Wild Buddhi

Over the years I have noticed an increase of people who either accept Buddhist ideas, or engage in Buddhist meditation and study, or become Buddhists.  While in discussion with them I note that their idea of Buddhism is very limited, and though most of this lack of knowledge can be attributed to being new to the practice, some who describe themselves as ‘long time practitioners’, also share a confined understanding.  Not just in practices but whom the Buddha was.

Siddhartha Gautama was of Indian descent; commonly thought to have been born in Lumbini (now, modern day Nepal).  His father was King Suddhodana, ruler of Shakya people; as such, Siddhartha, as a prince, would have been raised as a warrior.  Before the King’s child was born, it was prophesied to be a boy who would become a chakravartin (a benevolent ruler who would keep the wheels of dharma / eternal law moving).  Unless, he saw four things that would compel him to become a sage; which he did so, and so changed the course of his life.

So the most common misconception is that Siddhartha was Asian, and that he was ‘born a pacifist’.  Both are incorrect.

The next matter to address is that his ideas were wholly original, or that he was the “founder” of a “new system”, a “new approach to life”.  This too is incorrect.

At the core of Siddhartha’s teaching – aside from the fourfold ‘noble truths’ and its eight components there is the:

-Rejection of Upanisadic thesis of atman, “universal spirit”, or the true self beyond physical reality.

-Rejection of permanence (the ‘no-self’ doctrine).

-Belief in a strict principle of causal dependence, to which all existence is subject (“dependent origination”).

-Belief in karma and rebirth; and

-Belief in eventual deliverance.

Therefore, Siddhartha did not totally reject the Upanisadic teachings, just portions of them; for he still adhered to rebirth, karma and moksa / release, liberation (Buddhist nirvana).

In his ideas, Siddhartha was merely riding the wave of revolt against established religion, which was also a revolt against the monarchy.  Long before him, there was Samjhaya and Makkhali Gosala, Matilal and Ajita Kesakambali, Mahavira and Purana, and other intellectual rebels – all of which heavily influenced Siddhartha.  A point he specifically mentioned in the Sangarava Sutra.

Nor was Siddharta’s school of thought the only heretical one, for Jainism and Lokayata rose up as contemporaries, and the three share strikingly familiar similarities.

Personally, I find this an interesting topic in its relationship to Christianity.  Specifically, that Yeshua ben Yosef was a Judaic reformer and anti-Roman insurgent who became known as Jesus Christ.  This historic fact among biblical scholars is demarcated as the “historical Jesus” and the “Jesus of Christianity” (respectively).  Simply put, Jesus rallied against Roman rule in much the same way the Siddhartha rebelled against the monarchy, while speaking out against established and traditional religious teaching.

Essentially, when those friends and acquaintances of mine finish our discussion on Buddhism, it becomes clear that they are actually adherents of the Samkhya school – one of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy (circa 200 CE).  Samkhya is the root of Tantra, Yoga and Vedanta.

Now, bear in mind that Samkhya is actually but a scion of several older schools of thought; namely, Panini’s Mahabharata (inside which is found the Bhagavad Gita), and the conception of four ends of life (artha, kama, dharma and moksa; purpose, sense-desire, eternal law and release, respectively).  From these ideas arose the Arthasastra (400 BCE; the management of an efficient and solid economy), the Brahmasutra (400 BCE; the higher inquiry of truth), the Dharmasastra (100 BCE; the principle guide of daily living), the Kamasutra (300 BCE; a text on erotic desire), and perhaps the most, Patanjali’s Yogasutra (200 BCE; a treatise on Yoga, one of the six astika / orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy).

As such, this is why I recommend those who come to me – relating that they are Buddhists – to read the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (also known as the Raja Yoga Sutras).  For, “You can plumb the depths of a well, but the depths of the mind are unfathomable.”

Namaste, Mutual Respect, Peace Out!



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Keri
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 19:15:58

    Nicely written.


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