This post is a more personal post which I would like to make. Having been a Buddhist and vegetarian for over 20 years, I would like to share with you my thoughts on what it means to be a Buddhist. There are three main Buddhist traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The main topic is not about Theravada or Vajrayana, so I would not want to spend time on that.
Mahayana Buddhists (MB) talk about wishing for complete enlightenment, which is Buddhahood, while liberating all sentient beings in the process. While this is the ultimate aim, is it possible to do achieve this in a lifetime, two lifetimes, many lifetimes, or even at all? To me, being a MB means to always remember the purity of the mind, that is, that we all have the Buddha nature. That Buddha nature is compassion, and wisdom. To know that we all have this nature, means that we all are capable of being liberated from suffering, and obtaining true happiness.
Hence, we do what we can to make the world a better place. We put forth our practice into our daily lives, vowing that every action that we do will make sentient beings happy. It doesn't matter what job you do. If you are a barista, do not look down on that cup of coffee that you brew. Think of it like "May this cup of coffee give you energy for the morning on your way to work". Thinking of it this way is compassion. That cup of coffee you brew for your customers will give them energy for their important meetings, exams, work, or anything that is important to them. It may be because of that coffee that they are smiling on that day. One thought of compassion goes a long way.
In a way, being a Buddhist means to create a safe environment for everyone. Because of the compassion for all sentient beings, we don't want to harm others, knowing that they will suffer because of fear. Hence, we try to create an environment of peace and harmony through our actions. When others see that we don't harm them, they feel safe, and thus creating an environment full of opportunities for all parties to grow and mature. In a sense, it means to create a Pure Land wherever we are. Hence the saying: When the mind is pure, the Pure Land appears.
Although this is our wish and hopes, sometimes it may not be fulfilled. That is okay. Whatever we can do in our power, we shall do our best. If we can only help one person, we help that one person. Who knows if helping that one person may lead him to become one of the most influential person of the generation? Only time will tell. As long as we give our 100%, let time show the results of our effort. Dwelling on immediate or short-term results may not bring us happiness in the long run, but pain and suffering. Giving 100% of our effort means to spare no thoughts on distraction. If we are distracted by other thoughts, for example, our own emotional pain, how can we give our 100% at everything?
As a Buddhist, I believe we must face every obstacle with courage. It is because we know nothing stays the same, that we know we are able to change some things. Some people may say some things stays forever the same. How long is "forever"? One year? Five years? Ten years? Approaching conflicts and pain with patience help us move forward with courage. Some people may think that Buddhists are very soft-spoken. However, that is not the case. In fact, Buddhists are very powerful people. We know what is best for our people, and we speak up for it. Our actions are based on the teachings of the Buddha's wisdom. The Buddha's wisdom is like a diamond cutter, which shatters all our delusions when spoken and heard. With that, our responsibility for our families, our community, country, the world, and all sentient beings, gives us the courage to do what is right. Being advocates for the environment let the community know that "Hey! You may not see, but the Earth is dying, and we need to protect it". Being a Buddhist means being a strong and responsible person for your community.
With that as our foundation, our actions must consequently be aligned with our speech, and thoughts. Merely saying that "we want education reform!" but not doing anything about it is not being firm about our values. If we want something to change, we have to start the action with ourselves first. We should not merely chant or repeat the words, while not reflecting upon it. This is the same for spiritual cultivation. If we do not understand something, we should seek guidance from a well-learned advisor. By constantly having awareness of our actions, and not dwelling upon it, we find that we have the potential to grow better as a person, a citizen, a Buddhist, and a Bodhisattva. Our actions, words, and thoughts will then be aligned with our Buddha nature: to benefit and for the sake of others.
While this may be a longer post than usual, it is only a small part of what it means to practice Mahayana Buddhism. There are also more to what I have shared, such as upholding values and virtues. Maybe in the future, I might do another reflection on this again.