What Do You Teach?
By Wayne Ren-Cheng
You’ve heard it said that the dharma is deep and expansive . . . and it is. The encompassing teachings of the dharma span the entirety of the human condition, and it goes beyond to how the human condition comes to affect the non-human aspects of phenomena through conditioned arising and falling away. Throughout the complexities though, what is the intent of the Buddha’s teachings . . . what does he want us to learn?
In my own experience I have come to the realization that what the Buddha was skillfully attempting to lead the human race to is being better human beings. We need to keep in mind that as the Buddha traveled and taught, as he gathered together individuals willing and able to join the monastic ranks, and as he attracted the attention of the people of India, he wasn’t doing so in the name of any religion (that concept came after his death). All he did was in the name of humanity.
In the Anguttara Nikayas is the Annataro Brahmano Sutta, a short text with a teaching that reveals the encompassing intent of what the Buddha teaches, and what any contemporary Buddhist teacher’s intent must be. It is from this sutra that my own view of the Awakened One’s intent arose. These words are what lead me to first say the words, ‘It doesn’t matter to me if you are Buddhist, Christian, atheist, agnostic, Jewish, Muslim, any other faith, or even one who believes they have no spiritual direction at all . . . just strive to be the best human being you can be.
Aññataro Brāhmaṇo Sutta: A Certain Brahman