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Rime Buddhist Center

Monastery & Tibetan Institute of Studies
"Achieving Peace Through Compassion"
700 West Pennway
Kansas City, Missouri 64108
(816) 471-7073
Lama Chuck Stanford

The following is Lama Chuck's monthly column that appeared in the Kansas City Star
newspaper on Saturday May 29th.

QUESTION: "Is it possible to live a good life without involvement in any religion?"

ANSWER: We all know "good" people who are not religious. So, I think it is obvious that involvement in religion is not the only prerequisite to being a good person. But does that mean religion is irrelevant? Of course not. Religions provide us with methods for cultivating virtues such as
compassion and wisdom. From the Buddhist perspective basic goodness is our fundamental nature. We don't have to join any particular religion or group to manifest it. Tenderness, fearlessness and intelligence are basic to who we are regardless of our religion. Many people and religions believe that this fundamental quality is separate from us. They believe goodness comes from some external divine source. However the truth is that these qualities are available to us in every moment.

In Buddhism this fundamental quality is called bodhicitta, which means "awakened heart". It is the experience of feeling such incredible compassion that we actually feel like our heart will break This tenderness of heart is available to all of us, all of the time. As difficult as it is to believe even people who commit the most unspeakable atrocities possess this basic goodness. There is something they care about. There is some chink in their external armor. So there is hope for everyone. So, while spiritual practices are not a prerequisite to goodness, I believe they strengthen the depth of our compassion -- just as physical exercise strengthens our body.

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