At the end of XX and at the beginning of XXI centuries. Eastern religions began an active expansion in Western countries. Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism have extraordinary, incredible success in them. There are many reasons for this - the culture of consumption, which has got its teeth on edge, imposed almost as an ideology by the democratic authorities, the inferiority and one-sidedness of its own religious traditions, a craving for exoticism, and, of course, the desire to comprehend the secret knowledge of the East, about which legends go. This article is intended to clarify only one aspect of this whole context - the basics of the religious practice of a convert Buddhist.
About the path of a Buddhist
Buddhism combines a large number of different independent schools and traditions. But they all have one common basis - as three fundamental religious values, all Buddhists recognize Buddha, Dharma (that is, the teachings of the Buddha) and Sangha (the spiritual community of Buddhists). These are the so-called three sanctuaries. The meaning of Buddhist practice is the achievement of enlightenment, the realization of the nature of the Buddha in man. It is in the light of this goal and for its sake that all rituals are performed, mantras are read, meditations are practiced, and so on. However, Buddhism is many-sided, and its various denominations are sometimes significantly different from each other. Therefore, with regard to the initial practice, what is required of an adherent of Japanese Zen is very far from the Tibetan Gelugpa offered to the follower. We will focus mainly on the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, since it is they that are most widely represented and distributed in our country, being traditional for the three regions.
This topic needs to be addressed, because so many people, having read Buddhist literature, suddenly decide to become Buddhists and immediately begin to practice certain meditations or rituals. However, not all so simple. Of course, a person can and must independently believe in the truth of Buddhist teachings. But to consider himself a full Buddhist, that is, a member of the sangha, a simple solution is not enough. In order to enter the spiritual community, it is required to accept the so-called three jewels. Otherwise, it is called a vow of refuge. It is he who introduces man into Buddhism. For beginners, it is very important that for the first time this vow is taken by one of the authorized lamas. This requires a personal meeting with the llama and the ceremony of taking a vow of refuge. Without initiation into this transfer of refuge, most practices are meaningless.
The main practice of a Buddhist should be aimed at developing the skill of pure vision. The latter implies that a person must totally and completely stay in the "here and now", freeing his mind from building spatio-temporal connections. The mind should not find itself elsewhere or reflect on other places. It should reflect cash reality - that time and the place where a person is currently. When this skill develops, then perception changes, it becomes pure. This is the first step towards revealing the nature of the Buddha. The state of “here and now” is meditation, its inner content. Thus, a Buddhist, no matter what they do - drinking tea, cleaning an apartment or preparing food, should strive to remain in meditation through the development of a sense of "here and now."
Home Meditations and Mistakes
There are many different meditative techniques in Tibetan Buddhism, and some of them are extremely complex and even dangerous, and therefore they are transmitted secretly. But the practice of Buddhism for beginners is usually safe and it is practically impossible to make mistakes if you do not approach what is called “creative”, that is, changing the practice, introducing new elements into it and eliminating the old ones. In addition, in Buddhism, it is assumed that the convert engages in practice under the guidance and with the blessing of his mentor, who taught him three shelters (that is, took him into the fold of Buddhism and a particular Buddhist school), as well as practice instructions. It is virtually impossible to independently accept Buddhism without this ceremony.
About the Home Altar
As for the arrangement of the home sanctuary, it must be said that this is considered a very useful affair. However, at the same time, it is not necessary. By its purpose, the altar plays the role of a focus, which should concentrate the person’s attention and organize his living space in such a way that he remembers that his most important goal is enlightenment. Therefore, altar objects should stimulate constant practice. Therefore, if the decision was made to create a sanctuary, then it does not need to be turned into an exposition dedicated to Buddhist art. Usually it’s enough to put the image of the Buddha, the image of his guru and a few other especially important sculptures or icons. But it’s better not to go beyond five. In addition, on the altar it is customary to keep symbols of purity of the body, speech and mind. This means that in addition to the icon or statuette of the Buddha, it is desirable to have excerpts from the sacred Buddhist scriptures on the altar (as an option - the "sutra of the heart" or Lamrim) and the so-called stupa - a symbol of the purity of the mind of the Buddha.
Entering the path of Tibetan Buddhism, a person joins the Mahayana, which declares for his followers not only the practice of personal liberation and enlightenment, but also the so-called Bodhisattva path. The last are called enlightened people, who, however, make a promise that they will go to nirvana only when all other beings are released. And their religious practice is aimed not only at ourselves, but for the benefit of all living beings. In order to begin the practice, a convert to Buddhist in the Mahayana tradition takes a Bodhisattva vow. But through various unrighteous acts violates them. Therefore, the bodhisattva vow must be updated periodically. However, Buddhism for beginners can be extremely complex, and its requirements are confusing. For example, monks make vows consisting of several hundred clearly defined rules. But for the laity, a different approach will become more productive.
