The path to becoming a Buddha means to become a Buddhist.
This introduction to Buddhism was written for our American friends.
Most of them have no clue what becoming a Buddhist or, for that
fact, becoming a Buddha means. Buddhism is not a part of our culture.
Most people must overcome many misunderstandings and misconceptions
before they will be willing to become Buddhists.
First of all, there’s the little statues of the Buddha
that we all associate with Buddhism. For all most Americans know,
these statues hold the same significance as a crucifix does for
Catholics. Perhaps, they think, statues are even more important
for Buddhists. Some think that Buddhists believe that some supernatural
powers exist within statues of the Buddha. And in fact, some ineffectual
or, shall we say, untimely Buddhist beliefs do maintain that theory.
We’ll explain more about that later though. For now, it’s just important
to know that statues are an irrelevant element of Buddhism today.
They have no significant place within the Buddhist philosophy.
Another misconception that we Americans hold is that
in order to become a Buddhist, you must first recant all former
beliefs. Buddhism holds that truth is truth, no matter what title
or religious affiliation you may have. To clarify the Buddhist’s
point of view, it’s like the parable of the blind men and the elephant.
This parable is told many different ways, but the gist of it is
this: Three blind men were introduced to an elephant and were helped
to “see” it by feel. One felt the elephant’s leg. Another felt the
elephant’s tail. The third felt the elephant’s side. When asked
to describe an elephant, the first said that an elephant is like
a tree trunk. The second said that it is like a rope. And the third
said it is like a great wall. The point of this story is that all
three blind men were correct in their perception of what an elephant
is like. Yet, by using their descriptions, no one who had never
seen an elephant before could ever identify one.
It is somewhat the same with religion or philosophy.
People get so close to their beliefs that they can’t see the whole
or entirety of life and how to live it. Most of the commonly held
religious beliefs or philosophies have an undeniable element of
truth within them, yet none, other than Buddhism, are capable of
“seeing” the whole truth of life.
What is true is true, and when you begin to practice
Buddhism for yourself, you will see your former beliefs from an
entirely different perspective. You will naturally keep what you
discover to be true and discard what is in error. No one will have
to tell you or force you to do so, either. You see, Buddhism is
as natural as life itself…in fact, it is Life itself.
The final major misconception that many people hold
about Buddhism is that the religion is contained within temples,
priests, or organizations. There is no need for you to join a temple,
follow a priest, or join an organization in order to begin to correctly
practice Buddhism. The purpose of this writing is to enable you
to begin practicing Buddhism on your own. Since a major element
of practicing Buddhism is that you carry out a lifelong quest for
the truth, you will continue to unfold truth after truth, not only
about Buddhism, but also about your life.
It is true and quite provable that as you practice Buddhism
you will naturally learn more and more about yourself and about
others. Not only will you learn the “good, the bad, and the ugly”
about people, you will begin to change and develop yourself right
from the very start of your practice. This is the reason we call
it a path to Buddhahood. That term is a little misleading, but it
is a start in the right direction.
What really happens as you practice Buddhism is that
you become more and more aware of the Buddhahood you have within
yourself. Buddhahood is there in its entirety at this very moment,
but because we are unable to perceive it without Buddhist practice,
we doubt and disbelieve that it even exists. So you might say that
the path to Buddhahood we are referring to really means the gradual
revelation of the truth of Buddhahood within your life. This Buddhahood
is very powerful and you are able to “plug in” to it right from
the very start.
It’s unbelievably fortunate that you are reading this
now with the opportunity that this writing contains for you to unleash
the best that anyone could ever imagine. It’s not too much to say
that you will actually discover the meaning of life and, more specifically,
the meaning of your life.
Let’s get started. All you need is an open, seeking
mind, and a willingness to try practicing Buddhism, Then you will
be on your way to enlightenment.