by Acharya S
Believe not because some old manuscripts
are produced, believe not because it is your national belief,
believe not because you have been made to believe from your
childhood, but reason truth out, and after you have analyzed it,
then if you find it will do good to one and all, believe it, live up
to it and help others live up to it.
Although it has been vilified by fanatic members of Western
monolithic religions, the ancient religion of Buddhism has been
widely respected by spiritualists and non-religionists for
centuries. The admiration of Buddhism by open-minded Westerners is
not a recent phenomenon, despite its current status in power circles
such as the Hollywood elite.
Many seekers of truth have discarded
their traditional spiritual practices in favor of what they consider
a superior system, i.e., Buddhism, which does indeed offer concepts
that are more cosmic and less repressive than the Western religions.
"Buddha" is a
Compilation of Characters
There are several types of Buddhism, which is a reflection of the
fact that there have been several "Buddhas" and that Buddhism has
been migrating from place to place for millennia. The story of the
founding of Buddhism is that it was developed by a single, godly
man - godman - named first Siddhartha and then Gautama Buddha, who had
miraculous exploits, including the requisite "virgin birth" but also
mountaintop communion with "angels" and "gods."
The stories of THE Buddha, in fact, are
extremely diverse. This diversity is understandable since the basic
Buddha character is, in fact, a solar myth to which were added
volumes of "sayings" and "doings" of a variety of people, usually
men. "Buddha" is merely a title that signifies awakening,
illumination or anointing, and there have been dozens of Buddhas,
some female, over the millennia that constitute Buddhism.
Indeed, Buddhism existed long prior to
the time period assigned to its "great founder," i.e., 500 BCE, as
there are legends of "Buddhas" going back many more thousands of
years, including the 24 Teerthankaras of Jainism. (See Buddha as
Fiction.) The word "Buddha" is related to the Egyptian term for the
sky-god father-figure, "Ptah" and "Puttha," as well as to "Pytha,"
as in Pythagoras ("Buddha" + "guru"). It is also, therefore, related
to the word "father."
The Egyptian god Thot or Hermes is
considered an early type of Buddha.
While Zen Buddhism, or the Buddhism developed in Japan, is
relatively simple and devoid of dogma, Tibetan Buddhism is more
complex, with umpteen rituals and a hierarchy that startled
Christian missionaries with its astonishing "similarity" to
Catholicism. This similarity, in fact, is much more than a bizarre
coincidence, as the two religions derive from the same source,
Buddhism being first by thousands of years.
Tibetan Buddhism has a flavor distinct
from other forms of Buddhism, especially Zen, because it is a
combination of Buddhism and the animistic "Bon," the previous
religion of the Tibetan area, which was once much larger than it is
Although Zen has been preferred by Western intellectuals, many
Western people are especially fond of Tibetan Buddhism with its
color and pageantry, finding it superior to Catholicism. In the most
important ways, this perception is correct, because the major tenet
of Buddhism - Zen, Tibetan or otherwise - is that there is no "god" as
such, separate and aloof from creation, but there is a sense or
state of divinity that can be acquired by all.
In other words, to enlightened Buddhas
everything is divine. Many practitioners of Buddhism have undergone
liberating experiences far more profound than those acquired within
other spiritual or religious systems. While this promise of
liberating spiritual experience sounds great in theory, there are
problems with the actual history of Buddhism, as, like its Western
counterparts, such history reveals prejudices, racism and sexism.
Like the Western religions, Buddhism is primarily patriarchal,
although certain sects of Buddhism have been goddess-oriented and
have exhorted that the path to the One was through the Other, i.e.,
Because of its lack of rules and dogma, Zen is certainly superior to
the monolithic religions that have through mind-control marshaled
great hordes of people to rampage against their neighbors. But
Buddhism did not spread peacefully, as is widely perceived.
The question is, for all its
intoxicating magic and mystery, are Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism
really a completely innocent place and ideology immune to any
Tibet is indeed a land of magic and mystery. The nation, which once
extended well beyond the boundaries it held when the Chinese invaded
it, has been steeped in the occult for millennia. While Tibetans are
widely known for doing rituals to bring about healing and peace,
some have been known to engage in what could be called "black magic"
as well. Stories abound of hair-raising creatures ("tulpas") being
created through incantation.
