After resting for a while, when I came down for dinner, I met Mr. H's (the volunteer) aunt, Cannie who lived close by and had come for dinner. When she heard that I had conducted the children's course she asked me a number of questions about it and I truly had one of the most interesting discussions with her.
Cannie had signed up for a 10day course two years ago but was not sure if she could do the course because she was unwell. The teachers conducting the course had asked to see her and she feared she would be rejected by them and abandoned the plan to sit for the course. She was however, very keen to know more information regarding the practice.
One of the questions she asked me ---Is this really a non-religious practice?
Elaborating further, I said that The Buddha did not teach a religion. He found out the laws pertaining to the body and mind. For instance, Newton discovered the law of gravity. This law is applicable any where and to any one. It does not mean he started a sect of people who say--yes there is a law of gravity, and it would apply to only those who believe in Newton. Nor does it make sense to pray to Newton because he made such a discovery.
Just as scientists discovered the laws of the physical world and made our lives that much more easier, The Buddha discovered the laws that govern the mind and body. And these laws are applicable to anyone living anywhere in this planet and belonging to any sect or religion.
Let's examine what The Buddha taught: The first step in this practice is Sila or the moral code:
1. Abstain from killing
2. Abstain from stealing
3. Abstain from speaking harsh words, gossiping, back biting
4. Abstain from sexual misconduct
5. Abstain from taking intoxicants
Now anyone can see that these activities that you are asked to abstain from causes a lot of misery. It causes misery to people irrespective of their religious affiliation or belief systems.
Is Sila then a religion or a part of any religion? or only pertaining to Buddhists?
Just watch what is happening around the world...the most recent news is the trouble that the IMF chief is going through. Why? Because he could not abstain from one of the above activities! Trouble is bound to follow...what has religion to do with it?
The next step is Samadhi--concentration of mind which is again universal. Why wouldn't anyone want to focus? We all know that it is the key element for success--again nothing to do with religion.
The final step--Pannya--Wisdom. Don't we revere people who are wise? Who are balanced in their day-to-day activities--not given to extreme emotions of anger, depression, anxiety, who no matter what the situation may be, can think calmly in a way that is beneficial to all. Again is this religion specific? or are only Buddhists capable of this?
The ultimate evidence of the integrity of this person, Gotama The Buddha comes from the fact that when people went to him and asked how to pay respects to him--he answered:
Namo Tassa bhagavatho, arahatho, samma-sambuddhassa
Which means: Homage to the liberated, the all-conquering, the fully self-enlightened
Did he say believe in me? or I will lead you to liberation? Is there any mention of his name even when you pay respects to him?
Sadly, most people fail to recognize this---our minds are so used to thinking in conventional ways. We find it difficult to believe that a person can actually observe the inner world objectively like a scientist observes the external world.
The Buddha said....every action has a consequence... therefore choose your actions wisely. To become wise, you need to train your mind...and this is the way you train your mind.
That is all - in a nutshell.