Now and then on SunSpace we like to share a great post from elsewhere in the blogosphere. Today, we’re please to share this one, from author Marguerite Manteau-Rao and her fine blog, Mind Deep.
The Washington Post just published an interesting piece from Chade-Meng Tan, “Hahayana Buddhism,” on the merits of tapping from the various schools of Buddhism:
“Theravada teachings form both the theoretical and practical foundations of my Buddhist practice, from which I became able to understand and appreciate the other schools of Buddhism. Theravada is my root, my foundation. This is the body of my practice. The body of my practice is Virtue, Concentration, and Wisdom.
[. . .] It [Tibetan Buddhism] has awed and inspired me. It has given me my Compassion practice. It inspired me to take my Bodhisattva Vows. Vajrayana is my thunder, my power. This is the heart of my practice. The heart of my practice is Emptiness and Compassion.
I benefited tremendously from the simple directness of Zen Buddhism, which is, in my opinion, the greatest of all the Mahayana schools. True wisdom is simple and full of lightness and humor. Zen embodies it. Just be. Enlightenment is the perfection of just being. Zen is my no-self (无我). This is the soul of my practice. The soul of my practice is. Just is.”
My friend Bill Behrman, sent me the article, thinking it would speak to me:
“When he [Chade-Meng Tan] talks about open-minded Americans who seek out the best elements from all three yanas, I thought of you.”
It is true, I have been doing my share of Dharma searching . . . Starting with Theravada, my home base, just like Meng. This is the school of Buddhism that speaks to me most, at least for now, and why I have such a fondness for Insight Meditation Center, my local sangha, and the primary teacher there, Gil Fronsdal.
A few months ago, inspired by my involvement with Zen Hospice Project and the wonderful zen teachers I met there, I decided to open up my horizons, and signed up for San Francisco Zen Center’s one year EPP Training Program. I was drawn by the possibilities of a residential sangha, and also the aesthetics of Zen. Half-way through my first day at Zen Center, I realized this was not the place for me. While my mind was intrigued, my heart was elsewhere. I left with a renewed sense of connection with IMC.
This week, I will be flirting with the Tibetan school. Bill Behrman’s enthusiasm for Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s Joy of Living training, as well as hearing Spirit Rock teacher Guy Armstrong describe (22′ into talk 1 of 4) his appreciation for the master’s embodied emptiness, convinced me to sign up for Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s retreat this coming weekend. I have some mixed feelings about it. Am I showing open mind, or am I distracting myself from deeper practice? The French expression “Elle ne sait pas a quel saint se vouer” — She doesn’t know which saint to devote to — comes to my mind.
Thinking about Chade-Meng’s argument some more, I realize each tradition has already within it, all that is needed for awakening. Taking Theravada for instance, beautiful teachings abound there about emptiness, and compassion, and loving kindness. No need to go outside. Same with the bare bone simplicity of Zen mentioned by Chade-Meng. Aesthetics set aside, Theravada can be just as satisfying as Zen in that respect. More important than the tradition, is the teacher’s level of progress along the path, and his understanding and transmission of the original teachings as taught by the Buddha.
I can spend the rest of my life looking for a “better” tradition, a “better” eacher. Or I can stay where I am, which is a perfectly fine place, and engage, day after day, moment after moment, in the challenging path of practice. With the support of my existing sangha, and my teacher.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on the topic. What has your own spiritual journey been? Are you “married” to one tradition, or do you move freely from one to the other? Do you have a primary teacher, or several teachers?