Bit of a strange book to be reading you may think…
Well I only read it as part of a reading list for a course I was planning to study this summer in Yoga Philosophy. Although I had studied Buddhism in my high school and lived in Buddhist countries when younger {Bangkok} I wouldn’t really be able explain to someone what the essence of Buddhism is.

Could you?

So with an open mind I read this book;

 

 

Firstly let me tell you that this is NOT a dry book on Buddhism that many find hard to get through unless you really are very very interested in learning about Buddhism. This is book clearly and in a language that I could relate to {read: comparing ancient Buddhist philosophies to modern day dilemmas like whether to live in a city or in a hut in Costa Rica….cause we all think about that don’t we??} lays out the ground principles of what makes a Buddhist.

Here is the main essence of the book:

Which Dzongsar goes on to explain as such:

“If you cannot accept that all compounded or fabricated things are impermanent, if you believe that there is some essential substance or concept that is permanent, then you are not a Buddhist. If you cannot accept that all emotions are pain, if you believe that actually some emotions are purely pleasurable, then you are not a Buddhist. If you cannot accept that all phenomena are illusory and empty, if you believe that certain things do exist inherently, then you are not a Buddhist. And if you think that enlightenment exists within the spheres of time, space, and power, then you are not a Buddhist.”

What then makes a Buddhist?
“If we can understand the four views not only intellectually but also experientially, we begin to free ourselves from fixating on things that are illusory. This freedom is what we call wisdom.”
 
The four universal truths in Buddhism then don’t outline how we should behave as Buddhist’s but rather it is the cultivation of wisdom that is highly regarded in Buddhism;
“There is no mention of good or bad behavior. They are secular truths based on wisdom, 
and wisdom is the primary concern of a Buddhist.”
 

That in a nutshell was the essence of the book. That Buddhism is a path of acceptance of the four universal truths, it is path of cultivating wisdom to open our minds to experience this life fully.

Dzongsar really summed it up in the following few paragraphs which I have cut and paste from the book itself. Read and let it sink in!

“In our everyday lives we have this impulse to shield ourselves and others from the truth. We’ve become impervious to obvious signs of decay. We encourage ourselves by “not dwelling on it” and by employing positive affirmations. We celebrate our birthdays by blowing out candles, ignoring the fact that the extinguished candles could equally be seen as a reminder that we are a year closer to death. We celebrate the New Year with firecrackers and champagne, distracting ourselves from the face that the old year will never come back and the new year is filled with uncertainty – anything can happen.

Hardly anything we do in the course of a day—neither in our thoughts nor in our actions—indicates that we are aware of how fragile life is.

Yet we are stuck there willingly, we don’t try to escape. Or if we do get fed up and think, Enough is enough, we may leave a relationship, only to start all over again with another person. We never grow weary of this cycle because we have hope and belief that the perfect soul mate or a flawless Shangri-la is out there waiting for us. When faced with daily irritations, our reflex is to think that we can make it right: this is all flexible, teeth are brushable, we can feel whole.

One day we will reach “happily ever after.” We are convinced of the notion of “resolution.” It’s as if everything that we’ve experience up until now, our whole lives to this moment, was a dress rehearsal. We believe our grand performance is yet to come, so we do not live for today.

For most people this endless managing, rearranging, upgrading is the definition of “living.” In reality, we are waiting for life to start.

Are you waiting for your life to start? Are you constantly out and about saying I’ll do this tomorrow, or it can wait. Or are you in a job that you actually really don’t like, are you doing things that don’t align with your values?

 

Why? Why are you doing that?

 

Should you be living for the now? Being able to enjoy each moment because you are doing EXACTLY what you want to be doing?

 

What is stopping you?
Go on. You can do it.

 

Have wisdom, learn from the Buddhists.

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