Buddhists are normal ordinary people, and since showing off is not something they like to do, you might be close to one and won’t even know that they’re a Buddhist. There won’t be rituals or prayers, pictures or outfits. Those people in special outfits are the monks and nuns.
The main question here is, what do they do? How do they live their lives, and under what rules?
Who is watching?
Buddhism doesn’t work with an idea of a deity, so there is no hell or heaven, no confessions to be made or forgiveness to be distributed. Let’s say it’s self-controlled. You’re the one in charge. You know how you should behave and what you have to do. Reciting Suttas won’t make you a Buddhist, practicing meditation won’t make you a Buddhist. Thus embodying the philosophy through deed is what will make you Buddhist.
The goal is to achieve nirvana or enlightenment, so doing what is necessary to get there is what makes one a Buddhist. Getting there makes you a Buddha yourself, an enlightened and awakened being.
The Buddha is not watching you, guiding you, or protecting you. The Buddha has come and successfully accomplished his goal. Indeed, he even left a recipe for you to do the same, through his teachings.
They practice the four sublime attitudes:
On their journey to enlightenment, buddhists are encouraged to develop virtues, or sublime attitudes. The more advanced in the journey they are, the deeper their relationship with virtue becomes. As we recognize our suffering and find out about its origins, we begin the process of changing it, of freeing ourselves from that false reality.
Loving kindness is one of these virtues. When we set ourselves free from attachment, hatred and delusion (the origins of all human suffering), we begin to realize that we are just a part of a greater whole. What we do to the other, we do to ourselves. Therefore, being kind to someone is an act of love that requires a lot of understanding.
Being compassionate would be the next step. This is a virtue that deals with how the feelings of the other affect us. And how their suffering becomes ours too. And how happy we feel celebrating victorious events in someone else’s life. This applies to all beings, plants, animals, and humans. They all require a compassionate behavior from us.
The third would be equanimity, which is the attitude of being coherent, and consistent. It is the ability to offer a balanced self to society. It is the result of a tranquil mind. The commitment with our self-improvement is the most equanimous attitude we can develop in favor of the whole community. When we grow, we lift the world up with us.
The last of the 4 sublime attitudes is empathetic joy. This virtue is about transforming the other into a mirror, but a special mirror that only reflects good. The good that is in you. This is what happens when you walk by someone on the street and smile, the person may be surprised and not able to respond, but you can be sure that you’ve helped brighten up their day.
They enact the main precepts of Buddhism:
These 5 precepts are practiced by the sangha, but the laic community of Buddhists may not practice them all or live them to their deepest.
The first precept is no killing. This should apply to all forms of life, but not all of us are ready for this. Sometimes what holds someone back is a metabolism that cannot do well without animal protein. In another aspect this percept is understood as the point where it is not just about killing, it is about not doing any form of physical harm.
Next, let’s talk about sexual misconduct. Once again, in some Buddhist schools nuns and monks take a celibacy vow. Other lines won’t require that. But what about the common Buddhist, the one that is no monk or nun?
A Buddhist understands that sex can be a physiological need, but that does not justify acting without responsibility. This is especially true when talking about the feelings of the ones involved in the relationship. Sex is a very powerful energy, it is that of creation within us. And as any forms of powerful energy it can hurt badly but it can also heal.
Just like I related no killing with no sexual misconduct because they share the same core concern, do no harm. I’ll talk about another two, which are no bad speech and no intoxicants.
When it comes to intoxicants, it’s not just about drugs or alcohol, but it’s about any substance that can have an addictive quality. These substances generally have a mind altering element to them that may drive us towards harmful acts.
It is inevitable, if you listen to evil, and see evil that this will become natural to you. It might not be scary enough in theory, but that was what Hanna Arendt called the banality of Evil. While covering Eichmann’s judgement in Jerusalem, she noticed by the way he spoke that he really believed what he was doing was something normal, even though what he was doing was objectively wrong and harmful.
When speaking we should be aware of the feelings we’re hiding inside our hearts, always keep in mind, that there won’t be anyone observing you, except your own self. Only say something if it’s necessary, if it’s true and if it’ll make the ones around you feel better. Virtuous livin is difficult.
No stealing seems to be the most basic of all percepts. Make sure all you have has come from your honest and hard labor.
This also applies to people. Don’t steal people’s hearts and attention to do evil, don’t compromise their integrity, don’t shake up their values. We’re responsible for the lives we touch, and the closer we get to enlightenment, the more true this will feel.