Buddhism and the Buddhist way of life is a subject of interest not just for Buddhists but also for non-Buddhists. Leading a life that is in keeping with the Buddha’s teachings or dharma is something that all Buddhists strive for. Here is an introduction to the Buddhist attitude of mind or way of thinking.
Freedom of Thought is Central to Buddhist Attitude
The Buddha encouraged self-reliance and freedom of thought in his followers. Practitioners are motivated to overcome obstacles by virtue of their own intellect and hard work. Buddhists believe in letting man be responsible and accountable for his actions.
According to Walpola Rahula, “This freedom is necessary because, according to the Buddha, man’s emancipation depends on his own realization of Truth, and not on the benevolent grace of a god or any external power as a reward for his obedient good behavior.”
In fact, the freedom of thought principle is so deeply ingrained in Buddhism that it is believed that the Buddha instructed the monks to not simply accept even his word as the Truth but to fully examine what he said and be absolutely sure about what to believe and accept.
Tolerance, Compassion and Understanding are Ideals of Buddhist Culture
Other key principles of the Buddhist way of life include tolerance, compassion and understanding towards others, especially other religions and faiths. In fact, compassion and dedication to others is seen as an important virtue or perfection and to develop a compassionate spirit is something that all Buddhists strive for constantly.
Tolerance and understanding includes to shunning violence and aggression, honoring and respecting other people, religions and beliefs and embracing the goodness of humanity regardless of where it comes from. As Walpola Sri Rahula writes, “In fact, in order to understand Truth, it is not necessary even to know whether the teaching comes from the Buddha, or from anyone else.”
Buddhism Emphasizes Seeing Rather Than Believing
Buddhism lays great stress on seeing rather than merely believing. Walpola Sri Rahula quotes the great Buddhist philosopher, Asanga and writes that sraddha — “faith” or “devotion” — has three features. Firstly, there must exist the complete conviction that a thing is. Secondly, there should be “serene joy at good qualities” and thirdly, one must have the desire to achieve something that can be seen.
Gary Gach writes, “…the Buddha conducted an experiment he invites others to test (it’s unbiased) with the evidence of their own senses (it’s empirical) and prove for themselves (it’s replicable). So the essence of the scientific method is also the Buddhist attitude.”
Accepting the Reality of Impermanence Important to Buddhist Attitude
Buddhism accepts change and impermanence as a constant of life. Everything changes and nothing stays the same. While this impermanence may not be easy to deal with, Buddhism provides followers with tools such as meditation and teachings of the Buddha to help understand and accept the constancy of change.
Even the Four Noble Truths reflect the impermanence of dukka. Therefore, Buddhism encourages its practitioners to embrace the constantly changing situations and life conditions.
The Buddhist way of life may seem idealistic but practitioners argue that in reality, it is quite a practical attitude of mind.
Buddhism places emphasis on experiencing and seeing rather than merely accepting what others say, expressing and developing compassion and understanding towards others and most importantly, and Buddhists accept that life and its conditions are impermanent and will definitely change.