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The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment, is a reinforcing tale taken from the the so called Gospel of Buddha, but this tale is really a description of how the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama came into the world.

Like in the Christian Bible, I think we have here some justification of the Myth of the Buddha, and when someone has to work hard to convince you of something, you can be sure there is an ulterior motive! ¬†This sounds a lot like the beginning of the Religification of Buddhism, if you’ll allow me to make up a word! A word that is all the more important in our seemingly more troubled times.

Like Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautama was a real geezer, a person who walked the earth. Just so happens that the part of the earth he walked upon was a heavily religious and spiritual part. Hinduism would be ubiquitous and much would be made of the powers and preferences of various gods. Mind you, believing that there is a god that makes the Sun come up every morning and another that makes the crops grow and yet another that is responsible for fertility etc, is actually not that wide of the mark, if you don’t take it too literally. Certainly trumps the one geezer made it all in 6 days then went fishing, even though you’re not allowed to go fishing on a Sunday apparently!

It’s inevitable then that in times when people, especially poor people, were looking for answers and signs of hope that they would expect that hope to come from the upper classes, a King if you like.

Siddhartha Gautama was born into a privileged position in society and it is that very privilege and his insulation from the real world outside the castle walls that made him what he became…the Buddha. When you first encounter something radically different from what you’re used to, it’s inevitable that it will make a big impression on you.

But, we humans, will never just take something at face value will we? There’s always a need to dig deeper and always ample room for superstition in otherwise dull, drama free, drudgery filled days at the hamster wheel of doom.

If I just happened to be wearing red socks the day my tax refund comes through, then maybe red socks is where it’s at?

Of course, as soon as one peasant is known to be swayed by superstition you can be pretty sure that there will be a rich guy along in a minute to take advantage of the situation. This is where religion comes from.

Siddhartha Gautama’s message was that one could attain Nirvana as soon as striving, clinging and selfing were extinguished. His message was that by finding inner peace as early as possible in life, one would be in a much better place to help others with their daily suffering.

Jesus Christ asked us to treat others as we’d like to be treated by others and he spent a long time in prayer. If you walk into any Christian church you will see people in prayer; meditation.

And all of the mono and poly theistic religions have at their heart a message of peace and hope. These messages come directly from the original idea that inspired the religion, usually a hippy of some sort who had time on his hands, unhindered by drudgery (an idler?) to go around telling folk in bars and markets how to look after each other.

The Religification bit comes later, after the originator hippy is dead and his copyright has expired. This is when the 1% at the top of the tree in terms of worldly wealth and power (usually backed up with violence) turn something simple into a Religion (meaning Obligation) in order to subdue the many and make more money for themselves.

Each of these Religions need a back story and Siddhartha Gautama’s birth and childhood make a good lead-in for anyone wishing to Religify his simple and beautiful message. If the effect wears off after a while you can easily inject a bit of drama by employing the Divide and Conquer Principle. All you need to decide now is whether you want to be a Catholic Buddhist or a Protestant Buddhist ūüôā

Siddhartha Gautama had something worth hearing to say. It needs no further embellishment and in fact can be practised by anyone without training or books of any kind. The next time you jump in your car to go somewhere, turn off the radio and just drive, concentrating on nothing but the driving…that’s meditation.

Even Richard Dawkins in his controversial (in controlling religious circles) book The God Delusion recognised the un-religified nature of true Buddhism:

“and I shall not be concerned at all with other religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism. Indeed, there is something to be said for treating these not as religions at all but as ethical systems or philosophies of life”

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The Enlightenment

“There was in Kapilavatthu a Sakya king, strong of purpose and reverenced by all men, a descendant of the Okkakas, who call themselves Gotama, and his name was Suddhodana or Pure-Rice. His wife Mayadevi was beautiful as the water-lily and pure in mind as the lotus. As the Queen of Heaven, she lived on earth, untainted by desire, and immaculate.

