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Lions Roar : November 2018
BEGINNER’S MIND I can’t decide if there’s any benefit to identifying myself as a Buddhist. I practice meditation and study Buddhist teachings. Why should I label myself? Only if it helps you. As is famously said, “The Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist.” That came later. The only point is your own spiritual practice and the way you lead your life. The label “Buddhist” is no guarantee. Some of those who call themselves Buddhists aren’t very good people, and there are others who’ve never heard the word “Buddhist” who are pretty much enlightened. Would thinking of yourself as a Buddhist inspire you and further your spiritual development? Then you might do it. In some traditions, that means making a formal commitment to take refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha. It’s an acknowledgement that nothing in samsara will save you (and one could argue that realization is itself the path). But if you don’t think that would be helpful, no problem. You’re doing everything you need to do already. Finally, it can be a little embarrassing to call yourself a Buddhist. It’s pretty hard to live up to. So if people ask you if you’re a Buddhist, you can always reply, “Well, I try.” DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS ILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIER SANGHA, OR COMMUNITY, is one of the three jewels of Buddhism (the others being buddha and dharma). Traditionally, the sangha is dividied into four categories, known as the fourfold sangha: 1. Monks (bhikkhu) 2. Nuns (bhikkhuni) 3. Laymen (upasaka) 4. Laywomen (upasika) How important are these four kinds of Buddhist practitioners? In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Bud- dha asserted he would not enter nirvana until he had followers from all four categories who were “accom- plished, trained, learned knowers of the dharma.” Only then would his work be complete. Unfortunately, Buddhism has not historically valued these four sanghas equally. For centuries, “sangha” referred primarily to just one category: monks. This is changing in the modern world. In both Asia and the West, there has been a revival in recent decades of full ordination for nuns, and laymen and laywomen are taking stronger roles in their communities. The importance of the fourfold sangha is also reflected in the increasing role of lay teachers, as it tasks all Bud- dhists equally with understanding, practicing, and shar- ing the teachings. The true fourfold sangha excludes no one while holding the highest expectations for everyone. —Koun Franz RAYFENWICK LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 24