What do you tell a person who wants to know about Buddhism?
What books do you recommend? What authors?
Should she look into mindfulness first, or jump right into a form of Zen Buddhism or the Tibetan Buddhism of the Dalai Lama?
Belva, my new Internet “pen pal” and former sister-in-law, asked me about it. I suggested any books by Thich Nhat Hahn or by His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Don’t buy a book new. Get one used or from the library, I said being a frugal veteran on a fixed income.
But now I wonder if I should have mentioned Jon Kabat-Zinn and any of his books on meditation. I figured one can’t really understand Buddhism unless one tries to meditate. Meditation is the foundation of most of the Buddhism I have studied. You must work on the preliminaries before moving on to the more complex forms of this philosophy which can also be a religion.
I just read a book on faith by a meditation teacher Sharon Salzburg which introduced me to another aspect of Buddhism. I learned of “fixated hope” and the different versions of faith. Fixated hope is when you hope for a specific outcome, rather than hope and trust for an outcome that would be in the best interest of someone or some situation.
“Bright faith” is a state of “love-filled delight in possibilities.” And then there is “verifying faith” where you don’t accept anything merely because it was passed down by tradition or written in some holy book. “Put it into practice. See for yourself if it is true,” the Buddha advised his followers some 2,600 years ago.
Beliefs come from outside of yourself, Ms. Salzburg said. Faith comes from within. Beliefs cling, while faith lets go.
Lastly, there is “abiding faith,” one that is “bone-deep” and a “lived understanding” of our ideals and how to put those ideals into an action that we know is true. We intend our faith and action to stem from what is called our “Buddha Nature” or what Christians call the “Christ Consciousness.” We try to live each moment of that nature with the two wings of love and awareness, of compassion and wisdom.
Eventually, I can tell Belva, that awareness and unconditional love are both based on non-attachment to everything, every thought and every feeling. Not in a negative, nihilistic way, but without the intrusion of any prejudice or bias, without holding onto an experience or by pushing it away. She would soon learn that nothing is permanent, things are constantly changing and in flux, and that no thing exists in and of itself, but is dependent on some other thing, some other phenomena.
But what else should I say? What other advice should a practitioner offer to a novice on this journey?
What would you say? What would you offer? How did you start working out your own salvation along this path? Please leave a message to share with all of us with beginners’ minds. Thank you!