What is Humanistic Buddhism?
We know that the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni Buddha was born into this world; he cultivated his spiritual development, attained enlightenment, and shared with others in this world the profound truth he had realised. The human world was emphasised in everything he did. Why did the Buddha not achieve Buddhahood in one of the other five realms?
Why did he not attain enlightenment in one of the other ten dharma worlds? Why did he, instead, attain complete enlightenment as a human? There can only be one reason; the Buddha wanted the teachings of Buddhism to be relevant to the human world. The Buddha's very life as a human being has give us all an inspiration and a model for the spiritual path and for making our own lives a spiritual practice.
The Fundamental Concepts of Humanistic Buddhism
Humanistic Buddhism is the integration of our spiritual practice into all aspects of our daily lives. Humanistic Buddhism has the following six characteristics.
The Buddha was neither a spirit--coming and going without leaving a trace-- nor a figment of one’s imagination. The Buddha was a living human being. Just like the rest of us, he had parents, a family, and he lived a life. It was through his human existence that he showed his supreme wisdom of compassion, ethical responsibility, and prajna-wisdom. Thus, he is a Buddha who was also (in the past) a human being.
2. Emphasis on daily life as spiritual practice
In his teachings, the Buddha placed great importance on daily life as spiritual practice. He provided guidance on everything, from how to eat, dress, work, and live, to how to walk, stand, sit, and sleep. He gave clear directions on every aspect of life, from relations among family members and between friends to how we should conduct ourselves in the social and political arenas.
The Buddhist teachings give people joy.
The Buddha was born into this world to teach, to provide an example, and to bring joy to all beings. He nurtured all beings, for he always had the best interests of others in his mind and heart. In short, his every thought, word, and action arose from a heart filled with deep care and concern for others.
The Buddha was born for a great reason: to build a special relationship with all of us who live in this world. Although the Buddha lived some 2,500 years ago and has already entered nirvana, he left the seed of liberation for all subsequent generations. Even today, the Buddha’s ideals and teachings serve as timely, relevant guides for us all.
6. Universality of wanting to save all beings
The entire life of the Buddha can be characterized by the Buddha’s spirit of wanting to liberate all beings, without exclusion. [The Buddha loved beings of all forms, whether they were animals or humans, male or female, young or old, Buddhist or not Buddhist, etc.]
It is difficult for people to see the relevance of Buddhism in their modern daily lives and how it adapts to the trends of the present age rather than merely following traditions blindly. Though Buddhism speaks of the past, present & future, it particularly highlights the universal welfare of the beings of this world; and although Buddhism speaks of all beings of the ten-dharma worlds, it reserves the most emphasis for humans. Through training and cultivating ourselves in this human world enlightenment can be achieved.
Therefore, we should cherish our lives, and integrate the Buddhist practice in our daily lives. Some people perceive Buddhism as a religion removed from humanity. This perception of Buddhism is characterised by isolation, retreat to forests, self-concern and individualism; it has lost its humanistic quality.
Humanistic Buddhism encompasses all of the Buddhist teachings from the time of the Buddha to the present - whether they are derived from the three traditions. The goal of Humanistic Buddhism is the bodhisattva way; to be an energetic, enlightened and endearing person who strives to help all sentient beings liberate themselves. Also, well as transforming our planet into a pureland of peace and bliss.
Humanistic Buddhism must focus more on issues of the world rather than on how to leave the world behind; on caring for the living rather than for the dead; on benefiting others rather than benefiting oneself; and on universal salvation rather than cultivation for oneself only.
There are five points that help us in applying Humanistic Buddhism in our everyday living. Humanistic Buddhism is:
1. The practice of the five basic moral ethics (Five precepts) and ten virtues
2. To develop the four boundless vows of kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity
3. Applying the six paramitas and the four great bodhisattva virtues - generosity; amiable speech; conduct beneficial to others; co-operation
4. The understanding of cause, condition, effect, and consequence
5. Encompasses the teachings of Ch'an; Pureland; and the middle path.
From the book, Entry Into the Profound: a first step to understanding Buddhism published by International Buddhist Association of Australia Incorporated.
Adapted from Nan Tien Temple "What is Humanistic Buddhism?"