Buddhism Spreads in the West

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Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#1 Mar 8, 2012
Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

The man who taught me the most about Buddhism wasn't a monk with a shaved head. He didn't speak Sanskrit, and he didn't live in a Himalayan monastery. In fact he wasn't even a Buddhist. He was Carl Taylor, a lifelong San Franciscan who looked to be in his late 40s. At the moment, he appeared cold, sitting upright in a bed rolled into the gardens off the hospice ward at Laguna Honda Hospital. It was a blue-sky summer afternoon, but in this city that often means a bone-penetrating chill. Carl was dying of cancer.

I was spending a week with the Zen Hospice Project, a Buddhist organization whose volunteers assist the staff of the 25-bed hospice unit at the hospital, perhaps the largest public long-term care facility in the United States. The project, now emulated around the world, uses two of Buddhism's central teachings—awareness of the present moment and compassion for others—as tools to help bring a degree of dignity and humanity to those in the last stages of their lives. They're not easy lessons to learn.

I sat beside Carl, helping adjust the well-worn jacket he used as a blanket. He wore his terminal diagnosis with resigned bravado. I tried to make small talk, but it was going terribly. What solace can you offer someone who doesn't have long to live and knows it?

"So what kind of work do, er, did you do?"

Long silence. Slow drag on his cigarette. An eternity passed as we watched a white tuft of cloud break the blue monotony and move across the sky.

"I don't really talk about my past."

OK. Squirming to keep the conversation moving, I mentally scrolled through my list of questions. If I couldn't ask about the past and there was no sense in asking about the future, that left only the present. And in the present, I was learning, there are no questions; there is just being. This made me feel awkward at first: Stripped of his questions, the journalist has no identity.

But Carl seemed content to have me just sit there, my company alone helping ease some of his suffering. Once I accepted that I had nothing to do and nowhere to go, I relaxed. Carl looked sideways at me and smiled. We both understood I had just learned a small lesson. Together we watched another white cloud go by.

That week there were other lessons drawing on Buddhism—lessons about the impermanence of life, about our attachment to the way we want things to be, and our disappointment when those things don't come to pass. About physical and mental suffering and about the value of what Buddhists call sangha, which best translates as "community." But most of all I saw how the lessons one man learned in India 2,500 years ago have been adapted to the modern world.

Around the globe today there is a new Buddhism. Its philosophies are being applied to mental and physical health therapies and to political and environmental reforms. Athletes use it to sharpen their game. It helps corporate executives handle stress better. Police arm themselves with it to defuse volatile situations. Chronic pain sufferers apply it as a coping salve. This contemporary relevance is triggering a renaissance of Buddhism—even in countries like India, where it had nearly vanished, and in China, where it has been suppressed.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#2 Mar 8, 2012
HEALING: A TIBETAN BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE
Compiled by: Ven. Pende Hawter

What is healing?

What do we mean by healing? Do we mean healing of the physical body, healing of the psyche/soul/mind, or both of these. What is the connection between body and mind?

Many modern healing techniques regard successful healing as the cure of the presenting physical problem, whether this be symptoms of cancer, AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, or some other illness. If the person does not recover from the presenting physical problem, or if that problem recurs or another develops at a later time, this may be regarded as failure.

It is not uncommon in these situations for the therapist or organisation that has been helping the "sick" person to infer or state that the person must have done something wrong, that they haven't stuck strictly enough to the diet or meditated enough or done whatever else it was that they were supposed to do.

In these situations the person can become very guilty, depressed or angry. In many cases, they just give up hope. To avoid these problems, it is necessary to consider a more comprehensive view of healing that incorporates not only physical healing but mental healing.

Mind is the creator

To understand healing from the Buddhist perspective, a useful starting point is to consider the Buddhist concept of mind. The mind is non-physical. It is formless, shapeless, colourless, genderless and has the ability to cognize or know. The basic nature of mind is pure, limitless and pervasive, like the sun shining unobstructedly in a clear sky.