The king, her husband, honored her in her holiness, and the spirit of truth, glorious and strong in his wisdom like unto a white elephant, descended upon her. When she knew that the hour of motherhood was near, she asked the king to send her home to her parents; and Suddhodana, anxious about his wife and the child she would bear him, willingly granted her request.

At Lumbini there is a beautiful grove, and when Mayadevi passed through it the trees were one mass of fragrant flowers and many birds were warbling in their branches. The Queen, wishing to stroll through the shady walks, left her golden palanquin, and, when she reached the giant sala tree in the midst of the grove, felt that her hour had come. She took hold of a branch. Her attendants hung a curtain about her and retired. When the pain of travail came upon her, four pure-minded angels of the great Brahma held out a golden net to receive the babe, who came forth from her right side like the rising sun bright and perfect.

The Brahma-angels took the child and placing him before the mother said: “Rejoice, O queen, a mighty son has been born unto thee.”

At her couch stood an aged woman imploring the heavens to bless the child. All the worlds were flooded with light. The blind received their sight by longing to see the coming glory of the Lord; the deaf and dumb spoke with one another of the good omens indicating the birth of the Buddha to be. The crooked became straight; the lame walked. All prisoners were freed from their chains and the fires of all the hells were extinguished.

No clouds gathered in the skies and the polluted streams became clear, whilst celestial music rang through the air and the angels rejoiced with gladness. With no selfish or partial joy but for the sake of the law they rejoiced, for creation engulfed in the ocean of pain was now to obtain release. The cries of beasts were hushed; all malevolent beings received a loving heart, and peace reigned on earth. Mara, the evil one, alone was grieved and rejoiced not.

The Naga kings, earnestly desiring to show their reverence for most excellent law, as they had paid honor to former Buddhas, now went to greet the Bodhisattva. They scattered before him mandara flowers, rejoicing with heartfelt joy to pay their religious homage.

The royal father, pondering the meaning of these signs, was now full of joy and now sore distressed. The queen mother, beholding her child and the commotion which his birth created, felt in her timorous heart the pangs of doubt.

Now there was at that time in a grove near Lumbini Asita, a rishi, leading the life of a hermit. He was a Brahman of dignified mien, famed not only for wisdom and scholarship, but also for his skill in the interpretation of signs. And the king invited him to see the royal babe.

The seer, beholding the prince, wept and sighed deeply. And when the king saw the tears of Asita he became alarmed and asked: “Why has the sight of my son caused thee grief and pain?”

But Asita’s heart rejoiced, and, knowing the king’s mind to be perplexed, he addressed him, saying: “The king, like the moon when full, should feel great joy, for he has begotten a wondrously noble son. I do not worship Brahma, but I worship this child; and the gods in the temples will descend from their places of honor to adore him. Banish all anxiety and doubt. The spiritual omens manifested indicate that the child now born will bring deliverance to the whole world.

“Recollecting that I myself am old, on that account I could not hold my tears; for now my end is coming on and I shall not see the glory of this babe. For this son of thine will rule the world. The wheel of empire will come to him. He will either be a king of kings to govern all the lands of the earth, or verily will become a Buddha. He is born for the sake of everything that lives. His pure teaching will be like the shore that receives the shipwrecked. His power of meditation will be like a cool lake; and all creatures parched with the drought of lust may freely drink thereof. On the fire of covetousness he will cause the cloud of his mercy to rise, so that the rain of the law may extinguish it. The heavy gates of despondency will he open, and give deliverance to all creatures ensnared in the self-entwined meshes of folly and ignorance. The king of the law has come forth to rescue from bondage all the poor, the miserable, the helpless.”

When the royal parents heard Asita’s words they rejoiced in their hearts and named their new-born infant Siddhattha, that is he who has accomplished his purpose.”

And the queen said to her sister, Pajapati: “A mother who has borne a future Buddha will never give birth to another child. I shall soon leave this world, my husband, the king, and Siddhattha, my child. When I am gone, be thou a mother to him.” And Pajapati wept and promised.

