Each school of Buddhism has its favoured texts and its favoured practices. Thus, for instance, the Soto Zen Shu favours the Diamond and Heart Sutras, (and was once based on the Lankavatara) and emphasises the practice of zazen, while the Pureland schools favour the Larger Pureland, Amida and Contemplation Sutras while being focused upon the invocation of the name of Amitabha Buddha. If we go to the Tibetan schools we also find characteristic differences and so on throughout the Buddhist world. Now over the centuries there have been instances of friction between Buddhist schools, but they have seldom been major and by far the more common circumstance has been at least tolerance and often co-operation. When we consider this in relation to the history of Europe where oceans of blood has been spilt over fine points of doctrine that have little or no practical implication, it is rather remarkable. The differences between Buddhist schools are arguably much bigger - they don't even revere the same book. One can rightly wonder at this. The kindly spirit of the founder has somehow persisted down the centuries to a remarkable degree. I myself have travelled to quite a number of countries and met Buddhists from many different schools and universally been well received. We meet practitioners who have different styles, welcome them in, invite them to join in, ask what they do, share and discuss. It is all rather creative and certainly friendly. I think that one of the bases of this is the sense of our humanity. We might prefer one practice to another, but we can appreciate that different ways suit different folk, that what we are invoking is universal truth but without claiming to be know-alls or experts about what that means. An acceptance of our fallibility, limitations and vulnerability is a prerequisite for any meaningful practice at all.

The great Zen Master Bodhidharma said, "When bowing ceases, Buddhism ceases."  By this he did not mean that his school was the best and only right one and its practice was bowing so everybody ought to follow suit or be excommunicated. He meant that the attitude of bowing permeates all Buddhist practice. In bowing we bend, we reduce our egos, we acknowledge something higher than ourselves, and we "touch the earth" just as Shakyamuni did at the time of his enlightenment. A stiff tree breaks when a storm comes along, but the tree that can bend survives. The same is true for people: learning to be flexible without giving up one's root. The source of nourishment that we draw upon comes from a deep place. The winds that blow across the surface may require us to bend from time to time, now this way, now that, but if we draw our true strength from a deep place, then we shall come back to an upright position afterwards. Thus there is no point in rigidly clinging to form. It is good to have forms since they facilitate practice together, but I am happy to follow whatever is customary in the temple I am in at the time, so long as no cruelty is involved. It does not matter whether I am bowing to Amitabha or Quan Shi Yin or Medicine Buddha and I'm sure they don't mind either. What matters is not clinging to form, but transmitting the gentle spirit of the founder - it is so much needed in this world.

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  • Thank you Francoise. Yes, when people try to build harmony and peace they generally look for common ground, shared values and so on. However, the real test is whether we can live in peace with people who are different - can we find harmony in diversity, not just in sameness. At present the world seems too much in flight from its richness.

  • Thank You for this reminder of the core values gentleness and humility. In fact, where conflicts in religious systems appear — and not only there— one can always find the poison of arrogance and the lake of appréciation and respect for the qualities of the other at the source of the batailles.
    Maybe we should have to bow to each other, to the qualities of the Buddha nature in each other, sometimes just as a seed, but always present. To show respect and to bow in a gentle way to people of another race, Social condition, religion, or culture should be our Daily practice for generating a more peaceful world.
  • One reflection is that we all do harm and are doing it all the time. We cannot avoid it. As long as we stay alive we do so by devouring things one way or another. Even our constructive efforts involve clearing away what was there before. And yet the gifts keep coming.

    Today I was doing the washing up, which, here, is done outside. The weather has changed. The sunshine of the past few days has gone. I thought, "Oh dear, it looks a bit threatening - all that grey cloud in the west" Then I saw how amazingly beautiful the light was, adding a subtle tone and depth to all the surroundings. What a privilege to be able to do the washing up in such a magical space.

  • And amazing how many reminders I need, or maybe not, and maybe that's most of us. I'm more amazed by unexpected gifts, though, and imagine that if I get them, everyone must.

  • Basic Buddhism ~ we are continually grabbing onto or pushing away.

  • Walking within danger, I was glad to be both supported in it and directed out of it. I expected neither, so both were gifts. Thinking back, I can remember times when I was part of the danger, and still am in terms of my thoughtless collusion with grabbing the earth's resources. I have faith that support and direction came to and comes to those who I cause harm to as well. When I cause harm, I think it is usually because I am grabbing onto something. When harm is caused to me, I think it is usually because something I have been given is being grabbed from me.

  • Thanks, Robert - yes, indeed, bad things happen and this world is not gentle with us all the time and we, collectively, are not being gentle with it. Can one be fiercely gentle? Certainly there can be something that looks like gentle that is merely complacent which would be the opposite. Shall we say, gentle while fully alive, or gentle in love, perhaps, or, perhaps again, as you say, two contrasting hues side by side - gentleness and fierceness - each making the other more vibrant.

  • I am just back from my first Buddhist service in too long a time and having brought back a strong feeling of gentleness and acceptance I was very pleased to find this post.
    A few hundred local folk assembled at the Wat at 6.30 this morning to feed the monks. Leaving after the service I noticed how many national flags decorated the temple grounds. Huge rupa.
    It seems that a spitit of gentleness received coexists with a needed fierceness for change I perceive. Criticism of this Thai flag is unspeakable to all assembled and extremely dangerous particularly at this time in Thailand; as are many things unspeakable in other parts of the world. Fierceness is simply speaking to them.
    Physical survival in this ecology really is about going with the flow and such an approach is the safest for any individual regarding the cultural environment. Standing against the current ones feet really do seem to simply penetrate deeper and deeper into the mud without any sense of substance.
    Without a spirit of gentleness though all is lost.
  • Yes, thanks Andrew. Confidence = Faith = Big heartedness.

  • Thank you for the reminder that Buddhist arguments tend to be small. Small things which don't tend to start wars. Tiny differences of opinion about the exact nature of the Holy Trinity have certainly caused big problems. Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or the Son, for example. Buddhist differences by comparison to these international ones seem more personal, although this can be difficult if you are the person involved and find yourself exiled from a particular community. I hope the rise of Buddhist nationalism won't translate into bigger problems. It has often seemed a blessing to me that people in Amida Shu have come across to me as good and flexible listeners, that what could be differences can become different ways of seeing the same basic truth. This is a real strength and shows an underlying confidence which I think comes from Amida. Confidence is needed to be big hearted.

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