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Lions Roar : January 2019
For more answers to frequently asked questions, information on Buddhist concepts, and stories from the history of Buddhism, visit “Explore Buddhism: Your Essential Guide” at lionsroar.com/explore. BEGINNER’S MIND There are so many stories now about abuses in different Buddhist organizations. Before I visit a center, how can I be sure a community is safe? There was a time when Buddhists thought they were a bit better than other religions, less prone to abuse, corruption, and chauvinism. Recent scandals in the Buddhist world show that’s not true (if it ever was). As usual, the main problem is men abusing their power—in this case spiritual—and the sad truth is that these days you probably should look into a Buddhist center or community before getting involved. Start with a Google search. Are there credible stories of sexual misconduct or other abuses of power? Look at the center’s website. Are there a significant number of women in positions of authority? Look carefully at the communi- ty’s code of ethics and conduct. When you visit a center, do its members seem empowered and independent? Focus on a single teacher is not a problem per se, but excessive subservience and adulation is a warning sign. Of course, there are no guarantees, but the good news is that the majority of Buddhist centers are safe, ethical, and changing in step with the times. DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS ILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIER THE THREE MARKS of existence are Buddhism’s basic description of reality. These three simple truths, which characterize all things, are surprisingly transfor- mative. They change our understanding of reality, free us from delusion, and lay the ground for our liberation. Impermanence (Pali: annica): This truth is the foun- dation of Buddhism. The Buddha said that all com- pounded phenomena disintegrate. All things are made of parts, and all things fall apart. Another, blunter, way to put it is that everything dies. All of samsara is an attempt to deny this reality. Suffering (dukkha): Every experience is marked by some quality of suffering, whether it’s extreme pain or a back- ground sense of unease. As long as we struggle to maintain a sense of solid self, our lives will be marked by stress and fear. Our struggle will always be unsuccessful because of... Non-Self (annata): There is no solid, separate, single self. We have no core. We are simply the product of mul- tiple causes and conditions. Impermanence describes how things are; non-self describes what they are not. Or, as Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, impermanence is emptiness in terms of time; non-self is emptiness in terms of space. To these three, some teachers add a fourth: nirvana. This describes the absolute state free of all dualism. It marks all things because relative phenomena are not separate from the complete peace of the absolute. RAYFENWICK LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 28