CTR and Thich Nhat Hanh on What is and isn’t Buddhist Practice.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Dec 1, 2010
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What ain’t!

Recently I have been made insanely aware of what Chogyam Trungpa referred to as the “Three Lords of Materialism.”  That is to say that in some more recent discussions I have had with people about Buddhism I have become painfully aware of our tendency to relate to all the bells and whistles of exotic foreign culture, and in doing so ignore the core of the Buddha’s message.

Chogyam Trungpa suggested that the lord of speech “used the intellect in relating to the world.”  When relating to the spiritual path it is unfortunate that all too often people  remain at a safe distance by intellectualizing the practice to death. We create all of these complex ideas and concepts that have no real foundation in our lives. Instead of relating to the precision of the present moment; we relate to our musty  ideologies. This enables the ego to avoid the “ultimate disappointment” that is enlightenment, as it keeps the path of transformation on the back burner and the ego out of harms way.

What is…

If there is anyone in this world who is simple and direct it is Thich Nhat Hanh. I do not always like this style, but at times it hits the mark. Well, one of those times is now!

So here is an excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “No death, No fear” that with simplicity and precision outlines the Buddhist path. Enjoy!

“All authentic practices of the Buddha carry within themselves three essential teachings called the Dharma Seals. These three teachings of the Buddha are impermanence, no-self, and nirvana. Just as all-important legal documents have the mark or signature of a witness, all genuine practices of the Buddha bear the mark of these three teachings.
If we look in the first Dharma Seal, impermanence, we see that it doesn’t just mean that everything changes. By looking into the nature of things we can see that nothing remains the same for even two consecutive moments. Because nothing remains unchanged from moment to moment, it therefore has no fixed identity or permanent self. So in the teaching of impermanence we always see the lack of an unchanging self. We call this ‘no-self.’ It is because things are always transforming and have no self that freedom is possible.
The third Dharma Seal is nirvana. This means solidity and freedom, freedom from all ideas and notions. The word ‘nirvana’ literally means ‘the extinction of all concepts.’ Looking deeply into impermanence leads to the discovery of no self. The discovery of no self leads to nirvana. Nirvana is the Kingdom of God.”

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About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


10 Responses to “CTR and Thich Nhat Hanh on What is and isn’t Buddhist Practice.”

  1. yogi tobye says:

    What is that part inside me that is the same now as it was when I was a child?

    It confuses me…

  2. BenRiggs says:

    Thich Naht Hanh actually address this in the book. He says You are not the same… But you are not different either. The concepts of same and different pose the problem. We just are or are beyond comparing ourselves to who we were when we were a child or at other the points in our life. The past does not define us. Right now defines us, and right now never stops moving so putting your finger on the me is like herding cats!

  3. BenRiggs says:

    I do not think the wording is unfortunate… I do believe it is very direct- No Self. However not like (as you point out) nothingness, but rather not solid and/or static. Flowing, without beginning and therefore never ending…

  4. BenRiggs says:

    Flowing does not imply time unless you are saying something flows from point a to point b.
    Who is it that says thing "a" or thing "b" is no the self as you go through the aggregates?

  5. BenRiggs says:

    The problem as far as flow implying time is a problem imposed by semantics and not reality.
    I am familiar with these teachings… I am not asking the teachings- I am asking you!
    I have tons of books; if I wanted to read them I wouldn't be talking to you… There are alot of arguments about what the sutras meant regarding this point and many others. I have heard arguments suggesting "no-self" was nothing more than a way of dealing with the caste system.
    (if I understand you properly) I do not agree with the notion that there is some "thing" in between the ears that says, "I am not my job, body, or whatever." Experience suggests that even this "thing" changes and therefore is no self. This is so true that I would tell the Buddha this to his face!

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