As I continue reading about American Buddhism in the mainstream media and other sites in the internet, I’ve come to understand why the original Buddhism HAD a natural progressive quality: it was originally about the person AND his/her society. Today it is about the mental well-being of the well-to-do few.
Remember, all religions, all philosophical and political ideas, past and present, pass through the crucible of public scorn and debate; the Buddha’s radical movement could not have spared itself from that fire. Buddhism was from its inception a progressive movement with the potential of huge consequences for society. The idea that the Buddha did not engage or refused to engage in any public debates to defend its tenets, as today’s Buddhist orthodoxy want us to believe, doesn’t hold water, at least not to me.
So, how does all this relates to today’s Buddhist movement?
I invite you to consider the possibility that the story of the Buddha avoiding debates works as an excuse for today’s professional Buddhists to avoid discussing the miscarriage that is their version of the ‘second coming’ of Buddhism; it has historically been so, that’s why they disappeared from India. Today, they would like to keep it all about how to be less stressful at work.
Buddhists need to get out from under the tutelage of the elite class
In today’s mainstream media and many blogs and sites promoting Buddhism, including those by famous Buddhist teachers or gurus, we read articles praising Buddhism as a means, a tool to be used to maintain one’s mental health, but the message is being direct to the well-to-do class.
You can find examples right here in my blog, more recently this post about an article in the Washington Post (WaPo) where a study shows Buddhism is good for better “executive decision-making”; or the one about Cecil the lion.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with using the power of Buddhism’s mind theory as a self-help manual. My problem is with Buddhism having been co-opted by the nation’s economic elite.
But worse than the co-option itself is it having been done with the help of professional Buddhists, the for-hire graduates of eastern schools of Buddhism, or the old Buddhist orthodoxy, you know who I mean.
I’m aware that there are many other groups using Buddhism for good purposes, to promote PEACE, that word which has virtually disappeared from our vocabulary and certainly from the mainstream media, supplanted by more ‘relevant’ words like ‘permanent war’ and ‘collateral damage’.
But my concern is in two respects:
- That the image Buddhism is getting from the mainstream media will eventually make it look as a trend for the ‘special’ class and make it distasteful to the people who may be in more need of learning about its powerful psychological aspects.
- That it’s been used by the elite, what the WaPo and others call the ‘tech giant’, CEOs using their wealth to appropriate ‘science’, redirect funds and focusing the work of ‘scientists’ and researchers, not into what this humanity desperately needs to focus on, but on the priorities of the tech giants, to wit, immortality (theirs, of course), mind uploading, and how to make the elite working class more productive and passive, AI for military armaments, among other uses.
So, if they don’t want Buddhism to become irrelevant, today’s official promoters of Buddhism need to get out from under the tutelage of this nation’s elite class, in to the communities of people who need learning a new way of thinking (literally, not ideologically) to get all that junk of consumerism and violence out of their mental process. That’s what the Buddha did in his times. He walked the walk.
The real Buddha gave us a social tool, not a religion or a self-help training manual.
It is a tool to expedite the evolution of the human mind, from its still-primitive way of thinking (all is a response for sensual gratification) towards a higher evolved human thinking, meaning learning to stop destroying each other by changing our mentality.
The purpose and goals of today’s Buddhism need to be re-casted away from a passive narcissistic religion of ‘self awareness’ for a few, into one for progressive social evolution: development of compassion and love for everything in this existence through understanding how or cognitive process works, how our current mental process is deficient. It’s an evolution because it will take what seems an eternal process.
It’s not about the state controlling our minds. The Buddha was a progressive, sorry for the news if you are a Buddhist but not a progressive. He was out there being attacked right and left because his teachings were socially radical and revolutionary. No, not like the Che.
Revolutionary because with his psychology of cognition we can go into our minds and find our collective heart.
I suggest you progressive Buddhists start using the phrase evolution of the mind and social progress as some of the goals of Buddhism instead of those religious ones, you know, ‘salvation’ and ‘end [personal] suffering’. Put Buddhism were the Buddha was: in a progressive movement to stop the suffering caused by social inequality.