In the opening page of my book, I quote the Dalai Lama: “Buddhism is not a religion. It is a science of mind.” But again, there isn’t one Buddhism. Buddhism also functions as a religion for many people — there’s devotion, religious rites and rituals, cosmology. In this way it functions as other religions do. But when you go back to the fundamental teachings, the Buddha’s main focus was much more a science of mind: Here is how the mind works, and this is how you liberate the mind and the heart from suffering, through compassion and generosity and the practrice of meditation (p. 48).
I always feel a bit cautious about the Western teachers of Buddhism — I don’t know which ones have made a New Age goulash from Buddhist and other philosophies. This interview left me with a favorable impression of Kornfield.
In various Buddhist temples around the world, I have seen people praying fervently before one or another statue of the Buddha, offering incense and mountains of fruit (and even cans of beer!). These practices don’t seem to fit with the Buddhist practice I am learning, but then, I wasn’t interested in Buddhism as a religion.
People follow a variety of approaches to Buddhist practice, and it’s not necessary to judge them or try to incorporate all these varieties into one single practice.
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