundations.

3. Meditate – In our busy society, this one doesn’t get enough emphasis. The Buddha wasn’t born enlightened, he got there through meditation, and so can you. Set aside a certain amount of time a few days a week and just sit quietly, trying your best to empty your mind. Once you get into the habit, learn more about meditation and try various techniques to see what works best for you. Then it’s practice, practice, practice!

These are my choices. #2 and #3 above aren’t strictly necessary, but I believe them to be very important. You’ll notice I didn’t mention any rituals; some might consider them necessary, but I don’t. Others will probably add their own ideas at the bottom of this article, so read on!

Read about the precepts here:
The Five Precepts: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1153
My audio show on “The Foundations of Buddhism” http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1156
And a search for “Precepts” brings up many other posts: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/?s=precepts

Special Guided Meditation Audio Show: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1048

5 comments to What Do I Need To Do?

  • Great Answer. Can only add to the list “Love all Beings Unconditionally.”

    Thanks!

  • A while back I was looking for answers to this same question and found some good ones in Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse’s excellent book “What Makes You Not a Buddhist” — http://www.amazon.com/dp/1590304063/?tag=askdrarca-20

  • Z

    For me I believe I practice buddhism everyday- based on the 4 noble truths, I reevaluate and apply it as often as possible. As I encountered people that gave me spiritual perspectives (from any source), or was introduced to various applications that fall in line with my perception of buddhism, i found i believed myself to be buddhist more and more – but it is just a label

    – I love the dalai lama’s statement: my religion is simple, my religion is kindness. For me I say it as: all beings should live our lives happily and not ‘step on each others toes’ -and if necessary, do so as little as possible.

    I recite the four noble truths (i think that’s what its called) regularly.

    Compassion:
    All beings desire happiness and freedom from suffering – (we are all just the same and can understand and empathise with any beings’ desire to be happy – as we all wish for the same happiness and freedom from suffering).

    Equanimity:
    All beings have equal right to pursue their life and seek happiness and freedom from suffering – no being is superior or inferior to another.

    Love:
    We can all support and embrace each others’ differneces with love and care – that of a mother’s or brother’s (so to speak) innate care and supportive inclusive nature.

    Joy:
    May all beings experience joy as often as possible (I utlise the nature of freedom, play, laughter, dance, enjoyable creativity – as my realistic examples .

    (this is my basic use of those four values that were introduced to me very long ago)

    These are values I consoliated through Buddhism, they have made me a happier person and a greater asset to the people I meet and the people I love and whom love me. I utilise these (along with deep thought and reflection) to place issues of dissastfaction within a scope of something greater that will allow the world and its occupants to flow more light and free. In general, with this in mind – my mind is more often at peace, with a firm foundation for that peace, thus minimalising issues and generally propelling me towards sustainable joy.

    (Also it’s worth mentioning that embracing BUddhism allowed me to reaccept my jewish roots that I had turned my back on).

    Good luck and enjoy the voyage 🙂

  • Z:

    Just to clarify, those aren’t the Four Noble Truths. What you have listed is a form of something called the Metta Sutta

  • Ali

    Ouch! Buddhists have many lists, but this one is just made up, it has nothing to do with the Brahma Viharas. The 4 Noble Truths tell about suffering, so that’s something completely different. Here they are, the basis of Buddhism itself:
    – life is always interconnected with suffering
    – suffering has its causes
    – there is a cure for suffering
    – this cure is called the Eightfold Path.

    So there you got your answer what Buddhists got to do: follow this path. Note that if you follow only the precepts and meditation, you left out 6 out of 8 steps of this path.

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