“Belief is not important. Don’t believe what I say just because I said it.” ~ Buddha
I’ve always been a religious person.
However, I approached religion in all the wrong ways. Five years ago, Buddhism made me realize the importance of understanding religion.
Buddhism has taught me that examination is more important than believing. Since we’re blessed with wisdom, we should use it to investigate the facts and ground our knowledge. When I was religious, I didn’t use my wisdom to examine or to put my religion into action—I just believed. But belief is not enough.
Many of us have become disillusioned with religion. We’re also convinced that religion doesn’t work. Lama Yeshe asserts that religion does work, and it can offer us the solution to our problems—but only if approached correctly.
We don’t often approach religion appropriately. We consider it at only a superficial level; we don’t understand its essence.
I’ve had interactions with many religious people who aren’t spiritual. They know religious teachings by heart, but their actions in everyday life contradict their religion’s teachings. (They remind me of myself when I was solely concerned with reciting religious texts.) I also know people who are so busy analyzing the teachings that they miss the whole essence.
Lama Yeshe explains that if we focus on some lofty idea—like asking who the Buddha is or who is God—our spiritual journey becomes a hallucination. We separate ourselves from Buddha, God or whoever, and try to explain their existence. Explanations keep us busy instead of focusing on examining the teachings. According to Lama Yeshe, that’s the very nature of the dualistic mind, which only creates more problems.
Faith alone doesn’t solve problems. Again, those same people I know have faith in their religion, but their personal problems are not eradicated. At first, I thought there was something wrong with religion. But through Lama Yeshe’s teachings, I’m convinced that no religion is wrong if rightly adopted. According to Lama Yeshe, what helps with the eradication of problems is understanding how knowledge-wisdom works.
Belief based on understanding is good, but blind faith is harmful. If our beliefs are based on misconceptions, they can be easily destroyed. People with blind faith consider themselves religious, but the truth is, they might be spiritually weak, because they don’t understand how their minds work. When we understand how our minds work, we’ll understand what’s preventing us from being happy.
Lama Yeshe says that whether we are religious or not, it is crucial to know how our own minds work. All it takes is a tiny external thing changing or going wrong, and within a few seconds, we are completely upset. This was precisely me. I was a firm believer in my religion, but I never examined it or put it into action. This is how I’ve come to the realization that mere belief isn’t enough.
So if religion isn’t an institution of faith—what is it?
Religion should be the pursuit of self-realization, not the accumulation of facts. Yeshe goes on to explain that there are many people who know the holy books by heart, but they’re not good people.
Religion should help us understand what is happening in the here and the now, and help us comprehend our own experiences.
In other words, religion means understanding our own minds, instead of grasping at intellectual knowledge. Our minds need to be purified, and religion can act as a tool—the way.
Nonetheless, as Lama Yeshe says, we don’t have to believe in something specific—like God or Buddha—to make the purification. Purification takes place through method and wisdom.
That said, the secret to practicing religion—and to understanding our own psyche—is to apply a method. A method is the most important aspect of any religion. What matters is how to put this method into practice. With time, our way of practicing becomes natural. Consequently, we understand our own mind.
If we don’t have a method, we can’t bring religion into our everyday life—religion will remain an idea in books.
After using the method, we need to use our wisdom to check if the teachings in the holy books fit our own psychological makeup. If they do, we can adopt them. But if they don’t, then we need to put them aside and investigate another idea.
Lama Yeshe suggests that if our religion isn’t helping us solve our problems, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with our religion. Perhaps there’s something wrong with our point of view or our own understanding.
We all have different opinions and experiences—therefore, we must make the right effort to understand religion and use the correct methods to practice it.
**Source: Becoming Your Own Therapist by Lama Yeshe
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: elephant archives; Instagram @blubuddhabody
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina