Question: Is there a right attitude we should have when relating to Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, the Dharma (the Buddhist teachings), the Sangha and Dharma teachers?
Answer: What mentioned above included the Triple Gem (Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha), which is what Buddhists and those who wish to learn more to be Buddhists should have great respect for. When such respect is utmost, we express it by taking the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem formally. This greatest of respect is also called reverence.
Here is a general teaching on the importance of reverence by Great Master Yinguang, the 13th Patriarch of the Pure Land tradition (净宗十三祖印光大師) –
‘余常谓欲得佛法实益，须向恭敬中求。有一分恭敬，则消一分罪业，增一分福慧。有十分恭敬，则消十分罪业，增十分福慧。若无恭敬而致亵慢，则罪业愈增，而福慧愈减矣。’ – 复高邵麟居士书四
‘I often say that if desiring to attain the Buddha’s teachings’ true benefits, there is need to, with reverence seek them. With one part of reverence, this eradicates one part of karmic transgressions, and increases one part of blessings and wisdom. With ten parts of reverence, this thus eradicates ten parts of karmic transgressions, and increases ten parts of blessings and wisdom. If without reverence and causing slighting, thus will karmic transgressions increase, and blessings and wisdom decrease.’
Reverence here is, again, utmost respect for that or those that embody and express the Buddha’s teachings – be it a Buddha image, Dharma book, Buddhist centre, temple, site, Buddhist teacher or more experienced Buddhist practitioner. Such reverence should be there as they are capable of guiding us to Buddhahood, which is the perfect realisation of Buddha-nature, our full spiritual potential. From having reverence, arises humility, gratitude, sincerity and various other virtues, thus making more effective our learning and practice that lead to realisation.
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