When the queen had departed from the living, Pajapati took the boy Siddhattha and reared him. And as the light of the moon increases little by little, so the royal child grew from day to day in mind and in body; and truthfulness and love resided in his heart. When a year had passed Suddhodana the king made Pajapati his queen and there was never a better stepmother than she.”

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Further reading:

The God Delusion

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching


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Truth, The Saviour

This is the third text from the so called Gospel of Buddha.

Truth, The Saviour, for me, speaks of the folly of becoming attached to the material world, of believing too much in the self.

Not by accident do the English terms Selfishness and Selflessness project such strong and opposing meanings. One is hugely negative and the other somewhat immeasurably positive.

We see repeatedly that people who have relatively little in material wealth, quite often have a bright, happy outlook, perhaps freed of the burden of too many worldly goods and free to use, as Jacob Needleman says, “the only thing that we human’s possess”, our Attention to attain tranquility in what is to the bustling busy-ness person…mundane.

“Out of the way, it’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind” Us and Them, Pink Floyd

“The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old lady’s eyes
Just for fun he says, “Get a job.” The Way It Is, Bruce Hornsby

If we can learn to bring our Attention, our only real possession, to bear on just one thing at a time, everyday life is lived to the full regardless of whether you are washing your one change of clothes in a river or driving a gleaming red Ferrari.

Our obsession with things, I think is driven by language. Alan Watts continually cautioned against naming things. It’s a western, human obsession. We name the birds, so that we can’t say we’ve seen a Golden Plover until we check our bird book to see what it’s called. We still saw it, regardless of it’s human appointed name. The Golden Plover doesn’t have any concept of its name.

The Truth, The Saviour, then is to me the truth that the bird has no name, your left arm, although named as such has no way of existing without the rest of your body.

I’ll continue to give my attention to one thing at a time. That’s the truth, the saviour.

 

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Truth, The Saviour

“THE things of the world and its inhabitants are subject to change. They are combinations of elements that existed before, and all living creatures are what their past actions made them; for the law of cause and effect is uniform and without exception.

But in the changing things there is a constancy of law, and when the law is seen there is truth. The truth lies hidden in Samsara as the permanent in its changes.

Truth desires to appear; truth longs to become conscious; truth strives to know itself.

There is truth in the stone, for the stone is here; and no power in the world, no god, no man, no demon, can destroy its existence. But the stone has no consciousness. There is truth in the plant and its life can expand; the plant grows and blossoms and bears fruit. Its beauty is marvelous, but it has no consciousness. There is truth in the animal; it moves about and perceives its surroundings; it distinguishes and learns to choose. There is consciousness, but it is not yet the consciousness of Truth. It is a consciousness of self only.

The consciousness of self dims the eyes of the mind and hides the truth. It is the origin of error, it is the source of illusion, it is the germ of evil. Self begets selfishness. There is no evil but what flows from self. There is no wrong but what is done by the assertion of self. Self is the beginning of all hatred, of iniquity and slander, of impudence and indecency, of theft and robbery, of oppression and bloodshed. Self is Mara, the tempter, the evil-doer, the creator of mischief. Self entices with pleasures. Self promises a fairy’s paradise. Self is the veil of Maya, the enchanter. But the pleasures of self are unreal, its paradisian labyrinth is the road to misery, and its fading beauty kindles the flames of desires that never can be satisfied.

Who shall deliver us from the power of self? Who shall save us from misery? Who shall restore us to a life of blessedness?

There is misery in the world of Samsara; there is much misery and pain. But greater than all the misery is the bliss of truth. Truth gives peace to the yearning mind; it conquers error; it quenches the flames of desires; it leads to Nirvana. Blessed is he who has found the peace of Nirvana. He is at rest in the struggles and tribulations of life; he is above all changes; he is above birth and death; he remains unaffected by the evils of life.

