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 🙂