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Lions Roar : November 2013
But you don’t have to take anything on faith. There is no received wisdom in Buddhism, nothing we must accept purely on the basis of somebody else’s spiritual authority. The Dalai Lama has said that Buddhism must give up any belief that modern science disproves. The Buddha himself famously said, “Be a lamp unto yourselves,” and told his students they must test every- thing he said against their own experience. But it is easy to misinter- pret this advice. Our modern egos are keen to take advantage of it. While we shouldn’t accept what others say at face value, this doesn’t mean we should just accept what we tell ourselves. We have to test the teachings of Buddhism against our direct life experience, not against our opinions. And while modern science can prove or disprove old beliefs about astronomy or human physiology, it cannot measure or test the nonmaterial. Buddhism values the rational mind and seeks not to contradict it in its own sphere. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Finally, it is the rare person who can navigate the spiritual path alone. While retaining our self-respect and judgment, we must be willing to accept the guidance, even leadership, of those who are further along the path. In a society that exalts the indi- vidual and questions the hierarchy of the teacher-student rela- tionship, it is a challenge to find a middle way between too much self and not enough. 7 Buddhism offers a wealth of skillful means for different people’s needs. Buddhism is not a one-path-fits-all religion. It’s highly prag- matic, because it’s about whatever helps reduce suffering. Beings are infinite. So are their problems and states of mind. Buddhism offers a wealth of skillful means to meet their different needs. If people are not ready for the final truth, but a partial truth will help, that’s no problem—as long as it actually helps. The problem is that things that feel helpful—like going along with our usual tricks—can sometimes make things worse. So the Buddhist teachings are gentle, but they can also be tough. We need to face the ways we cause ourselves and others suffering. Buddhist meditators have been studying the mind for thousand of years. In that time, they’ve tested and proven many techniques to tame the mind, lessen our suffering, and discover who we are and what is real (and not). There are meditations to calm and focus the mind, contemplations to open the heart, and ways to bring ease and grace to the body. It’s fair to say, as many people have, that Buddhism is the world’s most developed science of mind. Today, people who want to explore Buddhism have many resources at their disposal. For the first time in history, all the 8 SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 48