Thursday, March 31, 2011

BUDDHISM: Life in Prespective


We face the woeful prospect that we are intelligent creatures living in a meaningless world.
Buddhism Plain and Simple.
By Steve Hagen:

As you might have guessed I do not believe in gods, angles, ghost, fairies, gnomes, devils, demons, spirits, sprites, life after death and things that go bump in the night. Just because I can not explain my existence does not logically imply a supernatural causation; and likewise, my rejection of religious mysticism does not imply immorality. Many people claim that morality exist because of religion – I would say it exist despite religion. (See my blog entry RELIGION: Oct 10, 2010)

In my estimation, the person who came closest to getting it right was the Buddha. Basically, his philosophy was that yesterday is an illusion and tomorrow doesn’t exist. We only have this present moment to live in; and, if we do not perceive the beauty and worth of this moment then we are squandering our life.

Stories of the Buddha, like the stories in the Bible, are greatly exaggerated. For twenty five hundred years people have had the opportunity to add to, subtract from, reinvent and reshape the Buddhist legend to their own liking and purpose. The basic story, however, whether factual or an analogy, is the basis of a poignant philosophy. (Check web link below)

Introduction to Buddhism

A young man from a wealthy family is depressed by the realization that death is inevitable. He leaves his family and seeks solace from religion. After seeking and following many different teachers he still feels discontent and misery. His questions are not answered. Finally he becomes an ascetic. After years of meditating for many hours each day and denying himself food and water and even shelter from the elements, his health deteriorates. As a last effort he decides he will sit by a tree in a park and meditate until he either reaches enlightenment (understanding why he must eventually die) - or he will to die under that tree. While he is meditating a beautiful young girl comes to the park to draw water. She sees the young man, emaciated and sickly. She brings him cold water to drink. The water is invigorating. She offers him a bowl of rice and the rice taste wonderful. He marvels at the beauty and grace of the young girl, and at the beauty all around him. He realizes at this moment that life is not about how long you live or what happens after you die, but about living in the beauty of each minute of each day. (Check web link below)

The Story of Buddha

The Buddha’s teaching can be expressed in a number of ways: Stop and smell the flowers; It’s the little things in life that count; Live in the moment; or as Buddhist teachers like to say, WAKE UP!

It is ironic that the Buddha taught a simple philosophy, not a religion. Yet, everywhere Buddhism spread the people felt the need to turn the Buddha’s teachings into a religion. Bells and whistles and robes and stories and riddles and ceremonies were all added to satisfy a need for religious mysticism.

Of all the Buddhist sects, I perceive ZEN to be the truest path to Buddha enlightenment. The only real goal of ZEN is to discipline you mine in order to be able to give yourself over totally to whatever you are doing in the moment. Beliefs, points of view, religious dogma, and an obsession with evil, death and life after death only obscure the reality of the present. Unfortunately many ZEN sects focus on meditation as a goal in itself, rather than of the tool to enlightenment.

Here in the west, we are a material society. We live from want to want. If only we could obtain that car, or that sex partner, or that house, or that job we would be happy. Of course, we will never be content, for there will always be another illusive object needed for our fulfillment. Meanwhile, life passes through us. We find ourselves fearing death and unable to face the total termination of our own existence. Religions find it easy to proselytize us with a promise of life after death.

The dog dies, the cat dies, the rabbit dies, the horse dies, the frog dies, the fish dies, you die, the fly dies, the cockroach dies, the tree dies, the rose bush dies, the Pope dies, the microbe dies, the chicken dies, the hamster dies, eventually the sun dies and life on earth is dead – and that’s all. Get over it.

In the next blog I will list the basic principles of Buddhist practice - without smoke and mirrors - for western understanding.   
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COMMENT: Ben Franklin said, "I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false."