One of the concepts I am constantly addressing is adapting Buddhism to western lifestyles. As I’ve stated before, Buddhism is very dynamic and malleable. It changes from place to place depending on culture, political, and economical situations. But the fundamental principles remain the same. However, people are constantly inquiring on blogs and in bookstores, how can Buddhism fit into my lifestyle? Personally, I would love to take the opportunity to respond that it will respond depending on the amount of attention and focus you put into it. Buddhism, while it can certainly serve as a supplement to daily activity, is meant as a religion, philosophy, and way of life. It is intricate yet simple, constant and unwavering in its realistic application.
It is important that people understand Buddhism is not a prescription for a happier life. While its practices, traditions, meditations, and principles may all result in such a result, its intended purpose is to create much more. Rather than emotional satisfaction, Buddhism teaches principles of emptiness, removal from the material, and leading a life of compassion. The achieved effects may resemble happiness to some, or euphoria to others, but these feelings are not so. Rather it is the weightlessness of meditating on emptiness. The cleansing of the soul leading to the lifting of the body above all weight of material attachment.
An interesting practice to incorporate that I have only recently explored is the Aro lineage within Tibetan Buddhism.
Aro is a Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist tradition whose unusual characteristics make it singularly appropriate for many Westerners. Aro is principally concerned with transforming our experience of everyday being, rather than achieving an esoteric or spiritualised mode of existence. Our aim is to engender cheerful courage, perceptive consideration, sincere determination, natural gallantry, graciousness, creativity, and spaciousness.
The Aro teachings descend from a lineage of enlightened women – beginning with Yeshe Tsogyel. She was the female Tantric Buddha, who—together with Padmasambhava —founded the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism. Aro is a small family lineage within that tradition – founded by the female visionary Lama Aro Lingma in 1909.
Aro is now represented in Britain, America, and Europe by several Lamas and their senior ordained students. These teachers are Westerners, born and raised in our cultures. Accordingly, they may be better able to understand the practical concerns of Westerners than Buddhist teachers raised in the East. Nevertheless, they rigorously avoid incorporating elements of psychotherapy, ‘political correctness’, or New Age formula into Vajrayana Buddhism.
The Aro teachers are not monks or nuns. They are ordained Tantrikas – whose lives are, in many ways, quite ordinary. Their wisdom is embodied in the ways they live everyday life. Facing the same life challenges as their students, they are able to offer advice that is grounded in personal experience as well as profound religious understanding.
Aro emphasizes simplicity, clarity, and depth – both of practice and understanding. To wield the essential functions of Buddhism is the mode of practice. To grasp the essential principles of Buddhism is the mode of study. The Aro path is structured as a series of phases which allow a gradually increasing involvement and commitment as interest and understanding deepens.