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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 50 What Makes You a Buddhist? It’s not the clothes you wear, the ceremonies you perform, or the meditation you do, says DZONGSAR JAMYANG KHYENTSE. It’s not what you eat, whether you drink, or who you have sex with. It’s whether you agree with the four fundamental discoveries the Buddha made under the Bodhi tree, and if you do, you can call yourself a Buddhist. ONCE, I WAS SEATED on a plane in the middle seat of the middle row on a trans-Atlantic flight, and the sympathetic man sitting next to me made an attempt to be friendly. Seeing my shaved head and maroon skirt, he gathered that I was a Buddhist. When the meal was served, the man considerately offered to order a vegetarian meal for me. Having correctly assumed that I was a Buddhist, he also assumed that I don’t eat meat. That was the begin- ning of our chat. The flight was long, so to kill our boredom, we discussed Buddhism. Over time I have come to realize that people often associate Buddhism and Buddhists with peace, meditation, and nonviolence. In fact many seem to think that saffron or maroon robes and a peaceful smile are all it takes to be a Buddhist. As a fanatical Buddhist myself, I must take pride in this reputation, particularly the nonviolent aspect of it, which is so rare in this age of war and violence, and especially religious violence. Throughout the history of humankind, religion seems to beget brutality. Even today religious-extremist violence dominates the news. Yet I think I can say with confidence that so far we Buddhists have not disgraced ourselves. Violence has never played a part in propagating Buddhism. However, as a trained Buddhist, I also feel a little discontented when Buddhism is associated with nothing beyond vegetarianism, nonviolence, peace, and meditation. Prince Siddhartha, who sacrificed all the comforts and luxuries of palace life, must have Seated Buddha, Polonnaruwa, Gal Vihare, Sri Lanka HUGHSITTON/GETTYIMAGES