[An excerpt from The Zennist blog from 4/2011. I’m including this because I don’t want, and I don’t want any of us to miss the mark. And we can. Buddhism, by it’s very nature, can be psychologized and secularized out of existence in our materialistic age.]
“Writing a book or a blog for beginners can easily fall into the bad habit of dumbing down Buddhism. As a consequence, what the beginner learns is not Buddhism. Here is an example of what I mean.
In the book Buddhism for Beginners, Thubten Chodron answers the question, “What is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings” with this: “Simply speaking, it is to avoid harming others and to help them as much as possible.” Sorry, but that ain’t the essence of the Buddha’s teaching, especially, not when the canon can say what the essence is, and do it clearly. The following passage is the Patimokkha (S., prâtimoksa), which can be found in the Dhammapada and the Mahapadana Sutta of the Digha-Niakaya. Patimokkha, by the way, has to do with release/mokkha from bondage.
Forbearance and forgiveness is the highest kind of penance (tapas).
Nirvana is declared to be the highest (object) by the Buddhas.*
A mendicant (samano) does not harm others.
One who harms others is not a mendicant.
Abstinence from all evils, accumulation of all that is good,
Purification of one’s mind (sa-citta),
That is the teaching (sasana) of the Buddhas.
Beginners need to read the Buddha’s teaching, or works that contain a great deal of his teachings. Comments can then follow his words which might explore, in depth, some of the terms used by the Buddha serving thus to educate the beginner, opening up a path for them. After all, Buddhism is about the Buddha’s teaching.”