What's the definition of a Buddhist?

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What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby Individual » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:16 am

What in your opinion is the minimum to be called a "Buddhist"?

Say there's a person who respects Gautama and accepts the Four Noble Truths, but their understanding of the eightfold path and way in which they practice is so different from others. They might not see "Buddhism" as anything special, might not hold to any sect in particular, might incorporate and esoteric practices from other or multiple Buddhist schools (for their own personal benefit while not misrepresenting their own way of doing things as the standard or necessarily the "right way" for everybody) and might not be too consistent but has a practice that is lackadaisical and whimsical. And their morality slips up in ways that would shock people calling themselves Buddhists: whereas most Buddhists concern themselves with crises of world significance like how to stop masturbating or get rid of insects without feeling guilty, this one uses drugs and alcohol, hangs out with street thugs, and he even looks and acts like a street thug -- not carelessly, but to fit in and to learn and because there's nothing else he sees that could be done.

Because of notself, there are no such things as Buddhists. But in the case above, would it be accurate to tell others he is a Buddhist?

If not, then why they ask, what should he say? "I'm a heretic"? "I'm a shaman"? Maybe "I'm an idiot"? Perhaps they could say, "I am a bodhisattva, but I am not a Buddhist"? :)

The case above seems strange, but I would bet that a lot of western Buddhists are ecclectic in various ways. Here on this forum we have members of the New Kadampa Tradition of Buddhism, right? In your case, by some you are regarded as heretics. Perhaps you might have a unique perspective, then.

Because you can just simply call yourself Buddhist, but you should be clear: because if somebody accepts your view and considers it Buddhist, then when they come across people with a different view who use the same word, that would be a cause of contention. :)
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby plwk » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:05 am

What in your opinion is the minimum to be called a "Buddhist"?

I would go by these...
Jivaka Sutta
Then Jivaka Komarabhacca went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, to what extent is one a lay follower?"
"Jivaka, when one has gone to the Buddha for refuge, has gone to the Dhamma for refuge, and has gone to the Sangha for refuge, then to that extent is one a lay follower."

The Sutra Spoken By The Sixth Patriarch On The High Seat Of The Treasure Of The Law"
Hereafter, let the Enlightened One be our teacher; on no account should we accept Mara (the personification of evil) or any heretic as our guide. This we should testify to ourselves by constantly appealing to the 'Three Gems' of our Essence of Mind, in which, Learned Audience, I advise you to take refuge. They are:--
Buddha, which stands for Enlightenment.
Dharma, which stands for Orthodoxy.
Sangha, (the Order) which stands for Purity.

To let our mind take refuge in 'Enlightenment', so that evil and delusive notions do not arise, desire decreases, discontent is unknown, and lust and greed no longer bind, this is the culmination of Punya and Prajna.

To let our mind take refuge in 'Orthodoxy' so that we are always free from wrong views (for without wrong views there would be no egotism, arrogance, or craving), this is the best way to get rid of desire.

To let our mind take refuge in 'Purity' so that no matter in what circumstances it may be it will not be contaminated by wearisome sense-objects, craving and desire, this is the noblest quality of mankind.

To practice the Threefold Guidance in the way above mentioned means to take refuge in oneself (i.e., in one's own Essence of Mind). Ignorant persons take the Threefold Guidance day and night but do not understand it. If they say they take refuge in Buddha, do they know where He is? Yet if they cannot see Buddha, how can they take refuge in Him? Does not such an assertion amount to a lie?

Learned Audience, each of you should consider and examine this point for yourself, and let not your energy be misapplied. The Sutra distinctly says that we should take refuge in the Buddha within ourselves; it does not suggest that we should take refuge in other Buddhas. (Moreover), if we do not take refuge in the Buddha within ourselves, there is no other place for us to retreat.

Having cleared up this point, let each of us take refuge in the 'Three Gems' within our mind. Within, we should control our mind; without, we should be respectful towards others -- this is the way to take refuge within ourselves.
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby Individual » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:18 am

That's a bit ambiguous, though, because that can be interpreted in both conventional and ultimate modes and one would have to distinguish that.
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby ground » Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:21 am

Someone who has taken refuge to the 3 jewels is a buddhist.

Kind regards
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby Individual » Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:46 am

TMingyur wrote:Someone who has taken refuge to the 3 jewels is a buddhist.

Kind regards

Does that mean conventionally... Refuge in Gautama, Mahayana sutras (and orthodox doctrine), and Buddhist monks (of orthodox temples)...

