Tristan Lecomte: to be or not to be a Buddhist

- through Francois Leclercq

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In the absence of a composite portrait, how do you know what it is to be a Buddhist?

In Thailand where I live, I sometimes meet people who confide in me with a small smile: “I am not a good Buddhist, I rarely go to the temple, I do not meditate much”. This, even though these people are a living example of the Buddha's teaching of letting go and compassion.

Then come these phrases from the Buddha that resonate in me (1):

“Don't believe in teachings, including mine, until you experience them for yourself.
Do not believe based solely on the authority of your teachers and deans.
Do not believe in traditions, just because they have been passed down for several generations.
But if after observing and analyzing, you think that a principle is in accordance with reason and benefits humanity, accept it and live it. »

Is Buddhism characterized by a process of questioning, of questioning the established rules? A process of intellectual and spiritual honesty, of commitment too, of action more than an act of faith, which each practitioner who wishes could do, and which would consist of observing his thoughts, his convictions and questioning them freely. In short, to call into question the very principles of Buddhism, would it be Buddhist ?

Free me… from “me”!

Let's push the provocation a little further. The Four Noble Truths (2) invite us to stop identifying with the mind, with the ego, in order to free ourselves from it. Become aware that the "I" is not an entity in itself, stop the flow of projections and desires that invariably bring frustration and suffering, free yourself from the imprisoning self, "Not I, Not me, Not mine" , such would be the challenge of Buddhism? Isn't nirvana described as an inner state where the individual is free from his habitual conditioning?

Under these conditions, is it not contradictory to claim to be Buddhist, to define oneself as such? Is not any identification with an external religious form, any inscription in rites an obstacle for the practitioner, a form of spiritual attachment, which conditions him and distances him from the true objective of Buddhism?

Freeing oneself from the imprisoning self, “Not I, Not me, Not mine”, would this be the challenge of Buddhism?

Thus, wanting to free the "me" from any "label", as the Buddha did in his time, would be one of the components of the path. An unspeakable component that lives. We know that after achieving enlightenment, the Buddha did not wish to teach. His teaching took different forms over the years and always adapted to the intellectual dispositions of the disciples who asked him for it. Personally, I am particularly touched by this moment when, for all answer, he contented himself with twirling a flower between his fingers. This simplicity, this way of going, without words, to the heart of things, encourages me to understand what it means to be a Buddhist, to observe nature and my own inner nature, and to question the path itself.

By doing so, I discover the law of impermanence, the causes of suffering, the law of cause and effect... By doing so, I am not a nihilist, nor do I consider Buddhism as a spirituality that boasts of nothing, but I deconstruct my beliefs and free myself from the rites and artifices inherent in religion.

I like the idea that taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha is, for me, the starting point, the base which, paradoxically, allows me to free myself from my beliefs. I do not claim that this demanding approach (3) which leads me to relentlessly question my beliefs is the way, but it gives me perspective on what I think and what I believe I am or should be. That's why I wanted to share it here, to help those who want to find their own answers.

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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