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Now, Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea: “This is our Teacher”. But, O Kalamas, when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome and wrong and bad, then give them up… and when you know that certain things are wholesome and good, and that the wise believe them to be so, then accept them and follow them.
The Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya)
The Buddhist path needs to be reflected upon and understood if one is to practise it, so study of the Buddha’s teachings, and reflection upon them are important at all levels of practice in Triratna.
For the Dharma, or the Buddha’s teachings, to take you to Enlightenment, Buddhist tradition says that you must do three things: listen, reflect, and meditate on it.
First it is important to know what Buddhism teaches. The Buddha had a radical and distinctive approach to life which underlies the meditation and other practices Buddhists engage in. These teachings are challenging and inspiring, and reveal a unique vision of human potential, but often they need interpretation and discussion if their relevance to our lives is to become clear. Talks, courses, and study groups, that are held at every Triratna centre, are opportunities to hear the Dharma in this way, and to make sense of it in terms of one’s own life. Many centres also have bookshops with books from across the Buddhist traditions.
Reflecting on the Dharma can be done individually or with others. Study groups give a chance to clarify understanding, share experience, and learn new approaches along with others, so these are an important part of how teaching happens in Triratna.
Some people in the Triratna Buddhist Community have made thorough studies of aspects of the Buddhism. Sangharakshita is a respected scholar whose works have been influential in both the East and the West. A number of
Order Members are academics, studying and teaching Buddhism in Europe and the US. The task for thinkers in our community, academics or otherwise, is not simply to know how Buddhism has been articulated in the East, but also to make links between it and western culture, and to help show how the tradition applies in the modern world. Sangharakshita emphasises the need for a critical and historical awareness of the Buddhist tradition that draws on a range of commentarial material in study, including the findings of modern scholarship, the Buddhist commentarial tradition, and even comparative literature.
Meditating on the Dharma is the third stage. Buddhism aims at an understanding of life which transforms one’s entire being. Study often takes place in the context of retreats and seminars, and there is often an opportunity to reflect on Buddhist teachings in the context of meditation.