Blessed is he who has found enlightenment. He conquers, although he may be wounded; he is glorious and happy, although he may suffer; he is strong, although he may break down under the burden of his work; he is immortal, although he will die. The essence of his being is purity and goodness.

Blessed is he who has attained the sacred state of Buddhahood, for he is fit to work out the salvation of his fellow beings. The truth has taken its abode in him. Perfect wisdom illumines his understanding, and righteousness ensouls the purpose of all his actions. The truth is a living power for good, indestructible and invincible! Work the truth out in your mind, and spread it among mankind, for truth alone is the savior from evil and misery. The Buddha has found the truth and the truth has been proclaimed by the Buddha! Blessed be the Buddha!”

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Books to read:

Money and the Meaning of Life

The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are


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Samsara And Nirvana

Samsara And Nirvana, another text from the so called Gospel of Buddha, brings up the age old conundrum “What’s the Meaning of Life?”. One can contemplate it forever and never know the answer. Through meditation, the Buddha recognised that the collection of ideas he had about himself were just that, a collection of memories, prejudices and imposed ideals. In meditation he discovered that this “self” could be quieted, that it was possible to be truly self-less.

In this discovery lay the answer to the big question. All around him he saw suffering; illness, poverty, sickness and ultimately death, impermanence. But in meditation he experienced self-less-ness. 

The question goes: what’s the meaning of life?, surely it can’t be this, suffering and then death. An end to existence? But who is it that experiences this life and death? Who is it who suffers?

In meditation, which is often confused for an attempt to block out or clear our heads of all thought, we simply bring our attention to our breath. Jacob Needleman says “all we own is our attention” or words to that effect. Our attention is everything.

If there is no Self, then who is suffering? Who is dying?

Samsara the cyclical nature of life, death and re-birth.

Nirvana¬†or the extinction of the “three fires” of passion, aversion¬†and ignorance.¬†When these fires are extinguished, release from the cycle of samsara¬†is achieved.

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Samsara And Nirvana:

“LOOK about and contemplate life! Everything is transient and nothing endures. There is birth and death, growth and decay; there is combination and separation. The glory of the world is like a flower: it stands in full bloom in the morning and fades in the heat of the day.

Wherever you look, there is a rushing and a struggling, and an eager pursuit of pleasure. There is a panic flight from pain and death, and hot are the flames of burning desires. The world is Vanity Fair, full of changes and transformations. All is Samsara, the turning Wheel of Existence.

Is there nothing permanent in the world? Is there in the universal turmoil no resting-place where our troubled heart can find peace? Is there nothing everlasting? Oh, that we could have cessation of anxiety, that our burning desires would be extinguished! When shall the mind become tranquil and composed?

The Buddha, our Lord, was grieved at the ills of life. He saw the vanity of worldly happiness and sought salvation in the one thing that will not fade or perish, but will abide for ever and ever.

You who long for life, learn that immortality is hidden in transiency. You who wish for happiness without the sting of regret, lead a life of righteousness. You who yearn for riches, receive treasures that are eternal. Truth is wealth, and a life of truth is happiness.

All compounds will be dissolved again, but the verities which determine all combinations and separations as laws of nature endure for ever and aye. Bodies fall to dust, but the truths of the mind will not be destroyed.

Truth knows neither birth nor death; it has no beginning and no end. Welcome the truth. The truth is the immortal part of mind. Establish the truth in your mind, for the truth is the image of the eternal; it portrays the immutable; it reveals the everlasting; the truth gives unto mortals the boon of immortality.

The Buddha has proclaimed the truth; let the truth of the Buddha dwell in your hearts. Extinguish in yourselves every desire that antagonizes the Buddha, and in the perfection of your spiritual growth you will become like unto him. That of your heart which cannot or will not develop into Buddha must perish, for it is mere illusion and unreal; it is the source of your error; it is the cause of your misery.

