Historical facts can’t kick the myth out of any living religion
How the religious sausage gets made
Buddhism’s identity problems
Betraying the Buddha
The Political origins of Buddhism
The Buddha profiled as a ‘terrorist’
What the future holds
Historical facts can’t kick the myth out of any living religion.
How religious sausage gets made All religions, past and present, have a political history – of power struggles with other religious groups, kings, nations and empires, to make or hold their own brand as the supreme vehicle for salvation for their converts, and to hold economic power too.
Yet you don’t find this history in any sacred texts or catechism, mainly because it discloses their ungodly origins: how myths and ‘miracles’ were fabricated, and how their saints got to be endowed with ‘superhuman’ qualities. It all can still be seen in extant historical documents and scholarly research.
Even more, knowing that ugly history has no impact on the trust the fervent believers have on their religion, many actually shun it. I once overheard at Barns and Nobles a young Catholic man, who was helping his friend to buy books about the Church’s teachings, admonishing, more than advising, him to “don’t read those books about the history of the Church”. You see, historical facts have never been able to kick the myth out of any living religion.
Buddhism’s identity problems And so too is with the history of Buddhism. Except that in its case the cover up of its political history didn’t lead to it becoming a contender for religious primacy. On the contrary, covering up the anti-religion and the political implications of the Buddha’s teachings led to its loss of identity and purpose, of its power. You see, you can’t say you are an atheist and then create a pantheon of gods for salvation using your anti-religion arguments…and then expect to be taken seriously.
Today, like the ave fénix, Buddhism is resurging in new lands, in the West, but still making the same mistake. Mahayanist and Tibetan Buddhists, despite their pantheon of (scary looking) Buddhist gods and theory of ‘salvation’, deny that they are a religion, but also deny being a philosophy or moral psychological system. So, what are they?! This is an identity problem that, e.g., the Mormons don’t have: they know with certainty who and what they are.
Betraying the Buddha The reason for the defeat and total demise of Buddhism from its place of birth, India, is in its original political history: the history of the Buddha’s 50 years legacy of radical, political-order-challenging teachings to liberate humanity from the grips of ignorance-promoting religions, and how his unenlightened followers, not only were incapable and unwilling to defend that legacy after his death, but actually betrayed it by turning his teachings into a religion and him into a god! no less.
The Political origins of Buddhism
The Buddha profiled as a ‘terrorist’ Scholars and Buddhist alike accept that the historical Buddha not only denied the existence of god(s) and the soul, he was also against the religions and caste system (representing the class and political order) of his time. He recognized and spoke about them as dependent on each other and as a concrete source of suffering for the people in this existence. Today, that alone would be enough for the Southern Poverty Law Center to have him profiled as a hater and terrorist, even if he did it as a pacifist (imagine if they knew his thoughts on private property).
Isn’t it to be expected that a man preaching those ideas to the ‘masses’, in the past, present or future, would be persecuted by the powers that be? There were assassinations attempts on him by religious and political entities because of his political ideas. Anything that challenged the caste elitist order by words or deeds had to be stopped; nothing new in that. But you don’t read about it in the Buddhist Pali Canon, their bible.
Instead, there, references to those attempts against him are presented as mere ‘envy’ of his ‘superhuman powers’, and him converting kings into benevolent rulers, (I don’t doubt some were converted) but not persecuted by them. All of this can be seen by reading between the lines in the Canon, and in scholar research.
‘Un-becoming’ Against his most vehement advise, after his death his followers divided the sangha (community of monks and nuns) into 20! schools, each with a different interpretation of his teachings. Right view is one of his Eight Fold Path for correct understanding, which implies not adhering to right or wrong opinions (is more than that, of course). Clearly, that teaching went over their heads.
Then, in their effort to survive political persecution (and because they didn’t understand him), his followers shed the political implications of the Buddha’s original teachings. Some adopted a religious mantle, which not even today could be reconciled with the Buddha’s anti-religion teachings. That’s the only reason why they have to deny that they are a religion. Is their version of the ‘mystery of the trinity’: it is a religion but it isn’t.
Other schools denied its religion and developed the truly AWESOME Buddhist logic as a way for attaining nirvana. The Buddha was against the use of logic to becoming awaken because only through personal knowledge and meditation can it be achieved, not by argumentation. Despite its awesomeness, if you read it, you can tell why logic is not that path to ‘enlightenment’. It is excellent for an understanding of the human process of cognition, though.
So, it was with all this crisis of identity for survival as background that they ended up battered by kings and Brahmans alike, and finally totally wiped out of India, the birth place of Buddhism. They retreated to Indonesia and China for survival. Since the late medieval times, Buddhists have not been able to make any important contribution to the works of the Buddha and of those Buddhist logicians.
What the future holds Today, just as when he was alive, his teachings are here when social greed and ignorance are pushing human suffering to its limits. Humans are bound to a slow evolution of their minds, if they don’t destroy themselves first soon. The power of Buddhism to accelerate that evolution lies in its study of the mind, not in it as a religion. It is the only ‘system’ that can challenge our modern scientists of the mind in their race to turn our brains into computers, and machines into ‘sentient beings’ through a soul-less science funded by corporate elitists taking the place of the Hindu caste political order.
This elite’s conceit, self-love and estimation high above everyone else, is so overwhelming to themselves that they want to live for ever, and are using their fortunes to turn ‘science’ into their own religion of salvation.
I invite any one who reads this, to start looking at the history of Buddhism, how the Pali Canon was put together, so that maybe you can discard its ‘religion’ and discover its science of the mind.
1.The Buddha’s Socio-Political Ideas By Dr.Phramahachanya Khongchinda
2.The Buddhist Religion (Richard H. Robbinson) – good historical background.
3.Selfless Persons (Steven Collins) –
4.The Literature Of The Personalists Of Early Buddhism (Bhiikshu Thích Thién Cháu) This book, from the Buddhist Tradition Series (find at Amazon) is extremely interesting.Great historical discussion about origin of the ‘personalism’ (self) theory in early Buddhism and the Pali Canon.
5.Buddhist Logic by Th. Stcherbastsky. I recommend anything written by that guy.
On the topic of the reliability of the Pali Canon, see my previous post.