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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 19 GUO GU: This is an important question, and one not so dissimilar from another common question, “In what timeframe can one reasonably expect to learn medi tation and reach awakening?” These are difficult to answer because whatever assumptions we may bring to perceiving ourselves and others, buddhadharma is definitely not meant to be a measuring stick for judging people. It is a practice, and it is up to each of us to engage with it and integrate it in our lives so eventu ally there’s no separation between bud dhadharma and our lives. Done correctly, our selfreferential attachments diminish. That said, naturally there are ups and downs in different periods and circum stances of our lives. Common notions of progress and regress do not apply here. What a “Buddhist” does may appear one way but then change, or it may have a different outcome later; what seems like progress may turn out to be the beginning of the downfall of the practitioner. What may appear as regress or a great challenge may in fact be an occasion for insight and transformation. Through practice, a per son entrenched in vexations or narcissism may suddenly have a transformative expe rience and drop selfreferential attach ments, at least temporarily. Even when people drop selfattachment, the practice of selfexamination is necessary because Guo Gu is the founder of the Tallahassee Chan Center and a professor of Buddhism and East Asian religions at Florida State University, Tallahassee they may still manifest what appear to be a habit of vexations. All of these scenarios are documented in the scriptures and in the real lives of practitioners, past and present. As for the “Buddhists” you speak of, is a person a Buddhist just because she pro fesses to be one? Is a person a Buddhist when he takes refuge or meditates but doesn’t apply any of the principles of bud dhadharma to his life? There are many Buddhists who use Buddhism to advance their own selfreferential ideas or political agenda on social media. There are, in fact, many kinds of “Buddhists.” To general ize that “Buddhists do this or that” is to simplify what is actually very complex, so it is best not to engage in judgments or expectations based on an ideal of what a Buddhist should be. The key is whether or not someone is honestly and correctly integrating the teachings into their lives. We could turn your question around: Do my own actions on social media accord with precepts, compassion, and wisdom? Am I free from reactivity and narcissistic tendencies? It is up to us to engage with buddhadharma and be free from our own reactivity and narcissistic tendencies. In this process of selfexamination, we learn to expose, embrace, transform, and let go of our own attachments so that we may realize our own intrinsic freedom. JULIESPROTT