Previously I talked about how misrepresentations of Buddhist teachings are being portrait in some Hollywood dystopian movies to discredit Buddhism. But there is another form of ‘misrepresentation’: from some Buddhist monks who paint a picture of Buddha as a god and his teachings as ‘revelation’, not the teachings of a man. This is more in the Mahayana tradition, as I understand it.
Is the Buddha a god; is Buddhism a religion? Who to believe for an answer? Well, unfortunately, it is a choice. To understand why, one must do some readings on Buddhism history. This is what I found that may help you save time in choosing sources.
A first must read:
Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction. By Richard H. Robinson, Willard L. Johnson, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Jaw-dropping book. It shows how the followers of the Buddha were already divided minutes before he kicked the bucket. Also, how highly probable it is that what we today consider his teachings are interpretations by his followers; and each ‘school’ into which Buddhist divided has different interpretations. The book discusses the origins of the deep difference between the Theravada and Mahayana schools, and much more.
That book is as if written by the Buddha. It shows how what he predicted would happen to the ‘movement’ came to pass. He was very much against turning him into a god, turning his teachings into dogma and religion, against division of the sangha over views and interpretations of his teachings…Well, he had the power of the ‘third eye’, he saw the shit coming, excuse the expression.
He was against using logic to reach enlightenment or Nirvana. That’s exactly what happened after his death up to the 9th century A.C. While Buddhist logic is absolutely a tower over Western logic and epistemology, one can see why it is not the path. The Buddha supposedly said
“meditation is the only path to enlightenment and Nirvana”.
And yet, some of the most highly regarded developers of Buddhist logic stated that they don’t follow the ‘canon’, only what their logic proves to them about how to reach Nirvana. Which reminds me, does the Catholic church follows the teachings of Jesus? Humans!
Finally, this book helps to recognize any tampering of the sutras in the Middle Length Discourses, the second ‘basket’ of teachings. That there was tampering is acknowledge widely from withing and without Buddhism sources. Once this reality is accepted, it is ‘easy’ to be skeptical of the Buddha saying things like “stay away from women, they are dirty”, when in another sutra he supposedly said that any one, including women, can reach enlightenment and Bodhisattva (pre-Buddha stage, so to speak) if they follow the teachings.
A Buddha can not be sexist: sexism equals hatred. I just can’t buy that the Buddha was as sexist as described in a few sutras. Sexism, in action or teachings or thoughts, is a sign of how behind in his training a Buddhist monk is; PERIOD.
Finally, be informed of what form of Buddhism you are following. It has implications to what they teach you. If you follow Mahayana, they teach you that the Buddha was god and, consequently, the meaning of his teachings must jive with that of a god, or be re-arranged to jive.
For example, he tried to teach about the inclinations of the mind in sutra 19 – “when I was an unenlightened person I had thoughts of cruelty…”, but today some monks teach that the Buddha was talking there about “the cruelty of feeling the body disturbed by bugs during meditation” ( https://youtu.be/ofqzkMBGgTk). If you say that Buddha is a god, just like with Christians and Jesus, that god can’t have ‘thoughts of cruelty’. only the ‘man’ can. Thus, you are NOT being taught what the man who became a Buddha MEANT to teach.
Gotta be careful with what they teach you.
Other good books:
TH. Stcherbatsky – I recommend ANYTHING written by that man. Selfless Persons by Steven Collins – excellent historical research.