Learning Buddhism with Delight, Without Lingering DoubtsSome may aspire to learn Buddhism, but then hesitate to take the leap of faith due to their psychological obstacles. So, why do we need to learn Buddhism, and how does it make our lives different? Let us break through the six major obstacles to learning Buddhism, and, in doing so, start walking the path of Buddhist practices.
Thanks to the convenience of the Internet, many Buddhist organizations have their own websites that provide free video or audio Dharma talks, as well as free publications for people to access. Despite this easily available information, however, some people still have doubts and are uncertain about becoming a Buddhist, even after coming into contact with Buddhism and developing a yearning for Buddhist practice. So eventually, they remain outsiders to Buddhist faith.
Many who are still hesitant about Buddhism are hindered by mental obstacles, harboring misconceptions that prevent them from taking further steps along the path. On the other hand, some believe they are practicing Buddhists, when in fact they possess only fragmented or biased knowledge without applying the Dharma in its true sense, thereby developing an incorrect understanding of Buddhism. With the notion that “religion is all about persuading people to do good deeds,” they think it sufficient simply to harbor kind thoughts, donate money, and do voluntary work. Some even think that “Buddhism is only meant for the frustrated or desperate,” and claim that “happy people do not need the Buddhadharma.”
But why learn Buddhism? What is its fundamental belief? And, what do we learn in Buddhism? These are perhaps the questions many people have asked. From its doctrine—the impermanence of worldly phenomena—Buddhism teaches us the truth that there are no everlasting and unchanging phenomena in our mundane world. What we think we possess—including health, fortune, and fame—will change with time and circumstances. Birth and death are part of life, just as plants will blossom and wither. However,our tendency to attach to the belief that things can be everlasting and unchanging inflicts various forms of suffering to ourselves when we experience changes to our fortune, fame, well-being, and health. In times like this, the mere act of harboring kind thoughts, making charitable donations, practicing giving, and performing good deeds can’t really resolve our spiritual or mental distress. As Master Sheng Yen succinctly elaborated on Buddhist belief in his book The Path of Practice, “To believe in and practice Buddhism is to learn to develop in wisdom and compassion, so that we are able to recognize the reality and cease our afflictions as we live in the chaotic world.”
Some may think: “Why learn Buddhism if we are already happy as we are?” One reason is that we can become obsessed with and attached to “happiness,” and thus easily forget our unpleasant experiences. However, temporary and short-lived pleasures cannot solve the ensuing emotional issues such as feeling troubled, stressed, and resentful, as these issues will re-surface time and time again when we are dealing with people and things in our environment. The Buddha’s teaching provides a systematic and effective means to counter and resolve these issues. More than a fleeting sense of pleasure, the teachings provide a useful Dharma method to eliminate affliction and attain freedom. So now, let us try to understand why it is necessary to learn Buddhism and its true essence, to break away from obstacles along the path of our Buddhist practice!
Resource: Issue 267 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Lee-kha Su (蘇力卡)
Translation: Cheng-yu Chang (張振郁)
Editing: Chia-chen Chang (張家誠), Keith Brown