I’ve been thinking a lot about labels lately. As a rule, I don’t like them. And my good friend Motherfunker presents a pretty good case against them in her wonderful post Life of Pi…lau
But I have also been thinking about commitment. And specifically about my commitment to Buddhism.
For well over a year now, I have been going to meditation and dharma classes held by an Order Member from the local Triratna Buddhist Centre. Initially, I had some reservations about the Triratna community (it just takes a quick Google search to find out why ). But my experience of the Order, and of the meditation they teach, and the dharma they transmit has in no way been negative. This week, I had the honour of attending my first ever mitra ceremony, where a very lovely lady M became a mitra. It was a very moving and beautiful ceremony.
So what is a mitra? Basically, in the Triratna Buddhist Order, a ‘mitra’ (the Sanskrit word for friend) is someone who makes the public declaration that they:
1. Consider that they are Buddhists
2. Want to live in accordance with the five ethical precepts; and
3. Believe that the Triratna Buddhist Community is the appropriate spiritual community for them
I have a regular meditation practice. I try to live my life in an ethical way, according to the five precepts. I study and endeavour to understand the dharma. But am I a Buddhist? I suppose I am in as much as I have faith in the Buddha’s teachings and I aspire to enlightenment. In some ways, I want to shout out loud “Yes! I am a Buddhist!” But then, I think, is it just my ego looking for a label?! Is calling yourself a Buddhist a way of trying to define yourself, as though there were some permanent, unchanging self to define? Does it even matter? Would becoming a mitra help me to feel more committed, or would I find it too restrictive?
Ach, I’m no good at this deciding whether to make a commitment lark. Maybe I’ll just wait and see for now