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Lions Roar : July 2019
BEGINNER’S MIND How much of the Buddha’s story do we know is true? Are we even sure there was such a person? The life of Siddhartha as it’s generally told is a mix of ordinary-life details, such as that he suffered from aches and pains in old age, and fantastical tales, such as that immediately after birth he took seven steps and with each step a lotus appeared. Most historians agree that the ordi- nary details indicate Siddhartha did at one time exist as an actual per- son, but beyond the fact that he lived and died, there’s little we can be certain of. Apparently, nothing was written down about the Buddha—neither his teachings nor his life story—until the end of the first century BCE, some five hundred years after his death. Passed down orally for hundreds of years, parts of his biography were undoubtedly misremembered and/or embellished. In the end, each of us must decide for ourselves what we believe is factual and what we believe is myth. What’s more important is whether we feel the basic tenets of the teachings attributed to the Buddha, such as the four noble truths and the practice of mindfulness, are deeply true and helpful to our lives, how- ever they originated. DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS THE THREE MARKS of existence—impermanence, suffering, and no self—are the Buddha’s basic descrip- tion of reality. The three doors of liberation is Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching on how to transcend duality, the root of all suffering, by living in accord with these truths. It’s the positive side of what otherwise could be seen as pretty bad news. 1. No self. Since nothing has a separate self, everything is connected. To describe this, Thich Nhat Hanh coined the term “interbeing.” When we realize we are con- nected with all things, we have perfect communication with them and live with joy and ease. 2. Signlessness. The form or outer appearance of things—their “sign”—can deceive us. A cloud looks like a cloud, but then it’s rain, and after that it’s in the plants the rain watered. The form changes, but noth- ing is ever lost. When we realize signlessness—when we are no longer attached to temporary forms—we transcend birth and death and enjoy the wonderful, ever-changing journey 3. Aimlessness. Thich Nhat Hanh always says that we are endlessly running—after love, wealth, happiness, enlightenment, whatever. Aimlessness means you have no goal, no object of pursuit. Then you realize you have everything you needed all along. Zen master Rinzai’s term for this is the “businessless person.” She who has no personal business to conduct in samsara is called a buddha. RAYFENWICKILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIER LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 30