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Buddhists/Stance on the supernatural



I have been studying and practicing zen for some time now, informally and have grown an extreme appreciation for buddhism as it has led me to some great realizations about compassion, letting go of anger and hate, and interconnectedness. However I live in an area where it is near impossible to find a teacher. I would like to officially become a buddhist but I am not exactly sure how to make it official, and I have one area of concern about if it is the right path for me to take.

I am formerly an agnostic, so issues of supernatural nature, I am reluctant to adopt. I can't blindly give myself over to believing in literal rebirth, spirits, and demons. Currently I see stories of demons, such as Mara, as allegories of very real psychological states and unskilled behaviors. For me to become a buddhist, must I believe in literal supernatural entities, or is my (current) interpretation valid and respected in the sangha? I have been struggling with this issue Everytime I consider my practice.

So how do I officially become a buddhist and how can I view these stumbling blocks I have about the supernatural?

Most important is keeping a clear mind moment to moment. Sincerely ask yourself, "What am I?" If you don't know, just keep that big Don't Know. Let it cut off all thinking as you respond compassionately to each situation that appears in front of you. Then, wherever you are, without exception, is already a temple. Whoever you're with, without exception, is your Sangha. So don't worry about becoming a Buddhist; just keep Don't Know.

In most places, you can find some sort of meditation group to practice with. If this isn't possible, you can find support on the internet. The group I practice with has a web site

and a youtube channel

You can also travel to meet a teacher. If you do even one retreat with a Zen Master, for instance, he'll give you a Big Question that you can work with on your own. Maybe it's sometimes difficult to practice on your own, but this difficulty can make your practice strong.

Imagine that someone gives you a treasure map, saying that if you go to this particular spot, walk 100 paces north, then 200 paces east, then dig down 10 feet, you'll find a great treasure. You wouldn't need to believe anything. You could just follow the instructions, do your own searching and digging, and then you'd see for yourself.

Similarly, you don't need to believe anyone or anything. Just find a teacher who points you in a direction, and then try for yourself and see for yourself.


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Stuart Resnick


I'm a long-time practitioner in a Korean-style Zen school. I can answer questions regarding Zen, formal sitting meditation, self-inquiry, the practice of "koan" transmission, and offer the particular perspective of this school on the great life questions.


18 years of formal practice with the Kwan Um School of Zen, currently with the Empty Gate Zen Center of Berkeley, currently a "Senior Dharma Teacher" at this center, I give periodic talks and informally answer questions of students interested in Zen practice and teaching style

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