17th Karmapa: I Am Not A Buddhist

I’ve been reading the Karmapa’s book, The Heart is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out, particularly Ch. 10. “Spiritual Paths: Integrating Life and Spirituality”. The Karmapa says some very surprising things in this chapter. Here’s a few selections:

My family did not practice Buddhism as a religion:

“I was born in a Buddhist family. We were a very spiritual family. I say “spiritual” rather than “religious” because we were highly respectful of something beyond the material world that we perceived directly, and yet we knew very little of religious ideologies or tenets.” (p. 143).

I am not a “Buddhist”:

“If I were asked the question, “What religion are you?” it would seem very odd if I did not say “I’m a Buddhist.” After all people see me as a Buddhist leader! To keep things simple, it is easier for me to say “I am a Buddhist.” Yet that is not how I see myself. Rather, I see myself as a follower of the Buddha. I aspire to follow in the Buddha’s footsteps. To hold on to the label of “Buddhist” and wave it like a banner is something else altogether.” (pp. 147-148)

Finding a few supportive friends is more important than joining an organization:

Community can also play an important role in your spiritual life. This does not mean you need to set off on a quest to find a spiritual community to join. Instead, you might approach it with the simple thought that it would be good to have a friend. It would be even better to have a friend who shares your spiritual interests. Having a few such friends would be better still. (pp. 150-151).

We are social beings. Each individual is dependent on others. It is important to have close friends who give us moral support and who bring out the good qualities we have within us. This is much more important than sharing a a label or joining an organization. (p. 151).

I would like to publish several more surprising quotes from the 17th Karmapa’s book, but I might violate copyright laws.

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