Saturday, June 20, 2015

Many Dharma Doors

There was an idea in the introduction of The Buddha's Wife: The Path of Awakening Together, that there are many Dharma doors. I sometimes are concerned we've adapted Buddhism too much to our modern times, we don't need to be monks, we can meditate, we can pick and choose what we want. At some point the Buddha's got to be saying, "you've gone too far." But the idea that you can go for enlightenment with others challenges the notion that there's one Dharma door. Yashodra and Pajapati both became arhants and therefore the path of not going forth, living at home, could also possibly work. Maybe the path is very different for everyone. It's almost as if the Buddha's discovery means we have the information but we don't have to go to his extremes. We can learn from other's experiences. To some extent we can tailor the path to what works for us. There may be many Dharma doors. That feels like a good teaching to me, opens up possibilities. Of course you've always had permission to follow your own spiritual path, nobody needs to give that to you, but there are also prescriptions if you want to follow a certain path. We never give up responsibility for the choices we make, but sometimes we take on recommendations from one kind of source because there's a kind of promise involved. Just do X, Y and Z and you will get A, B and C. I've always thought the path justifies itself along the way, but there is also the dark night of the soul when it doesn't reward you and you have to see a larger gratification, and not smaller ones. I used to believe more in paths and formulas and whatnot, but I think you have to make it up the best you can.


Jayarava Attwood said...

The idea that we don't have to be monks is not modern by any means. Lay followers were *always* a feature of Buddhism. The Buddha is not saying anything because he died 2400 years ago. In the words of Reggie Hunter, "He dead." But again innovation and change have *always* been a feature of Buddhism. Sometimes very major changes.

Yahsodara is clearly a made up character - she does not appear in the more primitive biogs. Don't take her literally.

The individualistic approach *is* a modern feature of Buddhism. As far as I know this is not unprecedented, but it is considerably more rare. One thinks of 9th century Japan and Saichō for example. We ought to give more thought to the historical events and circumstances that fostered innovation, the times when Buddhists decided that innovation was necessary? Under what circumstances do disciples quietly reject their teachers and decide that they have to find their own way. Under what circumstances did the Buddha do this (in the stories)? We might not always like the answer to this.

If I had one wish it would be that Buddhists understand more of our own history, so we stop seeing ourselves as separate from it.

Stephen Bell said...

I suppose I intellectually knew "neither monastic nor lay" but somehow this imagining of Yashodra, which as you point out is probably more mythology than reality, helped me to see that there are many dharma doors.

I appreciate your comments on individuality and your desire for a historical sense of Buddhism.