In INSIGHTS by Erik Pema Kunsang4 Comments

Being an insider doesn’t mean being member of a select group, it means to live with responsibility, to take charge of life and all that entails: every thought, word and deed.  Everything we express, every attitude we form, every way we communicate, every movement of our body has a consequence. All these consequences have one director, the will. Will is responsible for all help and hurt. Will is a powerful force. It’s the creator of destiny and fate, even good and bad luck. By accepting responsibility for our willful actions, we change our lives.

It is in this context that the Tibetan translators a millennium ago chose nangpa as the word for Buddhist and it simply means insider, to accept that mind is responsible for everything. To be a true insider means to change the causes, rather than blaming the effects. Even the smallest hurtful deed, such as slapping an insect, creates tremendous consequences. Once done, it’s easier to repeat, it becomes a habit. The many habits rushing through our minds in every conscious moment of life support the illusion of being a someone with ideas and opinions, daily desires, likes and dislikes. This mind with an illusory personality is usually busy blaming everything that happens on this someone, or other someones, while in fact all that happens are effects caused by earlier moments of willful mind. We can, everyone of us, make a willful decisions to better a situation, to heal a hurt, to refrain from committing a small murder by undermining another mind’s worth.

The ceremony for becoming an insider usually includes a moment where one says, “I take the dharma as my refuge” after which the preceptor responds, “and by doing so, you will stop taking lives.” There is something incredibly beautiful in this shift, in this declaration of nonviolence as the very basis for the path of liberation. This commitment expands through all our actions and aims and brings about an authentic transformation. The karmic personality changes for the better. Even though the personal identity is an illusion, the commitment to non-aggression is so important. This understanding is the true middle way that avoids the extreme of cynical nihilism, that nothing matters because everything is unreal, and the extreme of rigid eternalism, the belief in a real ‘me’ stuck in an endless real world with no way out. Liberation through insight becomes possible.

It may seems strange, that we walk in to become a Buddhist, meaning “I want to be free and enlightened” and then be told, “thou shall not kill”. How does this fit together? What does being a good person have to do with transcending into oneness and nonduality? It has everything to do with it. Respect for and acceptance of  the power of mind and the beautiful qualities in our minds, both the mind in the insect we may be about to smack and the mind in our body. The uncovering of boundless compassion and true insight is accessed through simple kindness and awareness in calm, the essence of which is the mind of nonviolence. It is here, through a state of mind that is calm, kind and clear, that we see liberation in actuality and reconnect with our timeless enlightened nature. This is the innermost code for an insider.

About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

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Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik's website & retreats.

Featured image by Unsplash, England. Photo by Skeese, USA.

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    I believe the first precept to DO NO HARM encompasses the killing that we indirectly participate in when we eat meat. We have to do a LOT of denying not to see this. May all beings everywhere be safe and free from inner and outer dangers!

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    Indeed, when you realize co-sufferers delusions, the big compassion will arise naturally…

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