Buddha and Buddhism

Mythology aside, Siddhartha Gautama was part of a rising tide against Brahmanism (simply: a religious group obsessed with priest-craft, caste and maintaining political control).  Long before Siddhartha there were other doubters – true scholars and philosophers – who not only questioned the validity of the Vedas, but who both asked the pointed questions, and wrote extensively on the subject of:


-rejection of freedom of will,

-the efficacy of action/karma or the rejection of the efficacy of action,

-boycotted an atomistic cosmology,

-rejected the ability to know mind,

-acknowledged the idea of salvation based on good conduct,

-practised asceticism,

-avoided sacrificial rituals,

-were skeptical of the other world/after life,

-rejected Upanishadic monism,

-questioned the concept of omniscience, and

-recognized the rule of natural law.

In fact, Siddhartha gives credit to those great thinkers who influenced him – in the Sangarava Sutra – classifying them as traditionalists, rationalists and metaphysicians (including himself in the latter category).  In fact, there were some 363 schools of thought from which Siddhartha was able to pull from.  Great learning institutions with teachers such as Samjaya and Makkhali Gosala, Pakudha Kaccayana and Ajita Kesakambali, Purana Kassapa and Mahavira (who found Jainism).


Two Points

Siddhartha’s perspective is correct in stating that things change, but incorrect in not recognizing that they also have an aspect of permanence.  In fact, Samjaya – who was Siddhartha’s greatest influence – doubted and/or denied – many aspects of (what later became) Buddhism.  This means that, though heavily influenced by Samjaya and the early anti-Vedic philosophies, Siddhartha (though a self-proclaimed metaphysician) rejected universal entities/substances from his ontology.


Which is rather contradictory in its understanding of the soul (among other things).  For example, Buddhists divide the soul into five categories:




-traces, impressions/samskara, and

-volition, action, motivation/cetana.

This list shows that Buddhism categorizes the soul in a psychological mannter rather than a cosmological one, yet space – a metaphysical concept over a rational/scientific one – is integral to this contruct.  Rupa/visual is “atom”.  And it was this idea that put yet another crack in the Buddhist wall .. or the ability to transcend categorical thinking.


Next is the idea of dukkha, a word better translated as “uneasy, ill-fitted”.  The standard (and so readily accepted) translation is “suffering”, but this word in English is far removed from its native understanding.  Dukkha is akin to the word ‘yoga’ in that it is a device that connects one thing to another.  For example, there is sukha and dukha: ease/comfort and disturbance/aggravation (respectively), and both relate to a device used to connect the cart to the horse (literally).  Just as yoga means to yoke the beast to its burden, sukha and dukha relate the same actual connection between the two.  So that ‘suffering’, as understood in the West,  “to undergo pain or distress; to sustain injury, disadvantage, or loss”, is far too harsh an interpretation.  Better served to say, bother, or stress, or, closer to the actual meaning, struggle.


As such, the Four Noble Truths would then read:

This, bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of Struggle:

Birth is a struggle, aging is a struggle,

sickness is a struggle, death is a struggle.

Presence of objects we loathed is a struggle;

separation from what we love is a struggle;

not getting what is wanted is a struggle. 

In short, the five clinging-aggregates are a struggle.

— Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta 56.11 (with ‘struggle’ inserted for clarity)


Therefore, regarding not just both points, but Buddhism and all religion, it is best – from a spiritual perspective – to not get too attached, too comfortable with any particular way of thought, word or deed.  After all, life is a thing, that when we learn, we grow; which means every opportunity is not a lessen, but a chance to broaden and deepen our understanding.  As soon as we think a thought, we move forward from the last thought; and no matter what thought we are in, there is always a deeper, subtler and next thought after that.


What Kind of Mind Do You Want to Practice!



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