Buddha’s Advice On Belief And Scepticism

You have to give Buddha a lot of credit.  This is a guy that in ~400 to 500 BC celebrated the law of conservation of energy as a truth to be internalized and made the basis of philosophy/religion.

The notion of “karma” also is tied deeply to cause-and-effect, recalling Newton’s laws of motion.

Buddhism has been absorbed by the West in many forms – the New Left in the 60′s, yoga, Salinger, Alan Watts.  Per the American Religious Identification Survey, alongside Islam, New Religious Movements and Others, and No Religion (including Atheism) it is one of the only religions actually growing in the last 20 years in America.

As our interconnectedness on this planet becomes more intimately apparent and as we integrate ourselves into a more humanistic and scientific mindset, a religion sympathetic to wisdom and logic such as Buddhism clears a path for modern ways of thought to follow:

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it

Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many

Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations

But after observation and analysis when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it

Text taken from: http://www.teachingsofthebuddha.com/

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Pledge to Dispel the Misery of the World

With the wish to free all beings
I will always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Until the attainment of full Enlightenment

Enthused by Compassion and Wisdom
Today in the Buddha’s presence
I generate the Mind of Enlightenment
For the benefit of all sentient beings

For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

- The Dalai Lama’s interpretation of Shantideva’s Prayer

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Trade-off

Consider carefully the things that you want, because they require that which you already have as payment.

Be mindful of your current situation, to ensure what you have is not keeping you from what is most important.

Stress doesn’t come from the immediate situation, but instead a lack of time to evaluate one’s new state.  Devising an attitude on the fly is difficult.

It makes sense that the most successful attitude would be an uncommon one.  Equanimity is rare in the West.

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We Have Not Succeeded in Unifying People

 

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Optimism To Abate Terrorism

I think that Active Philosophy needs optimism.

The world needs optimism.

We need to believe in decency.

At the very least, we ought discount any notions of superiority.

I’d like to assume that the majority of people in a stable environment will be happy and peaceful.

When groups of Muslims are attacking Westerners and their interests, doesn’t it make sense to ask – why would they do this?

The inferred answer is: Islam is evil.

But we mistake the hardcore right wingers and totalitarians that find their justification in a religion for the religious themselves.  What environment would engender a hardcore religious theocracy?

The policies of the world (dominated by finance) induce extremism.  Both in the developed world and non-.

After years and years of devastating colonialism, a power vacuum is created, or encouraged.  The barbaric rise up.

All warlords, all generals, are the same, but their banners carry different hues.  Their followers are the same, the little men, the patriots, the rah-rah-rahers, except speaking different languages or perhaps thumping a different holy book against their chest.

Appeals to a divine cause are necessary.  Otherwise exploitation and murder would be discouraged if we based our decisions on our own observations stemming from this world.

We all know Earth’s history is bloody.  However that is no justification for decisions today, merely a shroud for cowardice.

Who is Al-Qaeda?  Does this group exist?  A group with no leaders, or voice?  Could it conceivably be a Western fancy that has now been adopted with great success for myriad causes?

The perpetual war on terror has no intention of ending terror – it is a cynical political ploy, manifesting perpetual war, empowering the warlords on all corners of the globe.  The worst is that it draws less from any primitive vicious human nature than outright laziness and fear.

A true war on terrorism would be a war on poverty, xenophobia, and entitlement.  It would demand self-reflection and change.

The divine is not transcendent, it is everyday.  If we pay attention to what’s going on and make an honest attempt to understand our condition, if we actively combat propaganda and encourage free thought, nobody will want to kill each other anymore. 

It is the science of our everyday lives.

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Beyond Theology

“When God is dead, man, who was always defined as a creature other than God, begins to feel himself as other than reality – a sentimental irregularity in a dog-eat-dog system that might have been contrived by the Devil, if Devil there were.  Men so at odds with their environment must either bulldoze it into obedience or destroy it.  The two choices come to the same thing.