The problems or sickness we experience are like clouds in the sky obscuring the sun. Just as the clouds temporarily block the sun but are not of the same nature as the sun, our problems or sickness are temporary and the causes of them can be removed from the mind.

From the Buddhist perspective, the mind is the creator of sickness and health. In fact, the mind is believed to be the creator of all of our problems. That is, the cause of disease is internal, not external.

Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#3 Mar 8, 2012
Unlimited potential

You are probably familiar with the concept of karma, which literally means action. All of our actions lay down imprints on our mindstream which have the potential to ripen at some time in the future. These actions can be positive, negative or neutral. These karmic seeds are never lost. The negative ones can ripen at any time in the form of problems or sickness; the positive ones in the form of happiness, health or success.

To heal present sickness, we have to engage in positive actions now. To prevent sickness occurring again in the future, we have to purify, or clear, the negative karmic imprints that remain on our mindstream.

Karma is the creator of all happiness and suffering. If we don't have negative karma we will not get sick or receive harm from others. Buddhism asserts that everything that happens to us now is the result of our previous actions, not only in this lifetime but in other lifetimes. What we do now determines what will happen to us in the future.

In terms of present and future healing, the main objective is to guard our own actions, or karma. This requires constant mindfulness and awareness of all the actions of our body, speech and mind. We should avoid carrying out any actions that are harmful to ourselves and to others.

Buddhism is therefore a philosophy of total personal responsibility. We have the ability to control our destiny, including the state of our body and mind. Each one of us has unlimited potential - what we have to do is develop that potential.

Healthy mind, healthy body

Why do some people get ill while others remain in the best of health? Consider skin cancer. Of all the people who spend many hours out in the sun, some will develop skin cancer and others will not. The external situation is the same for all of them, but only some will be affected. The secondary cause of the skin cancer - the sun - is external, but the primary cause - the imprints laid down on the mindstream by previous actions - is internal.

Also, people with similar types of cancer will often respond quite differently to the same treatment, whether this be orthodox or alternative. Some will make a complete recovery. Some will recover temporarily and then develop a recurrence. Others will rapidly become worse and die. Logically one has to look to the mind for the cause of these differences.

Buddhism asserts that for lasting healing to occur, it is necessary to heal not only the current disease with medicines and other forms of treatment, but also the cause of the disease, which originates from the mind. If we do not heal or purify the mind, the sickness and problems will recur again and again.

This introduces the notion of "ultimate healing". By ridding the mind of all its accumulated "garbage", all of the previously committed negative actions and thoughts, and their imprints, we can be free of problems and sickness permanently. We can achieve ultimate healing - a state of permanent health and happiness.

In order to heal the mind and hence the body, we have to eliminate negative thoughts and their imprints, and replace them with positive thoughts and imprints.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#4 Mar 8, 2012
The inner enemy

The basic root of our problems and sickness is selfishness, what we can call the inner enemy. Selfishness causes us to engage in negative actions, which place negative imprints on the mindstream. These negative actions can be of body, speech or mind, such as thoughts of jealousy, anger and greed.

Selfish thoughts also increase pride, which results in feelings of jealousy towards those higher than us, superiority towards those lower than us and competitiveness towards equals. These feelings in turn result in an unhappy mind, a mind that is without peace. On the other hand, thoughts and actions directed to the well-being of others bring happiness and peace to the mind.

Conscious living, conscious dying

It is important to consider what happens to us when we die. The Buddhist view is that at the time of death the subtle consciousness, which carries with it all the karmic imprints from previous lives, separates from the body. After spending up to forty-nine days in an intermediate state between lives, the consciousness enters the fertilised egg of its future mother at or near the moment of conception. New life then begins. We bring into our new life a long history of previous actions with the potential to ripen at any time or in any of a myriad ways.

The state of mind at the time of death is vitally important and can have a considerable effect on the situation into which we are reborn. Hence the need to prepare well for death and to be able to approach our death with a peaceful, calm and controlled mind.

