Some basic Q&A

What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a way of life which leads to “Awakening” to reality as it is. When we understand “reality”, or Truth, we are able to lessen, transcend the suffering or difficulties that arise and live a serene life. As Rev. Gyomay Kubose states:

“The purpose in Buddhism is to overcome the self, overcome the duality of things, overcome multiplicity and become one’s true self.”

Here is an excerpt from Remembering Sensei on Buddhism:

Buddhism is always just Buddhism. The core teachings are the same for all approaches. However, the manifestation of the teachings differ according to time and place. Thus, what is emphasized and how it is expressed vary historically and culturally. Buddhism in America will retain its roots but will blossom in its own unique way to meet the needs of the American people.

What does “Sensei” mean?
Traditionally, Sensei is a title used to refer to or address teachers. Sensei Sayo Shenpan defines “sensei” as a spiritual friend or guide who walks the spiritual path together with others, beyond hierarchies and dualism.  Kalyāṇa-mitratā is a Buddhist concept of “spiritual friendship” within Buddhist community life.

The historical Buddha was a powerful teacher, he always said that he merely showed the way. The traveling on the path and mastery of the way is up to us. Teachers are to mentor, guide and offer encouragement out of their own experience.

Who was the Buddha?
First, it is important to know that Buddha means “Awakened One”. It is a title like Doctor or Lawyer. The Buddha was born a prince in India more than 2500 years ago. Unsatisfied with the life he knew, he left his kingdom to seek enlightenment.
After many years of study and practice, the young prince simply sat in silent meditation. It was when he had given up searching for enlightenment, that enlightenment found him. He was able to see the ultimate truth of reality, of all phenomena. From that moment on he was referred to as the Buddha, the Awakened One.

What are the Three Treasures?
In Buddhism, Buddhist take refuge, or “take guidance”, from the Three Treasures of Truth. Traditionally, these are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.The Buddha as the Teacher of the Way, the Dharma as the Teachings, and the Sangha the Community of Truth Seekers. Within American Buddhism we see the Three Treasure in terms of Oneness:

Oneness in Buddha, all Teachers
Oneness in Dharma, the Eternal Truth
Oneness in Sangha, all Beings

How do I formally become a Buddhist?
Traditionally when one takes refuge or seeks guidance from the Three Treasures, one is considered to be a Buddhist. One can also join a local Buddhist Sangha for support and guidance.

A Sangha is like a community of Truth Seekers which come together to practice mindfulness practices and learn more about the Dharma, the teachings of Universal Truth. Together they can grow toward the ultimate goal of enlightenment.

The decision to become a Buddhist is marked by an affirmation ceremony sometimes referred to as a Refuge Ceremony or Confirmation Ceremony. The Boundless Light Sangha offers a  Ti Sarana (Going for Refuge) Confirmation Ceremony. When one is ready to make the commitment to the Buddhist path, one can request a formal Ti Sarana Confirmation Ceremony from our Sangha Sensei. This ceremony marks the personal commitment of the practitioner and their desire to become a Buddhist, a Seeker of Truth.
Here is a brief definition offered by the Bright Dawn Institute:

“The purpose of the ceremony is to function as a personal expression of an individual’s wish to confirm and deepen his or her commitment to the Buddhist path.”
What does “Trans-sectarian” mean?
Trans-sectarian, or rather all-sectarian, is a method of practicing the Dharma in a non-dualistic manner. It is inclusive rather than exclusive. From this point of view, we can learn and explore the Dharma in a manner that focuses on individual spiritual development, as opposed to focusing on any particular sectarian dogma.

What is meant by “Faith” within Buddhism?

The Buddhist definition of “Faith” differs from other religious and spiritual traditions.  In Buddhism, Faith is a form of confidence that develops as we put into practice the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha.

As we recognize the benefits based on our understanding and realization of Truth, we gain more and more confidence in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, leading to having faith in the Buddhist path.

Faith is not considered “blind faith”. We do not believe something merely because it was stated by Buddha, a monk, teacher, or because we have read it. Faith comes from our practice. When we see the truth for ourselves.

What is the main method of practice in Buddhism?
Although mediation grants us inner serenity and peace, without knowledge of the Dharma, that serenity and peace may only be temporary. Therefore, Buddhism emphasizes the basic practice of Deep Listening to the Dharma (teachings, life itself). This “Deep Listening” drives us to intimately experience the Dharma, Universal Reality,  within every moment of life. We become One with this reality and truly embody everyday spiritual awareness in a more natural way. It is said to be a listening with the heart and not the ears.

Deep Listening includes a whole host of activities such as reading, studying, writing, reflecting, listening to dharma talks, meditating, voicing the Name of the Buddha etc. These practices are not performed in order to gain anything but are undertaken with an outlook of totally embodying the activities as a non-dual experience.

Mediation offers us the serenity of mind which in turn allows us to truly and deeply listen to the Dharma, to life,  and become one with it.

Who is Amida Buddha?

Amida Buddha is the name taken from the Sanskrit Amitabha and Amitayus, or Boundless Light and Boundless Life.

Amida can be understood as the Transcendent Buddha or Transcendent Awakened Truth/Reality, beyond conceptions or dualistic notions. Amida can also be seen as life itself. This life is beyond ego or self. It is Oneness with all things. It is Universal Life, Boundless Wisdom, and Boundless Compassion. These qualities are inherent in the Universe.