BUDDHISM BASICS page 3
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When you were younger, you made mistakes.
If you stuck your hand into a fire, you hopefully learned that it hurt and did not repeat that again.
The brain has two ways of learning.
1. Conscious Learning: “Oh look, there’s a flame. I’m not going to stick my hand into it.”
2. Unconscious Learning: Your hand jerks back automatically as it nears the flame.
The Buddha realized that conscious learning and unconscious learning (‘conditioning’) were normal aspects of every person.
The Buddha also realized that people could consciously learn to do or be wrong, like murdering and stealing, and that people could also learn to do or be wrong unconsciously, like biting their fingernails.
So, the first step in Buddhism is to discover and reprogram your conditioned mind. Each person must look at every aspect of their behavior to uncover their actions and reactions which are happening without any forethought.
If you punch someone every time they step on your foot, you have discovered a conditioned response.
The goal of Buddhism is to make as much of your life–your decisions–as much as possible.
Some conditioned responses are fine, like coughing when something is stuck in your throat. But getting mad when someone calls you a name or ‘flips you the bird’ makes you a puppet more than a person.
This will require mental effort. Another unique aspect of Buddhism: you are required to think. Like any exercise though, you will get mentally stronger through this exercise of thinking. Of course, you are always thinking to some extent. However, push yourself to think harder, ponder longer, and research whatever you are doing more.
Use mental effort to increase your mental efforts.
Mental effort will enable you to control your own mind.
Mental effort will enable you to determine who you are.
Mental effort will set your mind free also. Rather than thinking the way someone else taught you to think, you can now decide how you think.
Obviously, like training a dog, it is easier to just punish it every time it digs a hole in your yard until it is conditioned to associate pain and digging.
But humans are supposed to be smarter than dogs. If someone explains that this hole makes mowing the lawn more difficult, hopefully a human can comprehend this information and decide not to dig holes in the lawn without being beaten with a stick or put in a cage.
Every facial gesture and change of tone in your voice should be analyzed and studied by yourself. Collect information from those around you. What do you do that bothers them? What do you do that they like or appreciate?
The journey of self-discovery will be both encouraging and humiliating. However, like a baby walking, if we’re embarrassed by falling down and gave up…the baby would never learn to walk.
Buddhism directs each person towards personal freedom. Most people think freedom is the ability to do WHATEVER they WANT to do. Buddhism seeks to lead each person to a similar type of freedom. After all, if you want to kill people or drive your car through someone’s backyard, is that really freedom? True freedom comes from true understanding.
True understanding includes being aware of what’s around you and why it’s there.
Realize who you are.
Realize what you do.
Realize why you do what you do.
Sometimes the answers will be easy. Most people imitate their parents and friends.
If you choose to maintain some form of behavior like picking your nose because your dad used to pick his nose, at least you know what you do and why you do it. This is awareness.
Awareness is the first step in gaining control of your life.
Now, hopefully, we can suggest that picking your nose is annoying to others and you will decide not to do it by making a decision not to do it anymore.
Now you are on the Buddhist path.
Yes, you are free to pick your nose.
Yuck. I don’t think Buddha wrote a rule for that one.