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This stack exchange actually lead me towards the path of finding a lama and becoming a Buddhist. Thank You!

This got me thinking, what would you tell sentient beings new to the path of Buddhism? Is there something you wish you knew when you started down it? Conversely is there something that could've been better explained now that you have been pursuing the path?

EDIT: Given the great responses thus far I want to open this up to all forms of Buddhism. Not just Tibetan, I think there are valuable learnings in all approaches.

  • 3
    that it's OK to ask for a chair – user2512 Jul 8 at 13:12

10 Answers 10

19

what would you tell sentient beings new to the path of Buddhism?

Be sceptical towards a strangers advice on the internet.

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  • 7
    Well played. ^_^ – CarterMan Jul 6 at 20:25
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I am a Tibetan Buddhist, and have been for about 50 years.
I don't really know if I can help with that question - but maybe so. Here are some things that might of use to a beginner.

  • Learn to develop loving-kindness towards everything and everyone in the past, present and future, without exception.

  • Recognise that Karma is action - the cause – (NOT the effect), and that it represents most of our practice. When someone says "she's got good karma", from a Buddhist perspective that would mean "she's a good practitioner" - not because of her previous lives, but because of what she is doing in this life.

  • Karma means: every action has consequences - even the slightest mental action. Because actions have consequences, we must vigilantly exercise responsibility and take ownership of our behaviour.

  • Emptiness: Do not waste your time reading many different books, or learning Sanskrit words, or philosophy, for this. Likewise, do not try to understand it from sutra, or root texts. Everyone writes about it, but most authors have their own point of view, which misses the point. For instance, if you are Gelug, then you can get all you need from a single text: The insight chapter of the Lam Rim Chenmo. But in the end, emptiness is any view that:

    1. negates phenomena as a basis of craving and

    2. does not conflict with karma (see above).

      That is all. When, while meditating on karma, your understanding of emptiness is improved; and, while meditating on emptiness, your understanding of karma is improved – then you are probably getting it right.

      From a strict standpoint, you cannot really engage in Buddhist compassion until you understand emptiness: This is because, until you recognise the truth of all-pervasive suffering (the consequence of craving (tṛ́ṣṇā / སྲེད་པ), via self-grasping) and how it is rooted in ignorance, you will not be able to recognise the most insidious and corrupting suffering that lies at the base of all sentient beings. So it is important to get guidance from your teacher on this subject at some point.

  • Tibetan Buddhism is inclusive Mahayana. Be vigilant against criticising other schools, other traditions (such as the Theravada), other religions, or their practitioners.

  • At some point, you will be thinking of taking initiation. It is really important that your bodhicitta and insight are well established before you enter the path of mantra: There is no hurry. Until you are able to perceive everything and everyone without exception as completely pure, in the nature of Buddha, it's probably better to wait.

  • Remember that every buddhist text is advice, not doctrine. Even with the writings of your own teacher, you should feel empowered to disagree - but be ready to argue your point with clarity and insight.

  • Make sure you spend some time every day meditating - and especially developing calm-abiding / shi-né. Even if it's a token minute for the sake of continuity.

  • Do not feel that you have to accept all the actions of your teacher as pure. This is a common mistake which leads to great difficulty later on. You will find that many talk about their teacher as being a Buddha - but this is to do with tantra, where everything in the universe - even dogshit - is Buddha, and has nothing specific to do with your teacher.

  • Always work to be honest with yourself, and with others: Learning to be a beginner is really important.

  • The only time you have to practice is right now. Every single moment is a one-time-only opportunity to practice. Whenever you are being introduced to a belief or idea, ask yourself – how does this inform me in my practice? What I mean is "how does it make me a better practitioner, or a better person?" For instance, does it really inform us to know whether there are blue flowers in Tushita?

  • We take responsibility - we don't externalise to gods, or buddhas, or parents, or governments.

  • One way to test if your practice is working for you is to do with empowerment. If you feel you are less empowered by your practice, you need to change your practice, or your relationship with your practice.

  • Oh, and you don't need to wear different clothes, or hang a mala around your neck, or get a MANI tattoo, or change your diet (other than alcohol); don't mistake the external trappings that you will see many of your fellow Buddhists adorned with: Being a buddhist is in the mind, not in the cloth.

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7

Great question.

There are many things but if i could only choose only one thing; i would advice to be more friendly, polite, tolerant and to avoid confrontational speech whilst learning in general. I wish i had enough wisdom to be more tactful, restrained & diplomatic.

The controversies, theory and practical aspects of the teaching one can figure out but one can't take back the things one regrets saying.

I think it's more important to be right than getting along with people but they are not mutually exclusive. One's peers in the Sangha are here for the long term and are not going anywhere, so by being friendly one will save oneself and others from a lot of frustration.

