What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

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What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Dave The Seeker » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:08 pm

I was wondering about this.
Does one have to formally take Refuge to be considered a Buddhist?
Does one have to follow a school or sect if you prefer?

I understand that the 4NT and following the N8FP are a large part of Buddhist practice. But in just doing those things wouldn't one just be a Dharma follower and not really a Buddhist? :shrug:


With Metta, Dave
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby kirtu » Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:34 pm

Dave The Seeker wrote:I was wondering about this.
Does one have to formally take Refuge to be considered a Buddhist?
Does one have to follow a school or sect if you prefer?

I understand that the 4NT and following the N8FP are a large part of Buddhist practice. But in just doing those things wouldn't one just be a Dharma follower and not really a Buddhist? :shrug:


The actual view which distinguishes Buddhist from non-Buddhist are the Four Seals. Dzongsar Khyentse wrote a book about them, "What Makes You (Not) A Buddhist".

The Four Seals (using the Pali) are:
1. Anatta - selflessness of all phenomena
2. Anicca - all compounded phenomena are impermanent
3. Dukkha - all compounded phenomena are suffering
4. Nirvana is peace

Compounded phenomena being phenomena arising from causes and conditions.

I have not read his book but Dzongsar Khyentse presents at least Dukkha in a unique way focusing on emotions.

The Four Seals at Rigpa Wiki.

The are also sometimes the Three Seals leaving off Nirvana is Peace.

The Four Seals are also extensively discussed in Theravada but I cannot find a link at the moment as the Three or Four Seals. Here is Bhikkhu Bodhi on anicca, anatta, dukkha.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:31 pm

In Theravada, it is just 3 seals. Nirvana (Nibbana) is important too, but not considered part of the seals; the characteristics of existence, in Theravada.
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:33 pm

Dave The Seeker wrote:I was wondering about this.
Does one have to formally take Refuge to be considered a Buddhist?
Does one have to follow a school or sect if you prefer?


Opinions vary; imo, Refuge is not necessary, following a particular school is also not necessary. There are many who follow "Buddhayana" or some mixture of different traditions / general Buddhism. Just calling yourself a Buddhist, following the Path as best as possible is enough.
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Astus » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:53 pm

Buddhist is someone who believes that ultimate liberation is taught by the Buddha as his Dharma and upheld by the Sangha. This is actually taking refuge in the three jewels. As for how deeply one understands the middle way, how well that person can practise ethical discipline and meditation, these are secondary matters, that can qualify a Buddhist.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby seeker242 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:21 pm

It should be noted, IMO, that "taking refuge" need not necessarily involve a formal ceremony in some particular traditional ritual. "Taking refuge" is really a mental endeavor, not a physical one. Therefore, it's possible to "take refuge" in a formal traditional ceremony with a teacher and robed monks and incense, etc, without actually taking refuge and vice versa.
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Knotty Veneer » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:54 pm

Dave The Seeker wrote:I was wondering about this.
Does one have to formally take Refuge to be considered a Buddhist?
Does one have to follow a school or sect if you prefer?

I understand that the 4NT and following the N8FP are a large part of Buddhist practice. But in just doing those things wouldn't one just be a Dharma follower and not really a Buddhist?


I suppose it depends on who is asking. For the purpose of the national census, a Buddhist is anyone who identifies themselves as such.

I think at very least you need to believe the basic Buddha's teachings as outlined in the 4 seals and 4 noble truths. I think refuge is necessary but that need only be firm resolve to rely on the 3 Jewels and need not require any formal ceremony. However, to get anywhere on the path you probably need to seek out a teacher and a sangha. One of the few things I hold in common with Stephen Batchelor is his statement that "Buddhism is something you do, not something you believe".
Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it - Mark Twain.
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:32 pm

Kirtu beat me to it : )
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby waimengwan » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:04 pm

The three or four seals determines if a particular philosophy will take us out of samsara. If those seals are missing liberation is not possible this is my understanding.

Then in tibetan tradition refuge is formalizing that we become buddhists. And the entry level as a buddhist if having the small scope motivation which is fear of the lower realms and wanting to have higher rebirths. We can achieve higher rebirths if we hold on to the refuge vows + commitments. The vows are what will protect us form going to the three lower realms.

Institutionalised religious organisation has benefits from it as normally there is a history of realised masters and teachers and you know people have gained spiritual results and in Vajrayana lineage is important where a teaching stems form. Can the teaching be traced back to Shakyamuni?
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Dave The Seeker » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:14 pm

Thanks for all of the answers. I was really just wondering what the opinions here would be.

It's very interesting how we all look at things and that there really aren't many differences in the answers.

Thanks also for the links too, now I have more to read :twothumbsup:

With Metta, Dave
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby underthetree » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:33 pm

Konchog1 wrote:Kirtu beat me to it : )


Me too... :thanks:
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby odysseus » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:47 pm

I think everybody has a life-view even if they say they don´t believe in anything at all (a view too). If you have a preference you will keep this view.

If for example you like Buddha and want to uphold his strength, you can gather knowledge about Buddhism and put it into action. You can then share ideas with Buddhists but also keep a healthy independence without rejecting any other people and in this way you are a representative of Buddha. Then the label Buddhist can be meaningful but not really needed.

I´m a member of the Buddhist Association in my country but that is mostly for practical purposes of supporting Buddha with the 80 dollars from the government. If that earns me the label "Buddhist" it´s OK but it´s not really reality. I´m a member of this forum and that can make me a Buddhist also, but I don´t for personal reasons want to be known as a religious person (it´s probably obvious to anyone why). As a little scientist-in-the-making, I don´t see any harm in exchanging opinions and give and receive support while gathering material for my own hypothesises *lol*.

I have been in contact with some Christian priests and they never rejected me nor tried to convert me. Some of them suspected me of being a Buddhist but could´nt really arrest me HAHA. Some Muslims have asked me if I am a Muslim - thanks for their tolerance. And so it goes around...

This is my current opinion. Whatever point you reach before you identify yourself is fortunately something only you can know. I´m glad we´re equipped with a basic autonomy of the heart!

:hi:
Buddha is best on Earth!
My lord is best...
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby plwk » Thu Jul 26, 2012 1:52 am

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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Dave The Seeker » Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:29 pm

Thanks for the links plwk.


With Metta, Dave
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Yudron » Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:54 am

Orgyen Chowang RInpoche, an excellent scholar practitioner, says that in the Nyingma school one becomes a Buddhist simply by taking refuge.
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Bonsai Doug » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:08 am

Old joke: What's the difference between a Buddhist and a non-Buddhist?
The non-Buddhist thinks there's a difference.
Now having obtained a precious human body,
I do not have the luxury of remaining on a distracted path.

~ Tibetan Book of the Dead
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Wesley1982 » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:04 pm

What actually makes someone a Buddhist?


I think you can tell thru intellectual cognition...
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:10 pm

Dave The Seeker wrote:I was wondering about this.
Does one have to formally take Refuge to be considered a Buddhist?
Does one have to follow a school or sect if you prefer?


Yes. You have to. And if you don't they will take away your member card when you try to get into the lounge at the airport.
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby mickeldominic » Sun Sep 02, 2012 11:23 am

The simplest way to know is how a person acts. Whether whatever he is doing is for him/herself or for others.
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Re: What actually makes someone a Buddhist?

Postby futerko » Sun Sep 02, 2012 11:53 am

Knotty Veneer wrote:For the purpose of the national census, a Buddhist is anyone who identifies themselves as such.


Interestingly, the same does not hold true for Jedis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jedi_census_phenomenon :jedi:
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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