‘Enough now with teaching what only with difficulty I reached. This Dhamma is not easily realized by those overcome with aversion & passion. What is abstruse, subtle, deep, hard to see, going against the flow — those delighting in passion, cloaked in the mass of darkness, won’t see.’
That was the Buddha describing his reservations to teaching the dharma to the homo-sapiens. Then he decided to go ahead anyway and teach us how to think like an evolved humanity.
Question: How does a teacher (with small ‘t’) prepares the impossible lesson for his first graders – the material to explain that which “goes against the flow”, the nature of existence, human cognition, the origin and cessation of human suffering? Did he develop a method or theory of teaching or learning? Or was He divinely inspired?
Many scholars of Buddhism, including Buddhist monks, say that the Buddha didn’t organized his teachings in any particular way, but, after reading scholarly history of the deep philosophical divisions in early and late Buddhism, one has to wonder that maybe he DID organized it but his unenlightened followers did a hack job at building the Pali Canon with his teachings.
If one believes (or simply chooses not to question) modern Buddhists literature, it would seem that the Buddha had the lesson organized in his mind from day one. Once he ‘realized’ he was enlightened, they tell us, he immediately taught his very first lesson to his five unenlightened friends: no less than the nature of existence. Humanity is still flunking that lesson; maybe because it is barely in its early adolescence years, therefore its uncontrollable culture of violence and ADD. I suspect there’s a problem with the method.
That first teaching was the act of a god, that was ‘revelation’: the whole lesson was already completely organized and packaged for consumption, not to be questioned. One of the many definitions of revelation is “the supposed revealing or disclosing of some form of truth or knowledge through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entities.”
The deification of the Buddha goes back to the first and second Buddhist councils when the Pali was been put together.
The mahasanghikas, the forefathers of the Mahayanist, affirmed that the Buddha was not a historical person; the real Buddha was transcendental, supra-mundane, infinite. The historical Buddha was only a FICTITIOUS person sent by HIM, to assume a human body and teach the dharma. The real Buddha is the Reality per excellence and will continue to send messengers to the world to teach the true dharma. Parts of the tradition are suppressed or denigrated because they don’t fit with the principles derived either from outside the tradition or from personal preferences.
In other words, less than 200 years after the death or paranirvana of the Buddha, his followers were denying him, turning his teachings upside down, declaring him a god, and making Buddhism de facto a religion. The man was disappearing little by little, until he became an ‘idea’, easily mold into any convenient godly shape.
Any similarity with the Catholic church is purely interesting.
That piece of information above ought to be enough to make one question any material one reads about Buddhism.
The Problem with Buddhist Religiosity
I have the distinctive impression that what initially attracted many of you to Buddhism was not its religiosity. I don’t follow religions; what attracted me was the philosophy and the psychology that I found in non-Mahayanist sources. Yet I recognize that what makes the Buddha’s teachings different from any philosophy or psychology is its ethics and spirituality. You don’t need a god to be spiritual and compassionate, nor compassionate-less to be logical. The Buddha gave us BOTH, the science of cognition to understand why we are so screwed up, and the path to become an evolved humanity; he didn’t give us religion because he stood against religions.
One of the many problems with Buddhism today is similar to the Catholic Church: they hide their real unholy history and give you gods and salvation in exchange for not questioning where their tenets came from. To suggest that the historical Buddha lived within and breathed logical disputes is anathema, but it is exactly from there that Buddhist tenets came. The Pali Canon was put together through centuries of philosophical and formal logic debates.
Good lord, don’t try to be the Buddha
This is another problem with religious Buddhism: telling you that you can be a Buddha, be enlightened, be…awesome. But you never question from where that proposition came. I don’t think the Mahayanist tell you that, in their system, only a few elite can become a Buddha or achieve ‘transcendental wisdom’ (TW); the rest, the 99% must take the public bus of devotion to Buddhist gods to get only, if you are lucky, to nirvana, which is not buddhahood nor TW. But they have teachers who charge a pretty penny to take you there.
The goal of becoming a Buddha may be one of the reasons some people eventually abandon Buddhism: they are chasing after a unicorn.
Get it inside your mind: you are NOT going to become a Buddha, especially living attached to that comfortable life you are enjoying. Not even your teachers, with all their degrees in Buddhist religion, have become enlightened or Buddhas…unless you believe they have. They are knowledgeable, but that is NOT wisdom. You can get that by reading on your own. What they are is professionals, professional Buddhist teachers, professional teachers of yoga. They are been hired by Silicon Valley CEOs to keep the workers happy; that kind of Buddhist they are, for hire.
The Benefits of Buddhist Logic
There are various reasons I can think of to get in touch with the real history of Buddhism and Buddhist logic.
- you may better understand what the Buddha was trying to get you to do, which was not to become him.
- you may find the power of Buddhism is in what I call its science of the mind. No religion has ever advanced the evolution of the human mind, let alone of humanity.
- the Buddha bequested to us his philosophy of cognition so that we could evolve from mindless violent children to humans living in balance with each other and with the rest of the planet. All this religiosity about salvation was not part of his teachings. Remember: he was not religious, he stood against religions.
- finally, you may actually get there faster.
Logic itself is open to debate, but, even disagreeing with some ‘schools’, even with the Mahayanists, the body of work those logicians left us up to the late medieval times is profound enough for us to use as a spring-board to understand the reality of being human, of the human condition. And from there to evolve our way of thinking; like the Buddha said, from your ‘right’ understanding comes right attitudes in life.
I believe I have finally said all I wanted to say about how lost we are with the current versions of Buddhism. From now on, I will be looking to post about my progress understanding the sutras and applying the lessons to my life, and about the modern science of the mind and how Buddhist logic could stomp them, if we wanted. You are welcome to post your disagreements with my comments here.
1. Jaidevas Singh’s introduction to T. Stcherbtsky’s The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana.
2.The Buddhist Religion (Richard H. Robbinson)
3.Selfless Persons (Steven Collins)
I always suggest T. Stcherbtsky’s books for in-depth study of Buddhist history and logic. I also read a lot of material not credited here.