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Extra resources for What is the Dharma?: The Essential Teachings of the Buddha
Even a great guru can’t do it for you. The Buddha himself can’t do it for you. He shows the way, but it is you who must tread that way. The Buddha Was Not a Philosopher All in all, the ‘Ti Ratana Vandana’ gives the impression of the Dharma as being eminently practical. But, one might think, isn’t Buddhism all about theory and abstract thought? What about all those volumes of Buddhist philosophy and doctrine? Well, it’s true that some schools of Buddhism have developed, and refined, elaborate philosophical systems, but these systems were developed in the context of spiritual practice by people for whom the Buddha’s words were not just of academic interest but of vital spiritual concern.
Of Buddhism itself, or of whatever is presented to us as being Buddhism. If we want to be sure whether any form of Buddhism – whether it’s Theravada or Tibetan Buddhism, Tendai, Shin, or Zen – is authentic, we have to ask ourselves whether it really helps people towards Enlightenment. Or is it a venerable museum piece – ancient, beautiful, admirable, but for the museum, not for real life? It’s only the Dharma if it’s alive, if it works, if it still helps people to follow the spiritual path.
The simile of the lotuses and the parable of the plants also remind us that human beings can change. They can change from worse to better, and even from better to best. 20 That should give us a great deal of food for thought. Then in Tibet in the eleventh century there was a certain black magician who had been guilty of the death of about thirty people, but he became the greatest of the Kagyupa saints. 21 And from Indian history we can take the example of Ashoka, who wanted to unite the whole of India under his rule.