Sunday, September 27, 2009

Amritayana Buddhism

This is the Amritayana Buddhist official blog site.

Amritayana Buddhism is not a formal institutional Buddhism, but just a name for a Buddhism that I feel is spontaneously growing on a grassroots level. It has no dogmatic authorities defining its root beliefs. All opinions embodied in Amritayana Buddhism are always subject to re-evaluation and re-vision as our collective understanding grows. At present, this version of Buddhism believes: (1) There is an experience called "enlightenment" where you directly feel your true nature or true identity beyond thought through pure awareness and direct recognition. This enlightenment has degrees of realization, depending on the depth of recognition and the depth of freedom from conditioned thoughts. This enlightenment is not the property of any religion and it is so natural that many of have had this insight even without the aid of a formal religion or any religion at all. (2) Males and females are equally able to realize their true nature and live from this enlightenment. (3) Our true nature is radiant awareness and compassion. (4) Being vegan, not killing and eating animals, not taking their milk and eggs, is in deep alignment with this compassion, since it radiates out beyond only being kind to the species that you belong to. (5) It is natural to form a community of spiritual friends to explore enlightened living with. (6) Individual sentient beings move from lifetime to lifetime through a process called "reincarnation" and their future lifetimes are dependent on their accumulated karma. (7) Karma is the law of cause and effect applied to individual thoughts, emotions, and actions. It basically means that how we treat others is how we treat ourselves. When we understand this, we learn to radiate kindness towards others and treat all adversity as our old karma coming back to be finished. (8) In general, Buddhism rejects the idea of a Creator God and of a beginning of the Universe, but sees the Universe as something that has always existed and always will exist, and that it is an alive expression of the energies of wisdom, compassion, and creativity. The ordering principle behind the universe is called "dharma" and accounts for the all pervasive stability of natural laws which science chooses to understand through mathematical equations and through repeatable experiments. Buddhism mainly sees that the universe is not merely physical but psychophysical. (9) The 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold path is a nice condensed version of how one can live a spiritual life. It is ultimately very simple common sense and is common to all branches of Buddhism. One writer called Buddhism "transcendental agnosticism". (10) Amritayana Buddhism is different from other branches of Buddhism because it questions whether or not humans must age and die. It questions the absolutist view that everyone must necessarily age and die, that death is inevitable and unavoidable. It seems that certain Buddhist masters like Padmasambhava did transcend the karmaic condition of needing to age and die. They therefore showed that aging and death are subject to controllable causes. Whether this is easy or hard is another story.

I would like this site to be a place of open dialogue about spirituality. I do not want this site to be about adversarial debate about religious issues. To me, a dialogue is based on honesty, compassion, and mutual respect. In order to maintain this quality to the blog, I am choosing to monitor all posts before they are published online. Part of Buddhism is called "right speech" which is about speaking kind and truthful words, about not gossiping and slandering about others, about promoting harmony and peace among people, and finding words which are spiritually nourishing and healing for others to hear. It is possible to disagree with others about core issues, and even have radical disagreements, without violating right speech. The reason why the Buddha taught right speech in his noble eightfold path is because his dharma was based on ending all unnecessary human sorrow. He observed that a vast amount of human sorrow comes from unkind and untruthful speech. This can be verified in a very simple sense if you review what has hurt you. Almost all our interpersonal sorrow has come from how we received what someone has said to us. Even when our sorrow was based on something that someone did to us, this action is usually discovered through speech telling us what happened. Right speech finds its highest form in the chanting of mantras in order to invoke blessing energy.

One difference between Buddhism and other religions is that being a "believer" does not give a lot of advantages. In many religions, if you believe you will go to heaven and if you do not believe you will go to hell. In Buddhism, whether you believe or do not believe anything, you are still subject to the law of karma and your death and rebirth will be according to karma. There are not merely two fates like heaven and hell, but another lifetime where the accumulated karmas will ripen and play out until they are exhausted. One could say that in classical atheism, that there is a belief that there is only one fate for everyone which is the total annihilation of the individual sentient being upon the destruction of the human body, regardless of what is believed and what a person has done with his or her life. In Buddhism, the chain of cause and effect does not merely come to a halt when a sentient being dies. The main advantage a "believer" has in Buddhism is that you can be conscious of universal law and use the law to your advantage. This would be parallel to someone who is aware of gravity and uses this knowledge to not walk off of buildings and therefore breaks his or her leg less often. But being a believer in gravity does not mean that gravity treats you any differently.

The other difference between Buddhism and some other religions is the emphasis on meditation practice. Many religions do emphasize this same thing and are therefore similar to Buddhism. In the original 4 Noble Truths, there are few beliefs in Buddhism and believing these beliefs is not required in order to practice meditation. The Buddha, in fact, wanted people to not believe what he said merely because he said it, but wanted people to investigate their own experience and find out what is true for themselves, and only use his words as pointers to help them see what their own experience could teach them. There is the implicit understanding that if you do not believe in anything, but simply meditate long enough, that you will be able to verify all the essential teachings of the Buddha for yourself. It may take time, for instance, to verify reincarnation through meditation. I found, in my own experience, that after a certain amount of time, that past lifetime memories did surface. It is like an amnesia slowly dissolving. Like our usual memory, we find it easier to remember significant events, usually involving a lot of happiness or a lot of pain, rather than what we ate for breakfast on January 20, 1963. Perfect recall of every possible memory is a very high state of consciousness and does not happen to everyone who meditates, but past lifetime memories will most likely float into our consciousness if we allow them. They are usually triggered by present lifetime events that make them relevant to recall. For instance, a person whom we meet and have an aversion to for no apparent reason in this lifetime may have hurt us in a previous lifetime. It takes some time to re-feel this memory as a memory and apply it to what is arising in our present experience. When we meditate long enough we stay sensitive to our "thought stream", our living stream of impressions and our reaction to these impressions, and learn to sort all this out.

Blessings.

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