Why you can’t call yourself a Buddhist

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Maybe you could. But it is quite strange to determine whether it is alright, or not. Primarily the Buddha hoped for people to live mindfully of our impermanent lives, due to which he propagated non-attachment. Now the question is, that if he propagated non-attachment would he ever want you to attach yourself to the principles of Buddhism, and bind yourself in a relationship with Buddhist thoughts? Probably not. I assume he would want for anyone aligning with Buddhist interests to keep an open mind to reaching peace, at every step.

But what if I find peace through Buddhism, and it is the way I choose, why can’t I call myself a Buddhist?  The only thing is you may call yourself a Buddhist when you have to tick a box, but must not build those box like borders in your mind. You must keep your mind open, and never locked in a box of Buddhism alone, but be open to learning from every school of thought. So you surely can call yourself a Buddhist in a sense of alignment with a philosophy, but who are you to align with anybody in the first place? Are you the cells of your body that degenerate every moment? Are you your thoughts that change faster than the neuron synapses in your brain? It is difficult to recognise these changes, which one could be completely oblivious to this. The Buddha says that since every thing is changing constantly, we too, in all our entirety are changing in more ways than we recognise.

So we encounter 3 issues-

1. We come to the concept of Anatta, which means non-self. The Buddha believed that there could possibly never be a figment of any being that remains the same and can be called ‘a self’. The persistently changing universe takes over our wish to commit to perceptions before we have even envisioned them. So how do we know we stand for the same principles as time passes by? Do we litmus test our minds every 5 minutes? Or even more frequently? We would all be going crazy. So the Buddha asks us to accept that change is not something we can often keep up with. For him there is no self, so which past self of yours had aligned with Buddhism is of little interest to him.

2. What about Sangha (community)? The Buddha speaks of the importance of establishing a community where ideas can grow, and everyone can come together to learn the path of nirvana. This is the absolute form of alignment and calling yourself Buddhist.

3. There could be another discussion on which texts you are following to walk the path of Buddhism. Oh you are following the real essence of Buddha? Well, everything is a translation of his essence, not cause you cannot read the original Pali Canon, but because they are translations of Buddha’s teachings from his disciples. Since he did not write any text himself, the versions of ideas of Buddhism could be questionable on every ground.

However, there are key principles that stand out to convey to us the core ideas of Buddha’s teachings – which include non-self, and the importance of a sangha (community) in the same breath. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you choose to call yourself a Buddhist or not. Because if your concern is with pleasing the Buddha in anyway, he would be pleased as long as your are learning, and serving the planet in any way. After which you could choose any alignment and it wouldn’t matter.

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