May 14, 2010
For about the last seven years Tricycle has been sending out a daily email called Daily Dharma. Each Daily Dharma email provides a short teaching and links to a longer article from the Tricycle Wisdom Collection. Since its inception, Daily Dharma has been one of our most popular features.
For today’s Daily Dharma we chose a quote from Hakuun Ryoko Yasutani Roshi, which was taken from an early interview with Philip Kapleau Roshi. In it, Yasutani Roshi (himself a figure of some controversy) unequivocally states that Buddhism is in fact a religion. We knew it would elicit some strong reactions and it did (particularly among those that follow our Facebook page), but we did not foresee receiving a response as insightful and well written as the one below by author and security specialist Michael Jaquish. We thank him for this contribution, and welcome all of our readers' responses to Daily Dharma as well.
Here is the Daily Dharma,
Buddhism has often been described as both a rational religion and a religion of wisdom. But a religion it is, and what makes it one is this element of faith, without which it is merely philosophy. Buddhism starts with the Buddha's supreme enlightenment, which he attained after strenuous effort. Our deep faith, therefore, is in his enlightenment, the substance of which he proclaimed to be that human nature, all existence, is intrinsically whole, flawless, omnipotent-in a word, perfect. WIthout unwavering faith in this the heart of the Buddha's teaching, it is impossible to progress far in one's practice.
- Hakuun Ryoko Yasutani Roshi, from "Life with a Capital L " (Summer 1993)
Michael Jaquish's response,
I disagree with this author (Roshi) in today’s Tricycle message. I take issue with his statement that The Buddha claimed human nature is “intrinsically whole, flawless, omnipotent-in a word, perfect”. What The Buddha meant is that we can become perfect (enlightened) by following The Path out of the darkness of ignorance, unawareness and attachment to impermanent things. This is why all Buddhists take refuge in the path (the Dharma). Once we reach enlightenment (awareness of our true spiritual nature and connection to all beings) we destroy the illusion that happiness can come from impermanent things, situations and relationships that is cast by our ego. At that point we see the universe the way it really is. In other words, it is our spiritual nature that is perfect, not our human nature. Our human nature is ruled by the ego and that is what causes suffering. The ego does not exist in our spiritual nature.
The process of growth that leads to such awareness is a step-by step process that re-programs the mind to break the illusion of reality and allows us to see truth. To say that this is an act of faith is similar to saying that a body builder must have faith that he will develop a perfect body over years of self-discipline and training. Yes, this requires a degree of ‘faith’ he can accomplish his goal but is this really faith in the sense of believing in the unseen like Christians who believe in a creator God no one has ever seen? I don’t think so. Just as we can look around and see the results of years of hard work in body builders who win competitions every day, we can look around and see great spiritual teachers who have attained enlightenment through similar effort. Buddhism is not a religion of faith because Buddhists do not worship any unseen deity. Buddhism is a philosophy that involves study, discipline and focus that leads to understanding.
Michael is the author of A Monk Without A Monastery, The Purpose Of Life & Where Did We Come From?
See Michael's books at http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=1185267