As a close second i would advice to be more respectful of my own practice by being jealously protective of what has been won.

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  • 5
    On a similar subject one of my first managers told me, "It's not enough to be right" (in the workplace that was, where it's important to work with others). Also I read a sign once on a bus, "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice." – ChrisW Jul 6 at 19:17
  • Exactly, unfortunately this lesson has probably cost me more than i will ever comprehend. – deadmanposting Jul 6 at 21:29
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Read and learn with virtue as your guide. The vast literature and branches of Buddhism are not easy to swim through it can sink an inquisitive mind.

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Nothing, the Path is to be walked - not skipped forward.

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1

I started out later in life with Buddhism, originally coming from a different religious background.

However, I know people who were born into Buddhist families, and understand their kind of exposure to Buddhism.

They had Buddha idols in their homes, to which they may offer water, flowers, fruits, incense etc. and they chanted the standard hymns. They treated the Buddha as a deity to pray to - their version of God.

They had little knowledge of the original teachings of the Buddha, and only thought that they needed to do good things and stay away from the bad, in order to have a good rebirth. The good things of course, included donations to temples and food offering to monks.

When they think of rebirth, they have the idea in mind that the exact same consciousness wanders throughout one's life, experiencing things, and then continues in another body, which is false, according to the Buddha.

They also had superstitions like going to a Thai Buddhist temple on Vesak Day and putting their car keys and home keys into a tray to be chanted upon by the monk for blessings, and have holy water sprinkled onto them using a small broom.

I know you are interested in Tibetan Buddhism. This is ok for me, but I find certain practices there superstitious too, like trances where the Dharma protectors occupy mediums to give blessings and discourses.

When you understand at least a significant part of the original teachings of the Buddha based on the Early Buddhist Texts - the practices above do not make sense.

The Buddha in his own time, criticized the people around him for having superstitions like bathing in a river to cleanse oneself of sins, or thinking that funeral rites will cause the soul to go to heaven. He also explicitly forbade his monks from practising astrology, palmistry, divination, fortune telling etc. - which he called "animal arts". Ironically, millennia later, people professing religion in the name of the Buddha have similar superstitions.

So, on behalf of them, I wish people would study and understand the original teachings of the Buddha, rather than being held back by superstitions and ignorance of the teachings.

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  • -1 because this seems to be an answer about what you wish they knew. :-) – ChrisW Jul 7 at 10:43
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    -1 because you are talking about what you are not. Do you not think it would be more helpful to talk from a position of what is shared, rather than your personal notions of what is different? In general, we should be talking in the language of the audience - finding a way of helping them in the path that they choose: To make a judgement against their path implies that you have access to greater insight which, frankly, is arrogant. Even Gautama Buddha used the language, thoughts, and ideas of his audience. – Konchog Jul 8 at 9:30
  • @Konchog I don't understand you. I'm not against any Buddhist tradition. I'm only commenting against superstitious practices which has crept into all Buddhist traditions, the likes of which was criticized by Gautama Buddha himself 2500 years ago. These practices were probably imported from religious traditions outside of Buddhism. I have a deep respect for Tibetan Buddhism and have nothing against it. Some aspects of Tibetan Buddhism like Dzogchen are very advanced. In a way, this topic is personally related to me too, as my previous religious background was troubled with superstitions too. – ruben2020 Jul 8 at 9:58
  • @ruben2020, I understand that you don't understand - and I would like to go through it with you but it is recommended not to use comments for a discussion. But in brief, paragraphs 7,8 and 9 only indicate your own misunderstanding of the Himalayan traditions. The differences between Buddhist mantra practice and the EBT are almost entirely on emphasis. For instance, with the tisikkhā the emphasis in the HT is placed on anattā rather than all the tilakkhaṇa when practicing adhipaññā-sikkhā. (Of course the tilakkhaṇa are accepted - but within adhipaññā-sikkhā the emphasis is anattā). – Konchog Jul 8 at 14:13
  • @ruben2020, there are various reasons for the emphasis: For instance, many non-Buddhist samaṇa traditions accept both dukkha and anicca - but only Buddhists assert anattā. It is said that, in the end, it is the recognition of anattā that actually cuts the root to samsara; that the recognition of dukkha/anicca follow from anattā but anattā does not follow from dukkha/anicca. If you see my answer above, you will see that the HT does not differ from the EBT regarding the strong relationship between anattā and karma. – Konchog Jul 8 at 14:32
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  1. Reciting and memorizing everyday is required for the enlightenment in 7 years.
  2. Concentration meditation everyday is required for the enlightenment in 7 years.
  3. Most important! Tipitaka Memorizer who enlightened Nibbāna and attained Jhāna is required for the enlightenment in 7 years.

Reciting and memorizing

I was born in a child-center study-tradition. Everybody around me taught me to understand first, don't recite and memorize.

