Has anyone of you tried to organize something, a club, a sorority, a community association, a religious cult, a political party,a non-for-profit..? If you have (I have!), you know how difficult it is, especially with respect to upholding the so-called mission statement. Well, that the Buddha had this problem too
is evident in the few sutras (teachings) that his early followers chose to preserve about it in the Pali Canon.
The discussion on sutra #3, Heirs in Dharma, is relevant to the problems Buddhism is facing today.
The sutra describes precisely what today’s sangha is doing: pursuing material things, being “luxurious and careless, leaders in backsliding, neglectful of seclusion”. Interestingly enough, this sutra has kind of disappeared from the internet: Access to Insight did not include it in its website’s Tipitaka collection, and a cursory research online (which I did for this post) will yield almost nothing on this sutra.
Not in Material Things
How do his monks, not the lay followers, show to the public that they are practicing what they are preaching? That’s really the concern of the Buddha in this teaching, credibility :
you will not be reproached…you will be reproached
The underlying tone of this sutra and the content may be interpreted as him being seriously pissed off with the behavior of his monks. Consider how he begins it with what seems like a scolding:
Out of compassion for you I have thought…
In other words, once he became enlightened, the story goes, he could have just gone away and let his people find the way on their own, instead he chose to teach the impossible dharma out of compassion; but his monks are making him regret taking that decision, or he is just reminding them of this.
So, this is the problem, that they are engaging in the pursue of material things. And that would be fine if the Buddha was organizing a day-camp, but not for a radical philosophical movement. This is similar to the story of Jesus at the temple. You are dealing here with MORAL and ethical claims to attract people so they at least consider listening to you: greed and hate are the causes of human brutality to each other.
Be my heirs in Dharma, not my heirs in material things. Out of compassion for you I have thought: ‘How shall my disciples be my heirs in Dharma, not my heirs in material things?
If you are my heirs in material things, not in Dharma, you will be reproached thus: ‘the Teacher’s disciples live as his heirs in material things, not as heirs in Dharma’; and I will be reproached thus: ‘the Teacher’s disciples live as heirs in…
If you are my heirs in the Dharma and not my heirs in material things, you…I will not be reproached and it will be said thus: ‘the Teacher’s disciples live as heirs in Dharma, not as heirs in material things’.
You’ve gotta love his sublime patience. I would have fired them all! That’s why Sariputta, who didn’t have hairs in his tongue (from no tener pelos en la lengua= Spanish saying for ‘he tells it as it is’) clarified the teaching to the monks:
In what way do disciples of the Teacher don’t follow the teachings?
1. They don’t abandon what told to abandon.
2. They are luxurious and careless.
3. They are leaders in backsliding, neglectful of seclusion.
Friends, the evil herein is greed and hate, anger and revenge, contempt and domineering attitude, envy and avarice, deceit and fraud, obstinacy and presumption, conceit and arrogance, vanity and negligence.
That last paragraph is about the attitudes of the person, the glorious individual praised by our profit-seeking ideology, that cause so much trauma to each other in society. How in hell does a human being stop being ‘human’ and becomes ‘a saint’? It’s not about that.
Grow up, Homo sapiens!
It’s about a humanity whose mind is underdeveloped, who needs to understand that their ‘natural’ way of thinking is primitive, to understand that they don’t know how their brain and mind works. That’s today’s scientists admission, that they don’t understand how the brain and mind works, this is no news.
But our scientists are pursuing an ‘understanding’ of the mind with the purpose of improving profit seeking techniques and control of others. The professional Buddhists, well, they are just riding the wave with the well-to-do class.
So, let’s acknowledge that our way of thinking is primitive, we are still in the process of evolution. It’s not about religion or ideology, it’s about our inefficient understanding of our cognitive process. Let’s get on with the learning, people!
Buddhism needs a face-lift. Go find what the Buddha himself was saying, not the interpretations these professional Buddhists are selling you. Go to the SUTRAS! Forget about imitating the Buddha or about weird meditation techniques you can’t benefit from because they come from a culture with a different attitude.
Study the basics in the sutras, forget about getting to the jhanas. Just focus on learning how cognition works or don’t work. When you understand how we get attached to things and how to detach from them, and practice it, then society starts to heal because greed and hatred is reduced little by little.
Don’t try to be a god!