Death itself can be natural, due to exhaustion of the lifespan, or untimely, due to certain obstacles. These obstacles arise from the mind and can be counteracted in different ways. One method commonly employed in Tibetan Buddhism to remove life obstacles is to save the lives of animals that would otherwise have been killed. For example, animals can be rescued from being slaughtered or live bait can be purchased and released.

For those with a life threatening illness, it is important to understand that being free of that illness doesn't mean that you will have a long life. There are many causes of death and death can happen to anybody at any time.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#5 Mar 8, 2012
Not just pills and potions

Tibetan medicine is popular and effective. It is mostly herbal medicine, but its uniqueness lies in the fact that in the course of its preparation it is blessed extensively with prayers and mantras, giving it more power.

It is said that taking such medicine will either result in recovery, or, if the person is close to death, they will die quickly and painlessly.(Another theory, based on personal experience, is that it tastes so bad you want to recover quickly so that you can stop taking the medicine!)

Blessed pills and blessed water are also used extensively. The more spiritually developed the person carrying out the blessings or the healing practices, the more powerful is the healing result or potential. These pills often contain the relics of previous great meditators and saints, bestowing much power on the pills.

Many Tibetan lamas actually blow on the affected part of the body to effect healing or pain relief. I have seen a person with AIDS with intense leg pain have his pain disappear after a lama meditated intensely and blew on his leg for twenty minutes. Compassion is the power that heals.

Visualisation can also be very powerful healing. One method is to visualise a ball of white light above your head, with the light spreading in all directions. Imagine the light spreading through your body, completely dissolving away all sickness and problems. Concentrate on the image of your body as completely healed and in the nature of light.

This type of meditation is even more powerful when combined with visualising holy images and reciting mantras. I often tell my Christian patients to visualise the light as Jesus, with the light emanating from him.

In the Tibetan tradition, there are many Buddha figures (deities) which can be visualised while reciting their mantra. The Medicine Buddha; Chenrezig, or Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of Compassion); or one of the long-life deities such as Amitabha are commonly used. Deities can be in peaceful or wrathful aspects. The wrathful ones are often used to cure heavy disease such as AIDS.

If you are not comfortable with these images, you can use other objects such as crystals, or simply visualise all the universal healing energy absorbing into you, transforming your body into light, and imagine yourself as totally healed.

Over the centuries many people have used these methods and have recovered from their illnesses, even from conditions such as leprosy, paralysis and cancer. The aim of these practises is to heal the mind as well as the body, so that the diseases or problems will not recur in the future.

Also, many diseases are associated with spirit harm. Lamas and other practitioners will often recite certain prayers and mantras or engage in ceremonies to stop the spirit harm and allow the person to recover.

A seven year old girl I knew had petit-mal epilepsy as the result of spirit harm; the epilepsy disappeared after various rituals and prayers had been performed. Whenever she had an epileptic attack, the girl would see a frightening apparition coming towards her. After the initial prayers had been performed, however, her attacks lessened and she would see a brick wall between her and the frightening figure. This wall was the colour of a monk's robes. Eventually the attacks and visions disappeared altogether.

In summary, we can say that the essential ingredients in the healing process, for both the person doing the healing and the person being healed, are compassion, faith, and pure morality.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#6 Mar 8, 2012
Changing our minds
Another powerful method of healing in Tibetan Buddhism is to meditate on the teachings known as thought transformation. These methods allow a person to see the problem or sickness as something positive rather than negative. A problem is only a problem if we label it a problem. If we look at a problem differently, we can see it as an opportunity to grow or to practice, and regard it as something positive. We can think that having this problem now ripens our previous karma, which does not then have to be experienced in the future.
If someone gets angry at us, we can choose to be angry in return or to be thankful to them for giving us the chance to practice patience and purify this particular karma. It takes a lot of practice to master these methods, but it can be done.
It is our concepts which often bring the greatest suffering and fear. For example, due to a set of signs and symptoms, the doctor gives the label 'AIDS' or 'cancer'. This can cause great distress in a person's mind, because they forget that it is only a label, that there is no truly existent, permanent AIDS or cancer.'Death' is another label that can generate a lot of fear. But in reality 'death' is only a label for what happens when the consciousness separates from the body, and there is no real death from its own side. This also relates to our concept of 'I' and of all other phenomena. They are all just labels and have no true, independent existence.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#7 Mar 8, 2012
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a highly realised Tibetan Lama, says that the most powerful healing methods of all are those based on compassion, the wish to free other beings from their suffering. The compassionate mind - calm, peaceful, joyful and stress-free - is the ideal mental environment for healing. A mind of compassion stops our being totally wrapped up in our own suffering situations. By reaching out to others we become aware of not just my pain but the pain (that is, the pain of all beings).