But a superior religion goes beyond theology.  It turns toward the center; it investigates and feels out the inmost depths of man himself, since it is here that we are in most intimate contact, or rather, in identity with existence itself.  Dependence on theological ideas and symbols is replaced by direct, non-conceptual touch with a level of being which is simultaneously one’s own and the being of all others.  For at the point where I am most myself I am most beyond myself.  At root I am one with all the other branches.  Yet this level of being is not something to be grasped and categorized, to be inspected, analyzed or made an object of knowledge – not because it is taboo or sacrosanct, but because it is the point from which one radiates, the light not before but within the eyes…

There is, then, a more structural and objective foundation for that leap of faith in which a man may dare to think that he is not a stranger in the universe, nor a solitary and tragic flash of awareness in endless and overwhelming darkness.  For, in the light of what we now know in physical terms, it is not unreasonable to wager that deep down at the center: ‘I myself’ is ‘It’ – as in ‘as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.’

If this is a hope, or a fervent belief, Krishnamurti is right in saying that it should be challenged and tested with the question, ‘Why do you want to believe that?  Is it because you are so afraid of dying, of coming to an end?  Is this identification with the cosmic Self the last desperate resort of your ego to continue its game?’  Indeed, if this Supreme Identity is, for me, a belief to which I am clinging, I am in total self-contradiction.  Not only is there no sense in clinging to what I am; the very act of clinging also implies that I do not really know that I am it!  Such belief is merely doubt dressed up.  The final meaning of negative theology, of knowing God by unknowing, of the abandonment of idols both sensible and conceptual, is that ultimate faith is not in or upon anything at all.  It is complete letting go.  Not only is it beyond theology; it is also beyond atheism and nihilism.  Such letting go cannot be attained.  It cannot be acquired or developed through perseverance and exercises, except insofar as such efforts prove the impossibility of acquiring it.  Letting go comes only through desperation.  When you know that it is beyond you – beyond your powers of action as beyond your powers of relaxation.  When you give up every trick and device for getting it,  including this ‘giving up’ as something that one might do, say, at ten o’clock  tonight.  That you cannot by any means do it – that is it!  That is the mighty self-abandonment which gives birth to the stars.”

-Alan Watts

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Excerpts from The Gospel According To Zen: Beyond The Death Of God

“A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: ‘Have you ever read the Christian Bible?‘ ‘No read it to me,’ said Gasan.

The student opened the Bible and read from Saint Matthew: ‘And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.’

Gasan said: ‘Whoever uttered those words I consider to be an enlightened man.’

The student continued reading: ‘Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.  For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.’

Gasan remarked: ‘That is excellent.  Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood.’”

The Most Serious Question Of All

Provided he makes and wins an argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wandering monk can remain in a  Zen temple.  If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a temple in the northern part of Japan two brother monks were dwelling together.  The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.

A wandering monk came and asked for lodging, properly challenging them to a debate about the sublime teaching.  The elder brother, tired that day from much studying, told the younger one to take his place.  ‘Go and request the dialogue in silence,’ he cautioned.

So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterward the traveler rose and went to the elder brother and said: ‘Your young brother is a wonderful fellow.  He defeated me.’

‘Relate the dialogue to me,’ said the elder one.

‘Well,’ explained the traveler, ‘first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one.  So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching.  I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living the harmonious life.  Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization.  Thus he won and I have no right to remain here.’  With this, the traveler left.

‘Where is that fellow?’ Asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.

‘I understand you won the debate.’

‘Won nothing.  I’m going to beat him up.’

‘Tell me the subject of the debate,’ asked the elder one.

‘Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by insinuating that I have only one eye.  Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes.  Then the impolite wrench held up three fingers, suggesting that between us we only have three eyes.  So I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran out and that ended it!’

Mumon’s comment: The stranger is like the wise theologian who preached the death of God.  Although his words are most eloquent his degree of attainment is obvious.  The one-eyed brother is like the pious churchman who worships God and asks him to solve his problems.  His motives are pure but his one eye is a handicap.  Now suppose you were to decide the winner of this debate.  If your decision is correct the death of God will be a joke too funny to laugh at.  On the other hand, if you cannot choose between the two no God will be powerful enough to save you from your fate.

Is God dead or not?

This is the most serious question of all,

If you say yes or no,

You lose your own Buddha nature.

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