Or does it mean ultimately...

Refuge in Wisdom, Diligence, and Friendship? :)
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby ground » Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:47 am

I do not know what you are posting the way you do. To check your motivation why you do this is up to you.

Anybody who is even a beginner in Buddhism knows that Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are the 3 jewels. You continuously are visiting Dhamma wheel and Dharma wheel so you should be a little bit familiar with buddhist basics.

But perhaps you think you know something that others do not and that is the reason why you are posting the way you do both on Dhamma wheel and Dharma wheel?
Or you are attached to senseless speech?
Or you simply like to mock others?
Any of these motivations would be just suffering and to take refuge to the 3 jewels means to do something against suffering.


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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby Kyosan » Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:40 am

Individual wrote:
TMingyur wrote:Someone who has taken refuge to the 3 jewels is a buddhist.

Kind regards

Does that mean conventionally... Refuge in Gautama, Mahayana sutras (and orthodox doctrine), and Buddhist monks (of orthodox temples)...

Or does it mean ultimately...

Refuge in Wisdom, Diligence, and Friendship? :)

One of the important ideas in Mahayana Buddhism is that different people understand Buddhism differently. There are different levels of understanding. Even though what they are taking refuge to in their minds varies from person to person, that doesn't mean that they aren't all Buddhists. You don't have to have the highest level of understanding to call yourself a Buddhist. I think that if you sincerely take refuge in the three jewels you are a Buddhist.
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby Individual » Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:55 am

Kyosan wrote:One of the important ideas in Mahayana Buddhism is that different people understand Buddhism differently. There are different levels of understanding. Even though what they are taking refuge to in their minds varies from person to person, that doesn't mean that they aren't all Buddhists. You don't have to have the highest level of understanding to call yourself a Buddhist. I think that if you sincerely take refuge in the three jewels you are a Buddhist.

:namaste:
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:39 pm

One who takes refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha is a Buddhist. Then, in terms of what one practices and whether or not it's in accordance with the Buddha's Dharma, the matter is simple: the Buddha identified the causes of suffering in cyclic existence and the causes of liberation. One's path may take on any manner of outward appearances, and they may outwardly look very much like Buddhism or seem very different, but what makes it a liberating path and actual Buddha Dharma is whether it involves avoiding that which causes cyclis existence and engaging in that which brings about liberation.

Then, there are outer, inner, secret, and extremely secret ways of going about this. One may renounce negative causes in the usual way, recognizing something as a cause of samsara and using self-discipline and ordinary wisdom to avoid it because one knows better; one may overcome the desire to do the harmful thing by choosing to meditate on a wholesome mind-state that dis-empowers and overcomes the afflictive emotion one's feeling because one knows better; one may transform the afflictive emotion driving one to commit a harmful act, revealing the negative emotion's true nature and power as one's own inherent wisdom that was merely previously distorted and misperceived because one knows better; or one may allow the afflictive emotion to self-liberate simultaneous with its arising according to Dzogchen or Mahamudra, one's wisdom blazing all the brighter.

So, it's clear that whether one practices according to the Pali canon or the Dzogchen tantras, the key is knowing what is a cause for samsara and not simply allowing oneself to go through with that because one knows that would further ensnare one in samsara. So while the above are all very different methods outwardly, each of them involves recognizing what causes samsara and avoiding going through with those causes. Therefore, it's not how much one's practice may "look like orthodox Buddhism" to others that makes it the Buddha's Dharma, it's whether it fundamentally accords with the 4 Noble Truths. If it doesn't, then it's not Buddhism.
Last edited by Pema Rigdzin on Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby Astus » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:50 pm

An interesting point from What Makes You a Buddhist? by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse:

"So, what makes you a Buddhist? You may not have been born in a Buddhist country or to a Buddhist family, you may not wear robes or shave your head, you may eat meat and idolize Eminem and Paris Hilton. That doesn’t mean you cannot be a Buddhist. In order to be a Buddhist, you must accept that all compounded phenomena are impermanent, all emotions are pain, all things have no inherent existence, and enlightenment is beyond concepts.

It’s not necessary to be constantly and endlessly mindful of these four truths. But they must reside in your mind. You don’t walk around persistently remembering your own name, but when someone asks your name, you remember it instantly. There is no doubt. Anyone who accepts these four seals, even independently of Buddha’s teachings, even never having heard the name Shakyamuni Buddha, can be considered to be on the same path as he."
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: What's the definition of a Buddhist?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:58 pm

:good:
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