Many people find the following technique powerful and effective: think "By me experiencing this disease or pain or problem, may all the other beings in the world be free of this disease, pain or problem" or "I am experiencing this pain/sickness/problem on behalf of all living beings."

One voluntarily takes on suffering in order for others to be free of it. This is similar to the Christian concept of regarding one's suffering as sharing the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Even death can be used in this way: "By me experiencing death, may all other beings be freed from the fears and difficulties of the death process."

We have to ask ourselves "What is the purpose of my life? Why do I want to have good health and a long life?". The ultimate purpose of our life is to be of benefit to others. If we live longer and just create more negative karma, it is a waste of time.

Giving and taking is another powerful meditation. As you breathe in, visualise taking the suffering and the causes of suffering from all living beings, in the form of black smoke. When breathing in the black smoke, visualise smashing the black rock of selfishness at your heart, allowing compassion to manifest freely. As you breathe out, visualise breathing out white light that brings them happiness, enjoyment and wisdom.

Developing compassion is more important than having friends, wealth, education. Why? Because it is only compassion that guarantees a happy and peaceful mind, and it is the best thing to help us at the time of death

We can use our sickness and problems in a very powerful way for spiritual growth, resulting in the development of compassion and wisdom. The highest development of these qualities is the full realisation of our potential, the state of full enlightenment. Enlightenment brings great benefit to ourselves and allows us to work extensively for others. This is the state of ultimate healing.

I have outlined some of the concepts that are the basis of the Buddhist philosophy on healing. Many of these methods were taught by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Tara Institute in Melbourne in August 1991 during the first course given by Lama Zopa specifically for people with life-threatening illnesses.

Some of these ideas may appear unusual at first, but please keep an open mind about them. If some of the ideas appear useful to you, please use them; if not, leave them aside.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#8 Mar 8, 2012
May you achieve health and happiness.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#9 Mar 8, 2012
Compassion Heals - A Tibetan Story

I want to share a story sent to me recently by a healer friend and teacher, Rose Khalsa, who herself received the story from a colleague. Rose spends part of each week using her skills at a nearby hospice, helping those nearing the end of their lives find peace and healing. This story about a Tibetan cancer patient teaches us about the nature of healing and the importance of tending to the health of one’s spirit or soul.

DOWNWIND FROM FLOWERS

Several years ago in Seattle, Washington, there lived a 52-year-old Tibetan refugee.“Tenzin” was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma. He was admitted to the hospital and received his first dose of chemotherapy. But during the treatment, this typically gentle man became extremely agitated and angry. He yanked out the IV delivering chemotherapy drugs into his arm and refused to cooperate. He shouted at the nurses and argued with anyone who came near him. The doctors and nurses were baffled.

Then Tenzin’s wife spoke to the hospital staff. She explained that Tenzin had been a political prisoner held by the Chinese for 17 years. They had killed his first wife and tortured and brutalized Tenzin throughout his imprisonment. She told them that the hospital rules, coupled with the chemotherapy treatments, were giving Tenzin painful flashbacks of what he had suffered at the hands of the Chinese.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#10 Mar 8, 2012
”I know you mean to help him,” she said,“but he feels tortured by your treatments. They are causing him to feel hatred inside, just as he felt toward his captors. He would rather die than live with the hatred he now feels towards the staff here. And according to our beliefs, it is very bad to have hatred in your heart at the time of death. He needs to be able to pray and cleanse his heart.”

