What is Buddhism? Part Five – By Bill Cunningham

In the conclusion of his five part series, Bill Cunningham explores the meaning of Buddhism to 21st Century practicioners.

Note: This is the final part of a five part series based on an address to the Philadelphia Buddhist Association, Sunday, September 9, 2012.

Earlier parts of this essay identified what Buddhists see as our fundamental problem and its cause, and what they think is the solution to that problem. This part focuses on how to actualize the solution to the fundamental human problem, presented earlier.

Here’s the heart of the Buddhist message. What we say and do is determined by what we think and feel, and by our thoughtless habits. If we speak and act with an impure heart, we will worsen our lives and the lives of others. If we speak and act with a pure heart, we will improve our lives and the lives of others. So, in order to change our speech and actions we need to purify our hearts, train our minds. Seeing things as they really are helps us to do so. With this improved seeing, comes purer thinking, speaking, acting, and (because we do not live in a vacuum) better livelihood.

We are helped in this process of transformation by three more aspects of our training: We exert effort in this direction; we develop mindfulness; and we can do these things through meditative practices.

It’s as easy as that.

And as hard.

That’s what Buddhism is. Buddhism is a call to action. It’s a call to live the moral life we dream of. It’s a call to replace ignorance with wisdom; to replace craving with generosity; to replace hatred, anger, and impatience with love, compassion, and equanimity; to replace unwholesome habits with wholesome habits. Buddhism is living this way — or at least aspiring to.

Fortunately, we do not have to work alone. We mutually support each other in communities, often small ones, just like this one. Even our dedication and our meditation are easier when we are with this community, and when we bring the community in our imagination with us into our daily lives.

This is what Buddhism is. Buddhism is a community of people who are working to transform themselves into the kind of persons who are motivated by a desire for the spiritual well-being of all sentient beings. They share a world view and several practices, including meditation, study, and some ritual acts, all centered around developing a moral life characterized by wisdom, mindfulness, generosity, love, compassion, and equanimity.

Millions have found it so. Try it for yourself. You’ll love it.

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