Practicing Buddhism for beginners is best not in the context of the code of commandments, but in the context of proper motivation. This means that in his life a Buddhist should strive to bring maximum benefit to as many creatures as possible. In such a light, a vow violation will be any action, word or thought that will be directed to harm anyone. Also, a violation of the vow will be the deliberate exclusion of someone (animal, enemy or just an unpleasant person, etc.) from the field of compassion. When a vow is broken, it must be taken again. However, this vow is regularly updated. For example, in the practice of prostrations, which includes Buddhism. For beginners, this can be at least 1 bow or 3, 7, 21, 108. By the way, in some schools the full practice includes 108,000 prostrations.
The initial practices in Buddhism are called nyondro. In all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, they are approximately the same. They consist of four parts (although there are different classifications). They include 100,000 prostrations with taking refuge, recitation of 100,000 times the Vajrasattva hundred-syllable mantra, 100,000 mandala offerings and 100,000 repetitions of guru yoga. This order, in principle, can be changed, but it is better to follow just such a scheme. In addition, it should be added that this practice can be performed by those who have not received the transfer of the vow of refuge, that is, formally, is not a Buddhist. However, according to Buddhist teachers, the benefits of nyndro in this case will be much less.
Buddhism for Beginners - Books
In conclusion, let's talk about what to read to those who take the first step toward Buddhism. First, we’ll mention a book like Buddhism for Beginners. Geshe Jampa Tinley - its author, a doctor of Buddhist philosophy of the Gelug tradition, is a very respected, honored teacher of Dharma in the CIS. His book is devoted to basic, basic issues that newcomers need to understand in order to have a correct idea of the chosen path. This work describes the history of the doctrine, explains its main aspects, and also gives a number of practical guidelines for daily practice.
The next work is a book with the same title as the previous one - Buddhism for Beginners. Tubten Chodron, who wrote her, is a Buddhist nun from America who spent many years studying the Buddhist path in Nepal and India under the guidance of the Dalai Lama and other high teachers. Today in the Western world she is one of the most respected specialists in her field. In the book of Tubten Chodron, “Buddhism for Beginners,” in the form of questions and answers, answers are given to the most popular questions regarding the essence of teaching, its application in various fields of human activity and, in fact, everyday religious practice. In other words, it is a kind of catechism of Tibetan Buddhism.
Buddhism for beginners
This article is intended for those who have just begun to become interested in Buddhism. In the article you will find a very brief description of the theory of how to start practicing and which books to read for beginners.
It is considered not religious Buddhism, but practical, for modern people who want to improve their lives and are looking for ways to do this in Buddhist practice.
What is Buddhism and what does it give in the modern world
Buddhism is a system of practices and beliefs that were given in the form of verbal instructions by the Buddha after his enlightenment in the 5th century BC and, after that, with the help of transmission lines came to our days.
There are different schools that give Buddhist practices, here we consider Tibetan Buddhism, which however does not detract from the schools of Zen, Chan, Theravada and others. In all schools, the basic elementary practices and basic views are the same. Teaching and presentation methods differ.
As a system of practices, Buddhism builds on the fact that the Buddha gave methods and instructions that, when studied and practiced, lead us to enlightenment. Moreover, the study and practice rests with our responsibility, and the Buddha himself, before leaving the world, said that he had given all the teachings and now it is our business to verify and apply them.
That is, when studying Buddhism, we start by gaining some basic knowledge about how our mind works and what we need to do in order to reduce our neurosis (suffering) and ultimately come to Enlightenment.
After gaining this knowledge, we begin to test it through meditation. Verification consists in the fact that we practically verify and realize that those principles that we study work in exactly this way. That is, we do not take something on faith, but check independently how our mind works and how we can change it.
After that, we begin to apply these methods in everyday life, which leads to a gradual transformation of the mind in the chosen direction.
In this way, Buddhism gives us knowledge and methods that can change our mind and our habits, making us more free and rid ourselves of neurosis and stress. However, the study and application should be carried out by us independently, in Buddhism this only works.
Meditation centers and various schools only provide access to information and help maintain motivation in practice. The point of any school or center is to facilitate access to knowledge and, in addition, to motivate practitioners that they all communicate on topics of practice.
You can read more about this in the book Why you are not a Buddhist
How to start practicing
It’s good to start the practice with some introductory lecture on Buddhism, since usually it gives a more powerful impetus than reading books and, due to this, allows you to better evaluate the primary effect of the practice.
Under practice is understood:
- the study of the principles of Buddhism - what it is, why we practice, what our goal is, what are the methods, what are they for, etc.
- daily meditation practice, about which we all found out from the point above (for beginners, you can practice 1-2 times a day for 5 minutes)
- assessment of changes in our conditions in daily practice
- application of new skills and knowledge in everyday life
If you do not have available lectures and schools nearby, then you can start studying by reading the books below.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the central method of the Buddhist path, which allows us to realize and introduce into us those principles and knowledge that we gain analytically through books and teachings. The first basic meditation that is used in all schools is meditation to calm the mind.
You can start with this meditation. Anyone can do it on their own. Details about Meditations to calm the mind.