You attain to immortality by filling your minds with truth. Therefore, become like unto vessels fit to receive the Master’s words. Cleanse yourselves of evil and sanctify your lives. There is no other way of reaching truth.

Learn to distinguish between Self and Truth. Self is the cause of selfishness and the source of evil; truth cleaves to no self; it is universal and leads to justice and righteousness. Self, that which seems to those who love their self as their being, is not the eternal, the everlasting, the imperishable. Seek not self, but seek the truth.

If we liberate our souls from our petty selves, wish no ill to others, and become clear as a crystal diamond reflecting the light of truth, what a radiant picture will appear in us mirroring things as they are, without the admixture of burning desires, without the distortion of erroneous illusion, without the agitation of clinging and unrest.

Yet you love self and will not abandon self-love. So be it, but then, verily, you should learn to distinguish between the false self and the true self. The ego with all its egotism is the false self. It is an unreal illusion and a perishable combination. He only who identifies his self with the truth will attain Nirvana; and he who has entered Nirvana has attained Buddhahood; he has acquired the highest good; he has become eternal and immortal.

All compound things shall be dissolved again, worlds will break to pieces and our individualities will be scattered; but the words of Buddha will remain for ever.

The extinction of self is salvation; the annihilation of self is the condition of enlightenment; the blotting out of self is Nirvana.

Happy is he who has ceased to live for pleasure and rests in the truth. Verily his composure and tranquility of mind are the highest bliss.

Let us take our refuge in the Buddha, for he has found the everlasting in the transient. Let us take our refuge in that which is the immutable in the changes of existence. Let us take our refuge in the truth that is established through the enlightenment of the Buddha. Let us take our refuge in the community of those who seek the truth and endeavour to live in the truth.”

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Books that will help:

Time and the Soul

Money and the Meaning of Life

 


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The Disciple Speaks

This is the first extract from texts known as the Gospel of Buddha, purportedly compiled from ancient texts, The Disciple Speaks comes across like so many Christian texts. And, if coming from a western background, you’d be forgiven for assuming Buddhism is another mono-theistic religion. It’s thanks to seekers like Alan Watts that we know differently.

For me this assumption cuts right to the heart of the matter with seers like the Buddha, Christ or whoever. Their wisdom and clarity is harnessed and put to work for baser human desires long after their death and we are expected to take the word as Gospel.

I’m attracted to Buddhism for the opposite reason; that at heart, it is a way of thinking, a way of living even, but the Buddha actively discouraged worship of deities, and most especially himself.

Buddha told those drawn to him that everything they need to understand reality is right there in their own experience.

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The Disciple Speaks:

“REJOICE at the glad tidings! The Buddha our Lord has found the root of all evil; he has shown us the way of salvation. The Buddha dispels the illusions of our mind and redeems us from the terror of death.

The Buddha, our Lord, brings comfort to the weary and sorrow-laden; he restores peace to those who are broken down under the burden of life. He gives courage to the weak when they would fain give up self-reliance and hope. You who suffer from the tribulations of life, you who have to struggle and endure, you who yearn for a life of truth, rejoice at the glad tidings! There is balm for the wounded, and there is bread for the hungry. There is water for the thirsty, and there is hope for the despairing. There is light for those in darkness, and there is inexhaustible blessing for the upright.

Heal your wounds, you wounded, and eat your fill, you hungry. Rest, you weary, and you who are thirsty quench your thirst. Look up to the light, you who sit in darkness; be full of good cheer, you who are forlorn.

Trust in truth, You who love the truth, for the kingdom of righteousness is founded upon earth. The darkness of error is dispelled by the light of truth. We can see our way and take firm and certain steps. The Buddha, our Lord, has revealed the truth. The truth cures our diseases and redeems us from perdition; the truth strengthens us in life and in death; the truth alone can conquer the evils of error. Rejoice at the glad tidings!”

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Further Reading:

The Wisdom of Insecurity

The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are


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