I am a Buddhist–a philosophical Buddhist, a secular non-devotional Buddhist, or a Zennist; I don’t pray to any one or any thing. It is a way of looking at things and a practice.
In Buddhism, there is the concept called the Dharma, or “Dhamma, in Pali.” Think of it, for now, as The Way.
⇐ These characters, on the left, are my Dharma name. A Dharma is another name a Buddhist is called which represents his or her identity in the Dharma and among his or her Dharma brothers and sisters in the Sangha, or the Buddhist community.
My Dharma name is pronounced “Mahn–doe,” with the ‘a’ sounding as it does in “father,” and with relatively equal stress applied to each syllable. If a little more stress could be applied, it would be given to the first syllable, “Mahn.”
“What kind of name is Mando?”
That’s what my mother said that my father asked her–about my new name.
I know that to some people it may seem pretentious to change one’s name. People like Prince and The Edge do it. And actors do it. In the West, women do it when they marry. Did you know that Japanese woodblock masters did it? It was done to protect one’s family name, among other reasons. Hokusai, I think, had something like thirty names.
Long before I received this Dharma name, I had thought it appropriate for a thoughtful person to change his or her name–to better suit how he or she sees him or herself. After all, my father changed his name, too!
The Words And Their Spelling
In Korean ‘Man-do’ literally means Ten-thousand Ways, with ‘Man’ (pronounced “mahn”) meaning ‘ten-thousand,’ or ‘many,’ and ‘Do’ (pronounced ‘doe’) meaning ‘way’ (which can also be written and pronounced “Gil”)–but as Man-do (the way it should be transliterated from Korean) was transmitted to me by my teacher, it was conveyed to mean ‘Many Paths of Change.’ In Korean, Mando looks like this:
The name in Chinese is “Wan Tao,” meaning basically the same thing — Ten Thousand Ways.
Please look at the red pictographs again:
⇐ The Swastika (on top), is Sanskrit, and in that language means luck (or fortune) and well-being.
⇐ The second character–on the bottom–is “Doe.” In Chinese, it is “Tao,” as in the Tao Te Ching’, or “Way of Virtue” (the name of the collection of philosophical poems attributed to Lao Tzu).
Two of my Dharma Brothers–who took their precepts the same day as I–have this word, “way,” in their Dharma names; there is Cheon Do (Way of Heaven) and Gil Do (道吉) Way of Luck (or Fortune). My other Dharma Brother’s name is Seog Chon, meaning Upright Stone.
In Japanese, this name is “Manji Michi” and the meaning is the same as described above.
You Can See The Swastika All Around Asia
This first character, Man, in Korean and Japanese, or Wan in Chinese is under the eaves on all Buddhist temples in Korea. It also denotes temples on maps of Japan. In this case it may be said to mean “Buddhism” or “Dharma.” That is because it was adopted to represent the turning Dharma Wheel, which is what it essentially is. Imagine a cross, say of the two bars that make up a compass, or an X. Now, imagine it spinning, round axis at the intersection points of the two perpendicular bars. Can you also imagine a blur that might be perceived at the ends of those bars? Now you have what the Jane and Buddhist Swastika is. It is a Spinning Dharma Wheel, or at least that is how I see it..
It is a symbol that dates back to pre-history. It is a symbol used by the people of the Jane religion–arguably a more compassionate religion than Buddhism.
A Little About What Buddhism is…
A. The assumption should not be made that says a Buddhist practitioner believes this or that, though there are some basic notions. Buddhism to some is a religion. To me it is a practice (to some that’s the same thing, but you will accept my meaning that a religion these days generally means a belief system requiring faith in unproven things). Some would say Buddhism is my religion, but it is not–not in the traditional, modern-day meaning of religion, because I do not depend on something outside myself. I depend on my perception of what I am a part of, attempting to be as good a part of everything as I can–so it is responsible, inclusive, singular, and thus affords my part of the universal Mind quite a beautiful point of view, I feel. It is almost like saying I am part of what is “divine,” rather than separate from it.
B. Buddhism involves a moral path of inflicting as little harm as possible. It also says that we must accept reality for what it is, not what we or some doctrine wants it to be. For me this is perfect, because I feel a religion or philosophy is only as good as far as it abides by reality and does not attempt to recast it in some self-serving image. To me, a good religion or philosophy also must not preach punishment or pain–only benevolence. To do otherwise is politic–a politics of retribution and dualism–what Buddhism seeks to eliminate.
C. At left is my Certificate of Precepts. It signifies that I and my Dharma Brothers took vows and were witnessed doing so, promising not to
- consume alcohol irresponsibly
- lie or use harmful speech
- partake in immoral intimate contact
D. To me, the most important aspect beyond these promises is to use meditation and our own conscience to determine what is in ourselves and around us–understanding that the five senses, or Skandas, are the source of our perception.
E. I also see Buddhism–and specifically Zen Buddhism–is a humble, honest, moral practice and a way of looking at the universe that says “all is one,” and suffering is in the mind and caused by the mind; it is caused by the ego, or “selfness.”
F. Buddhism is a non-dogmatic way of looking at the universe–focusing on what is honestly and plainly perceived–or, on reality as it is.
G. The Buddhist attempts to perfect Right Mind, Right Action, Right Thought, and Right Speech.
Some reasons I chose this practice are:
- I was enamored with the peaceful, revalatory, and epiphanal ways of meditation.
- The more I read about it, the more I felt and learned that this way of being was more honest and pacifying–spiritually, scientifically, and socially–than anything I had heard of or witnessed. For theists who feel this is “bad,” I suggest they look into it, and if they cannot part with their religions but still like Buddhist philosophy and practice, they can become Zen Christians, because:
3. The practice of Zen conflicts with nothing–most importantly, with science.*
4. There is no worship in true Buddhism–though there are those Buddhists who are devotional.
5. Buddhism can bring one peace like nothing else–in my opinion, because it is about being (and being peaceful, eliminating suffering) and it is about not doing as opposed to doing this or that–or not doing this or that.
6. There are pronouncements as to how to live morally, but what is interesting is that the Buddha said to look at ideas–including his ideas–and test them, seeing whether they are right for us. In this way–and most importantly in my opinion–Buddhism does not interfere with sentient conscience, a most superlatively necessary way of ensuring the primacy of freedom.
7. It is true the Buddha suggested his followers not to depend on a god or gods, but rather on themselves. However, until one can reach a transcendental path, it is possible for theists to benefit from the Buddhist ways of Zen meditation and mindfulness. I have met several Zen Christians, and have heard of formal Zen Christian sects.
8. If one attempts to practice Zen Buddhism, specifically living a meditative life, she or he will be relieved of most–if not all–illusions and delusions, so that following religions based on faith in stories that have no proof likely become impossible. But remember, The Buddha told his followers not to follow what he said outright–and rather to investigate things for themselves. Each of us creates his or own moral universe, so one could take the meditation of Zen and leave the Buddhist elements of wisdom out of it if one wishes. In fact, I think if more theists were at the same time Zennists, too–if they were Zen Christians, Zen Muslims, and Zen Jews–they might find much more peace, because…
9. Meditation and the Buddhist way–which are crucial to the practice–are about presence, awareness, listening and seeing clearly, and conducting oneself in such a way as to not contribute to violence in oneself–as we are considered all one–aiming to diminish ‘I’ and ego and not causing violence to anyone else.
Thank you for reading. I wish you and yours peace, love, joy, and enlightenment.
(Carl Atteniese Jr.)