Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Question everything and be a lamp

CC Liu and Seven Dharmachari, Wisdom Quarterly
"Doubt everything. Find your own light" or "Question everything, and be a lamp" - the Buddha (stratoz/flickr.com)
Doubt is a hindrance. What the Buddha actually said was, "Be a lamp (dipa) unto yourself."

There is no need for new teachers for one following the Teaching (Dharma). But teachers of the Teaching are needed. We have to do it, too. It was this way even at the time of the Buddha.

So we take the Dharma as our guide, our teacher, and thereby we become lamps unto ourselves on a quest for truth and complete freedom.

A seeker knows that blind faith misleads. But pernicious skepticism paralyzes. What is one to do? Strike a balance, follow the Middle Way, let us open our hearts but keep our heads.

The Buddha in the Kalama Sutra famously said to the Kalama people, do not accept things because someone has said it, or because it has been handed down, or because it seems logical, or because one favors that view... But when one knows that this good, for one's benefit, for the benefit of many, then accept it.

He was not speaking in general. Buddhism is not a faith of doubt. It is not a "faith" at all as such. And the Dharma is certainly not a message of doubt. It is a message of great hope for those who want to see.

The Enlightened One said of the Dharma that it is inviting. It invites us to come and see for ourselves. Moreover, it invites us to come and investigate.

Whatever is to be accepted that the Buddha said is not accepted because he said it. It is accepted because one has trusted enough to question assumptions and investigate.

The truth itself sets one free, not some divinity. But seeing the truth does not happen by itself. We ourselves must both put forward the effort and let go.

That is the balance -- giving wise attention (yoniso manasikara) to detach from all that is detrimental. Why do we continue our addiction to unwise attention? (Giving mind to what weakens us and sends us astray?) What is the use of clinging to the unprofitable? 

The Path calls us to question, to be a lamp, and to find that radical enlightenment that gos beyond. In the end, we will be standing right here. But we will be completely different in our relation to it with compassion for everyone.

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