Also, it is claimed there is at least one secret society within
Buddhism that has been in existence since the times of Asoka, the
Buddhist reformer-king of India during the 2nd century BCE. This
secret society is claimed to hold tremendous power, with each member
in possession of a magical "key" that when combined with the others
can create or destroy on a cosmic scale.
When a key-holder dies, he is replaced
by another person, and it is believed that the key-holders are
continually reincarnated, such that eventually there will be many of
them living at once, thus increasing their power. (For more on the
subject of Tibetan Buddhist mysticism, see Alexandra David-Neel's
Magic and Mystery in Tibet, My Journey to Lhasa and Secret Oral
Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects.)
While the Dalai Lama himself may be a charismatic caring leader, the
Tibetan religious system is not devoid of exploitation. When Tibet
was autonomous, the firstborn male of every household was required
to enter the priesthood, a repressive law that served as one of the
justifications by the Chinese for invading Tibet and "freeing" its
people from despotic priests. The Chinese, although themselves awful
violators of human rights, correctly recognized the falsity of a
system whereby lazy monks live off the serfs. Of course, the life of
the average poor and/or dull-witted monk is not so easy, as it is
generally one of deprivation in many areas.
Again, the hierarchy benefits.
As concerns the argument that it is not Buddhism per se that is at
fault but its followers who fail to live up to its lofty precepts,
let us take a brief look at the actual character of the mythical
Buddha to see if he himself is the epitome of peace and love. In
reality, although Buddha is considered a "divine" and "godly"
figure, his behavior, as depicted in the orthodox stories, is not
entirely exemplary, as is the case with Jesus and other godmen.
First there is the story where Buddha
wishes to have the other princes worship him, and, when they do not,
he contrives to force them through magical means. (Hardy, Manual of Budhism, 200.) Next, when a sage doubts Buddha, one of Buddha's
ministers encourages the doubter to challenge the godman.
Knowing this betrayal mystically, Buddha
informs the minister that,
"if he again denied that he was the
supreme Budha, he was not to approach him anymore, or his head
would fall, like a tal fruit from its stalk, or would cleave
into seven pieces."
(Hardy, Manual of Budhism, 332.)
These stories belie the commonly held
notion of a peaceful teacher with no ego.
Also, according to the priest Nagasena, Buddha is responsible for
When Budha punishes any one, or
casts him down, or takes his life, it is that he may be
benefited thereby; for the same reason a father chastises his
(Hardy, Manual of Budhism, 385.)
Like those of Jesus, a number of
Buddha's edicts are harsh and sexist, as well as anti-sex. As he
himself was celibate, so he expected his followers to be, even if
they were married. Because of his decrees (or, rather, those made by
priests in his name), it became unlawful to touch a woman. Indeed,
one was to avoid women, as if they were defiling. Moreover, as
Four crimes involved permanent exclusion from the priesthood: sexual
intercourse, theft, murder and a false profession of the attainment
of rahatship [state of liberation], or the highest order of
sanctity. (Moor, Hindu Pantheon -ed. Simpson-, 162-163.)
Thus, sex is basically equated with theft, murder and lying, not an
uncommon development within religion, whose priests have recognized
that their flocks are controllable through manipulation of sex.
In addition, Gautama is also depicted as being humorless, not having
smiled in all the years since he became Buddha. When he finally did
"he did not show his teeth, or make a noise like some [but]
rays came from his mouth like a golden portico to a dagoba of
emeralds, when thrice around his head, and then entered again into
If such a person really existed, he would
have to be considered not only divine and wondrous but also
irascible and aggressive.
The truth of the various controversial matters within Buddhism's
history may never be fully known, but what is true is that although
Buddhism purports to be the most effective way for humans to free
themselves from delusion, Buddhism itself is not free of delusion.
While this fact is not an egregious sin when one considers just how
delusional this earthly plane can be, it does reveal that Buddhism
is not what it is cracked up to be. All in all, however, Buddhism is
like democracy: It's the worst form of government, except all the
To truly "get" Buddhism, one needs to become a "Buddha," and a
Buddha is a free agent not belonging to any particular group, cult
or religion, not separate from "God," and not ascribing to ritual
and rote, except that which moves her/him in her/his autonomy.
A Buddha is, by its very definition, a
liberated being, a person who thinks and does for her/himself yet
who is connected to the whole, and thus selfless and concerned with
the greater good.