Happy New Year!!!!
I thought I would begin the 2012 blogging year with words that have long been an inspiration to me. They come from advice the Buddha gave his disciple, Ananda:
“Therefore, Ananda, be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself. Take yourself to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the Truth as a refuge.” – Mahaparinibbana Sutta
Part of the problem, then as now, was knowing the truth when you found it. The Buddha’s India of 2600 years ago was similar to ours in this respect – it was awash in competing and often conflicting philosophies, teachers, and religions, each claiming special access to the truth.
Once, as the Buddha passed through a village called Keshaputta, the inhabitants, members of a clan called the Kalamas, approached him for advice. The Kalamas were seekers of truth. They were happy to welcome traveling yogis, holy men, and teachers of all sorts, but by the time Buddha arrived, they were thoroughly confused by contradictory teachings from too many “experts.”
In response, the Buddha gave the teaching known as the Kalama Sutta, a fuller version of the advice he later gave Ananda. In his discourse, the Buddha listed ten ways of knowing that are not sufficient to indicate the truth: oral history, tradition, scripture, news, ordinary reasoning, dogmatism, common sense, one’s own opinions, expert opinions, opinions of authorities. Instead, the Buddha asserts our need to test such sources experientially, and trust our own conclusions:
“O Kalamas, do not be satisfied with hearsay or tradition, or any teachings, however they may come to you. Only when you know in yourself when things are wholesome, blameless, commended by the wise, and when adopted and practiced lead to welfare and happiness, should you practice them. When they lead to virtue, honesty, loving-kindness, clarity, and freedom, then you must follow these.” (as quoted in A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield)
A teaching like this can be difficult with its demand for our own freedom and responsibility. The teaching seems to throw us back on our own moment by moment awareness. If we lose our way in the maze of conceptual thought, our own direct experience is one of the few things left to trust.
Most traditions and most of the world’s folklore suggest that we each have a deep way of knowing within us. It goes by many names: Higher Power, Buddha Nature, Christ Consciousness, Holy Spirit, Inner Guru. How and when do we contact this wisdom?
This seems like a very good question to ask at the start of a brand new year.