The difference between Buddhism and religion
Buddhism teaches us what dharma is. Dharma is just a word that represents
- The system of life
- The complete truth of life
- The complete awareness of life
- The essence, function, and goal of life
Why did Siddhartha Buddha bring dharma to Earth? Because he knew that there was a consciousness – some human being – who wasn’t greedy, had a good heart, was curious to learn life, and wanted to understand why they were suffering, how to get rid of it, and how to find happiness by understanding rather than by blind belief.
Many people think of Buddhism as a religion. That is completely wrong: Buddhism is not a religion. Buddhism teaches you to never believe anything blindly. If you blindly believe, then you will never have an opportunity to understand; you have already stopped yourself from being able to understand. You don’t want to observe, to doubt, to wonder, to calculate, to use logic, to communicate, to prove, to check. Your blind belief cuts out most of these processes, so you will never be awakened and learn anything.
All religions tell you that you have to believe this or believe that. Buddhism is the opposite of that. After Siddhartha Buddha left the Earth, some humans turned his teaching into a religion because they wanted to control the philosophy to satisfy their greed. People followed them because they are blind and need the comfort of religion. If you use Buddhism in a religious form, you will become a guru, gather a lot of followers, and make a lot of money. True Buddhism is not like this.
We are living in a period of time called Dharma Ending. It doesn’t mean that Buddha and his wisdom will disappear; it’s just that most people won’t care about what he taught. Even though the truth of life has been shared with us, people will be more interested in material things: partying, social relationships, and day-to-day living. No-one will really care to learn about life.
Think about your own life. Most of it has been busy and stressful because of your emotional problems, relationship problems, trying to fulfil your desires, worry about money, worry about your job, being possessive about material things, or chasing fast pleasure.
Even though this is the Dharma Ending Time, that doesn’t mean that there are no consciousnesses that want to learn the truth of life, just a lot fewer than there were when Siddhartha Buddha was alive. The philosophy that Buddhism teaches is not just for you to live. It says you can try to live and be as possessive and greedy as you want, but greed is like a black hole: it can never be filled. Satisfying your desire always comes with many problems.
Most people don’t pay attention to their body until they have an illness or injury. When the problem gets healed, they stop paying attention to it again. They use their body like a slave: ambitious for this, greedy for that, work hard for this, scheme for that.
Everyone knows that you need to take your car to the garage regularly for a service, but few people treat their body that well unless it’s really damaged. If you aren’t aware of your body, how can you be aware of life?
To learn Spirits is the same as learning what life is. It is not just memorising the words; it is applying that philosophy to your life.
Your life is connected to every other life. Why? If I take the universe away, will you survive? No. So directly or indirectly, you are connected to the whole universe. The universe exists for you. That sounds like a big ego trip, but really, it exists for every life, including you. Why? Can you imagine building a house that is not for living? Can you imagine building a car that is not for driving? No. Everything built is for life to use, including the universe.
So you are connected to everything. If you want to understand life, you naturally want to open your heart to see, open your mind to be aware of the complete view of life. It will take a long time, but once you do this, wisdom will begin to grow and you will enter the Gates of Life.
To learn life is to understand everything. You become curious about your body, not just going to the doctor when you’re sick. You learn about your psychology, other people’s psychology, animals’ psychology. What is emotion? How does our human mentality work? What is its purpose? Why do we have the ability to think? This is the first step of your Spirits journey.
You open the first gate and see it is the right way, while the second gate is the wrong way, but your habit of going the wrong way is so strong that you still want to go that way and you will get lost. Then you’ll realise it is the wrong way and that it’s causing you suffering, so you go back to the first gate and learn the right way. But then your habit draws you back to the wrong gate… That back and forth process is called The Training Way or The Fixing Way. That’s the second level of your journey.
After you’ve trained yourself enough, you get rid of your negative character traits, negative thinking, negative intention, negative habits, and blindness. You are used to how you feel, and that’s fine right now, but no matter what you feel, if you don’t try to learn from it, you will always be stuck in that situation. Then what happens? If you always have the same feeling, firstly it’s boring, and secondly others will develop and leave you behind.
Never just accept your feelings for what they are. “That’s my feeling, I feel that way: that’s all there is to it.” That is so blind. Never just accept your feelings and follow them. Ask yourself “Why do I feel this way? Is this feeling correct or not?”
If it’s wrong, figure out why it’s wrong and how to fix it. Does it cause suffering for you? Does it cause suffering for others? Does it cause suffering for you and others? If so, then it’s a stupid, ego way.
If it’s right, learn why. Does it benefit you? Does it benefit others? Does it benefit you and others? Does it benefit you in the present but cause suffering in the future or does it benefit you in the present and the future? When it benefits you and others in the present and the future, then it’s the completely correct way.
But you can’t complete that calculation process for every feeling you experience. Your habit is not strong enough, so you are blindly following your feelings. As it is blind, it is not from wisdom; you will make many mistakes and bring much suffering. When suffering appears, you won’t even know why. You think “I have to handle this suffering: it’s normal.” Eventually you think, “This suffering is emotion. That’s important. Without suffering, there’s no emotion.” That’s bullshit.
Many of you have sad and heavy feelings, and take that as real emotion. No, that is blind emotion. Emotion doesn’t have to be sad or negative; it’s only that way because you are blind, others are blind, and you blindly share your negative feelings with each other, creating suffering. Because you think of emotion and suffering together, you think emotion has to be sad. When you meet a happy person, you think “That’s not emotion.” Actually, you’re mentally unwell if you think like that.
If you refuse happiness, taking the suffering, the worry, and the stress as emotion, then you are already heavily polluted by the negative power. That’s because you have been blindly following your feelings for too long. Emotion should be free and joyful, with nobody controlling you and you controlling nobody. It’s honest, sharing, and joyful, without stupidity. You feel that you care for each other, but you don’t feel that the other people belong to you.
If you let go of all these negative parts and develop new, bright, and free caring without a possessive ego, your emotion will become a purified, spiritual power. Spiritual power is not any other power; it’s when all your bad powers are made pure. It’s like fertiliser: it smells bad, but when you mix it with the earth, it makes your plants grow better, producing sweeter fruit. When used in the right way, stinky fertiliser becomes a positive power.
Use all the negative things you pass through to develop wisdom. If you change suffering into wisdom, then you are wise, just as the farmer makes stinky fertiliser produce sweet fruit. If you stay in that stinky fertiliser, you will always smell bad and suffer greatly. Eventually, your mentality will believe that polluted state is normal and think “Life should be stinky.” That’s ridiculous.
A lot of the time you will put your own experience onto every other life. “I feel this way, so everyone else should feel this way, too.” This blindness will take over more and more of your life and you will never awaken to understand what life is.
Stop your habit of thinking about “I and my”. Think instead about the universe, all life, all the good intention, a caring, open, loving heart towards every life. Be curious to understand the system of life and how it works. When you have developed this habit for a long time, your heart will connect you to the power of the universe.
You can also develop that power if you turn your heart and mind away from your limited ego. Ego is an illusion because it’s always changing. People can influence you to think this is important or that is important, or you can become greedy for one thing but later change your mind and become greedy for something else.
If you understand that the whole system of life is an eternal power, you will not change your mind for this or that, and wisdom will start to open. You will realise that there are many powers inside you that you have never used. The reason you can’t use them is because you haven’t trained, developed, and opened them.
This post is taken from a talk by Forever Wisdom Forest on 27 November 2011 at the dojo in Sydney.