The Buddhist Religion and Sucking our Thumb

What Buddhism is, at this point, is certainly out of the Buddha’s hands. His teachings passed into the hands of his followers thousands of years ago. They passed from wandering beggars to monastic institutions, from the illiterate to the learned, from the esoteric East to the outspoken West. In its travels, Buddhism has been many things to many people. But what did the Buddha intend when he taught? …

…We start by bringing an open, inquisitive, and skeptical mind to whatever we hear, read, or see that presents itself as the truth. We examine it with reason and we put it to the test in meditation and in our lives. As we gain insight into the workings of the mind, we learn how to recognize and deal with our day-to-day experiences of thoughts and emotions. We uncover inaccurate and unhelpful habits of thinking and begin to correct them. Eventually we’re able to overcome the confusion that makes it so hard to see the mind’s naturally brilliant awareness. In this sense, the Buddha’s teachings are a method of investigation, or a science of mind.

Religion, on the other hand, often provides us with answers to life’s big questions from the start. We don’t have to think about it too much. We learn what to think and believe and our job is to live up to that, not to question it. If we relate to the Buddha’s teachings as final answers that don’t need to be examined, then we’re practicing Buddhism as a religion.[excerpt from “The Buddha Wasn’t a Buddhist” by Ponlop Rinpoche

A religion provides easy answers and to paraphrase the words of Allan Watts, it is the point where we mistaken the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself and begin to suck on it for comfort.  When a practice is a combination of Great Faith, Great Doubt and Great Striving it then becomes less of a goal and more of a process – an investigation as described by Ponlop Rinpoche.  Something wonderful that is ongoing and evolving rather than something oppressive that is static and defined.  Religions denominations and even the terms “religion” and “spirituality” are just labels.  Fumblings in the dark.  What brings meaning to our practice is intent and energy.  The silent, somber energy of the cushion or the explosive energy of the mantras and chanting are both channeled in the same direction…

To the moon.