So the doctors discharged Tenzin and asked the hospice team to visit him in his home. The hospice nurse assigned to his care called a local representative from Amnesty International for advice. He told her that the only way to heal the wounds of torture is to “talk it though.”

“This person has lost his trust in humanity and feels hope is impossible,” the man added.“If you are to help him, you must find a way to give him hope.”

But when the nurse encouraged Tenzin to talk about his experiences, he held up his hand and stopped her.“I must learn to love again if I am to heal my soul. Your job is not to ask me questions. Your job is to teach me to love again.”
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#11 Mar 8, 2012
The hospice nurse took a deep breath and then asked,“So… how can I help you love again?”

Tenzin replied without hesitation,“Sit down, drink my tea and eat my cookies.” Tibetan drink black tea brewed strong and laced with yak butter and salt. It isn’t easy to drink! But she did. For several weeks, Tenzin, his wife and the nurse sat together drinking tea. They also worked with his doctors to find ways to treat his physical pain. But it was Tenzin’s spiritual pain that seemed to be lessening the most. Each time the nurse came to visit, Tenzin was sitting cross-legged on his bed, reciting prayers from his books. As time passed, he and his wife hung more and more of their colorful Tibetan banners called “thankas”. The room was fast becoming a beautiful, spiritual shrine.

When Spring came, the hospice nurse asked Tenzin what Tibetans do when they are ill in the Spring. He smiled brightly.“We sit downwind from flowers.” The nurse thought he must be speaking poetically. But Tenzin’s words were quite literal. He told her Tibetans sit downwind so they can be dusted with the new blossoms’ pollen. they consider this new pollen strong medicine. At first, finding enough blossoms seemed a bit daunting. Then, one of the nurse’s friends suggested Tenzin visit some of the local flower nurseries and the nurse called the manager of one nursery to explain the situation.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#12 Mar 8, 2012
The manager’s initial response was,“you want to do what!?” But when she explained further, the manager agreed. That next weekend the hospice nurse picked up Tenzin and his wife with their provisions for the afternoon– black tea, butter, salt, cups, cookies, prayer beads and prayer books. She dropped them off at the nursery and assured them she would return by 5.

The following weekend Tenzin and his wife visited another nursery. The third weekend they found yet another nursery. The fourth week the hospice nurse began to receive calls from these nurseries inviting Tenzin and his wife to come again. One of the managers said,“We’ve got a new shipment of nicotiana coming in and some wonderful fuchsias and oh, yes, some great daphne, too. I know they would love the scent of that daphne!”

Later that day, the nurse got a call from the second place saying they had colorful wind socks that would help Tenzin predict where the wind was blowing. Soon, the nurseries were competing for Tenzin’s visits.

People began to know and care about the Tibetan couple. The nursery employees started setting out lawn furniture in the direction of the wind. Others would bring out fresh hot water for their tea. Some of the regular customers would leave their wagons of flowers near the couple. It seemed that a community was growing and gathering around Tenzin and his wife.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#13 Mar 8, 2012
At the end of the summer, Tenzin returned to his doctor for another CT scan to determine the extent of the spread of his cancer. Much to the doctor’s surprise, he could find no evidence at all of the cancer. He was dumbfounded. He told Tenzin that he couldn’t explain it.

Tenzin lifted his hand and said,“I know why the cancer has gone away. It could no longer live in a body filled with love. When I began to feel all the compassion from the hospice people, from the nursery employees, and all those people who wanted to know about me, I started to change inside. Doctor, please don’t think that your medicine is the only cure. Sometimes compassion is the better cure for cancer.”

**********

Note that healing is not the same as curing. Marion Woodman captures it well when she says,“The curing may be in the body, but being cured is not necessarily living a full life. Healing is coming to wholeness.” In this story curing and healing converge. And Tenzin’s experience reminds us of the critical need for caregivers to tend to the spirit of the sufferer as well as the mind and body. So even if Tenzin’s cancer had not been cured, healing on the mind and spirit levels would still have allowed Tenzin to find pleasure and meaning in his last days, and to let go of life feeling a sense of connection and peace.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#14 Mar 8, 2012
Then Tenzin’s wife spoke to the hospital staff. She explained that Tenzin had been a political prisoner held by the Chinese for 17 years. They had killed his first wife and tortured and brutalized Tenzin throughout his imprisonment. She told them that the hospital rules, coupled with the chemotherapy treatments, were giving Tenzin painful flashbacks of what he had suffered at the hands of the Chinese.