Anti-memorizing tradition confuse me when I start learning Tipitaka because many words lost from my memory in reading. Reading and translation broke the sequence of Tipitaka.

The sequence follow to the Pali is important. Nowadays, people already forget it because we were not born in reciting tradition like Buddha was.

We learned Dhamma in our own way and Dhamma is hard, so we act like we are Einstein who can enlighten e=mc^2 by ourselves.

I compare Tipitaka to e=mc^2 because Tipitaka is perfect and complex like that.

When the time gone by, we, who neither memorize any Nikāya nor even a small book like KhuddakaPatha with understanding in before&after words, say "Tipitaka is not unity. Commentary is wrong. We should cut some part off. We know whole Tipitaka." While most Tipitaka Memorizers say "Tipitaka is unity by this way. Commentary view can keep Tipitaka's structure to be unity. No need to cut any part off Tipitaka if we memorize and understand before and after words enough because the conflicts will be decoded then we will know how Tipitaka and Commentary can be unity together.

Concentration meditation everyday

I've written "I compare Tipitaka to e=mc^2 because Tipitaka is perfect and complex like that", so you can't understand through insight meditation and tipitaka, if you have not strong enough wholesome-mind.

My meditation teacher began insight meditation 10+ years after me. He already won the prize now, while I still be the concentration meditation beginner.

So if I can tell myself in the past, I will shout out "Do the concentration meditation everyday every breath, man!"

The best teacher is Tipitaka Memorizer who enlightened Nibbāna and attained Jhāna

Your teacher define how long you have to do the meditation, fast or slow. And you can die every moment before enlightenment, so open your mind to the Tipitaka Memorizer who enlightened Nibbāna and attained Jhāna. He can use his experience and knowledge to let you enlighten in 7 years.


I have many evidence from the Pali Canons to prove what I've written above.

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That the end is the beginning. In 2 senses:

  • The end is the beginning of everything else

but more what I had in mind

  • When you reach somewhere, you realise you always were there. There is no movement. There is only belief in movement. All the journey teaches, is to shed what you need not carry, and realise that what you are on that day, is also what you are now, before beginning.
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This answer to same op question, was cut and paste from my blog article where html formatting makes it much more readable: broken telephone: why Buddhists should study EBT (early buddhist teachings), memorize and recite passages daily

from wikipedia:

Chinese whispers (Commonwealth English) or the telephone game (American English) [1] is an internationally popular children's game [2] in which players form a line, and the first player comes up with a message and whispers it to the ear of the second person in the line. The second player repeats the message to the third player, and so on. When the last player is reached, they announce the message they heard to the entire group. The first person then compares the original message with the final version. Although the objective is to pass around the message without it becoming garbled along the way, part of the enjoyment is that, regardless, this usually ends up happening. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly from that of the first player, usually with amusing or humorous effect. Reasons for changes include anxiousness or impatience, erroneous corrections, the difficult-to-understand mechanism of whispering, and that some players may deliberately alter what is being said to guarantee a changed message by the end of the line.
The game is often played by children as a party game or on the playground. It is often invoked as a metaphor for cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumours or gossip spread,[1] or, more generally, for the unreliability of human recollection or even oral traditions.

AN 2.20

“Dveme, bhikkhave, dhammā saddhammassa sammosāya antaradhānāya saṃvattanti.
“These two things, monks, lead to the decline and disappearance of the true teaching.

Katame dve?
What two?

Dunnikkhittañca padabyañjanaṃ attho ca dunnīto.
The words and phrases are misplaced, and the meaning is misinterpreted.

Dunnikkhittassa, bhikkhave, padabyañjanassa atthopi dunnayo hoti.
When the words and phrases are misplaced, the meaning is misinterpreted.

Ime kho, bhikkhave, dve dhammā saddhammassa sammosāya antaradhānāya saṃvattantī”ti.
These two things lead to the decline and disappearance of the true teaching.

“Dveme, bhikkhave, dhammā saddhammassa ṭhitiyā asammosāya anantaradhānāya saṃvattanti.
These two things lead to the continuation, persistence, and enduring of the true teaching.

Katame dve?
What two?

Sunikkhittañca padabyañjanaṃ attho ca sunīto.
The words and phrases are well organized, and the meaning is correctly interpreted.

Sunikkhittassa, bhikkhave, padabyañjanassa atthopi sunayo hoti.
When the words and phrases are well organized, the meaning is correctly interpreted.

Ime kho, bhikkhave, dve dhammā saddhammassa ṭhitiyā asammosāya anantaradhānāya saṃvattantī”ti.
These two things lead to the continuation, persistence, and enduring of the true teaching.”

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I wish I had understood that enlightenment is not a destination, or an event, but that the training itself is enlightenment.

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