”I know you mean to help him,” she said,“but he feels tortured by your treatments. They are causing him to feel hatred inside, just as he felt toward his captors. He would rather die than live with the hatred he now feels towards the staff here. And according to our beliefs, it is very bad to have hatred in your heart at the time of death. He needs to be able to pray and cleanse his heart.”

So the doctors discharged Tenzin and asked the hospice team to visit him in his home. The hospice nurse assigned to his care called a local representative from Amnesty International for advice. He told her that the only way to heal the wounds of torture is to “talk it though.”

“This person has lost his trust in humanity and feels hope is impossible,” the man added.“If you are to help him, you must find a way to give him hope.”
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#15 Mar 8, 2012
But when the nurse encouraged Tenzin to talk about his experiences, he held up his hand and stopped her.“I must learn to love again if I am to heal my soul. Your job is not to ask me questions. Your job is to teach me to love again.”

The hospice nurse took a deep breath and then asked,“So… how can I help you love again?”

Tenzin replied without hesitation,“Sit down, drink my tea and eat my cookies.” Tibetan drink black tea brewed strong and laced with yak butter and salt. It isn’t easy to drink! But she did. For several weeks, Tenzin, his wife and the nurse sat together drinking tea. They also worked with his doctors to find ways to treat his physical pain. But it was Tenzin’s spiritual pain that seemed to be lessening the most. Each time the nurse came to visit, Tenzin was sitting cross-legged on his bed, reciting prayers from his books. As time passed, he and his wife hung more and more of their colorful Tibetan banners called “thankas”. The room was fast becoming a beautiful, spiritual shrine.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#16 Mar 9, 2012
Buddhism is spreading rapidly around the world now. There are Buddhist centers in many European countries, North America, South America, South Africa, Australasia, and so on. We find Buddhists in Europe not only in the Western capitalist countries, but also in the socialist countries of the East. For example, Poland has about five thousand active Buddhists.
Buddhismappeals very much to the modern world because it is reasonable and scientifically based. Buddha said, "Do not believe in anything that I say just out of respect for me, but test it for yourself, analyze it, as if you were buying gold." Modern-day people like such a nondogmatic approach.
There are many dialogues between scientists and Buddhist leaders, such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Together they are discussing and investigating what is reality. Buddha said that all problems come from not understanding reality, from being confused in this regard. If we were aware of who we are and how the world and we exist, we would not create problems out of our confusion. Buddhism has an extremely open attitude in examining what is true. For example, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that if scientists can prove that something Buddha or his followers taught is incorrect or just superstition, he would be happy and willing to drop it from Buddhism. Such an approach is very attractive to Western people.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#17 Mar 9, 2012
Since learned masters of the past have adapted Buddhism to the culture of each society to which it has spread, it is only natural that teachers today need to present Buddhism in different modern countries in slightly different ways. In general, Buddhism emphasizes a rational explanation. Within this context, however, different points and approaches need more emphasis depending on predominant cultural traits.

Buddha taught such a variety of methods, simply because people vary so much. Not everyone thinks in the same way. Consider the example of food. If there were only one type of food available in a city, it would not appeal to everyone. If, on the other hand, different foods could be had with varied flavors, everyone could find something appealing. Likewise, Buddha taught a large variety of methods for people with a wide spectrum of tastes to use to develop themselves and grow. After all, the objective of Buddhism is to overcome all our limitations and problems and to realize all our potentials so that we can develop ourselves to the point at which we can help everyone as much as is possible.

In some Western countries that emphasize psychology, such as Switzerland and the United States, teachers usually present Buddhism from the point of view of psychology. In other countries where people prefer a devotional approach, such as many Southern European lands and in Latin America, teachers tend to present Buddhism in a devotional manner. People there like to chant very much, and one can do that in Buddhist practice. People in Northern European countries, however, do not enjoy chanting as much. Teachers tend to emphasize an intellectual approach to Buddhism there.

Many people in Eastern Europe are in a very sad situation. The Buddhist teachings appeal to them greatly because many find their lives empty. Whether they work hard at their jobs or not seems to make no difference. They see no results. Buddhism, in contrast, teaches them methods for working on themselves, which do bring results that make a difference in the qualities of their lives. This makes people unbelievably appreciative and enthusiastic to throw themselves fully into practices such as making thousands of prostrations.

In this way, Buddhism adapts itself to the culture and the mentality of the people in each society, while preserving the major teachings of Buddha. The principal teachings are not changed – the aim is to overcome our problems and limitations and to realize our potentials. Whether practitioners do this with more emphasis on the psychological, intellectual, scientific, or devotional approach depends on the culture.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#18 Mar 9, 2012
Buddhismis adapting by emphasizing a rational scientific approach to its teachings. Buddhism gives a clear explanation of how life’s experiences come about and how to deal with them in the best manner possible. Then it says do not accept anything on blind faith; think for yourself, test it out and see if it actually does make sense. This resembles science asking us to verify the results of an experiment by repeating it ourselves, and only then to accept the results as fact. Modern people do not like buying something without examining it; they would not buy a car without testing it. Likewise, they will not turn to another religion or philosophy of life without checking it first to see if it really makes sense. That is what makes Buddhism so appealing to many people of the twentieth century. Buddhism is open to scientific investigation and invites people to examine it in that way.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#19 Mar 9, 2012
Types of Problems that People Suffer from Today
So I think that most people nowadays are turning to Buddhism because they recognize that their lives have more and more problems. There are some problems that have been going on for as long as there have been people on this planet, and probably even before that, with animals before there were humans: the problems of relating to each other, problems that come up from anger, from fights, from disputes. These are problems that everybody has been facing almost forever, so nothing special about what you or I experience now. And then of course there are more recent problems that just make things even more difficult, like economic problems and problems of wars and so on. So people are feeling these problems more and more. And they are not finding solutions for them, how to deal with them on a personal level, particularly in terms of their emotions, their minds. They’re not finding solutions for these in what is available to them already.

But one of the wonderful developments of the modern time is communication, particularly in what we now call the Information Age, and even more with the Age of Social Media. So that means that more and more information is available to us about many alternative systems. And many great Buddhist leaders, like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, have been travelling around the world. And many people have witnessed, seen for themselves with their own eyes, those who have managed to develop themselves to an extraordinary level so that they are able to have a peaceful, calm, loving mind in the face of some of the most difficult situations, like losing your country. So this has added the quality of inspiration from a living person, which is very important in addition to just information that we can get on the internet or in books.
Manly girls

Sydney, Australia

#20 Mar 9, 2012
So people turn to Buddhism primarily because they are looking for some solution to problems that they face and they are hopeful that Buddhism will be able to offer some way to deal with life. And it, this Buddhism, might be something which is quite foreign, not traditional in their societies, or, like here in Kalmykia, it might be a traditional system of your people.

The Rational Side of Buddhism

Now, within this framework of looking to Buddhism to offer solutions, different aspects of Buddhism will appeal to different people. If we look at what His Holiness the Dalai Lama emphasizes, what he emphasizes, and many people find this very appealing, is the rational, analytical, and practical sides of Buddhism. He points out that the approach in Buddhism is very much like the approach in science, which means that we don’t just accept various principles simply on the basis of blind belief and devotion, but rather we follow the scientific method of using logic and reason, deep analysis, and a pragmatic approach of trying it ourselves—experimenting and seeing if the methods taught in Buddhism actually produce the results that they say they will produce, in terms of peace of mind, being able to deal with problems in a better way. And being very practical in our approach, not idealistic, but practical in terms of what is realistic, what will actually help us in our daily lives.

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