Sunday, April 20, 2008

Layer 13 More Thoughts On Buddhism

It now seems incredible to me that our education system does not insist that we all need a thorough understanding of Buddhism - its ideas, beliefs and practices. It seems self-evident that we should all be able to benefit from its philosophy, psychology and day to day practices, especially meditation.

As an educationalist I take a different approach to learning about Buddhism, and especially Zen, than that normally taken by religious ‘believers’. Young people in particular should not be subjected to any form of indoctrination by adherents to a particular faith. In any case they don’t in general have any inclination to sit for long hours of ‘instruction’, and they don’t have the time or inclination to read complicated textbooks on what appear to be esoteric matters beyond their own experience or interest.

What I see the need for is initially some sort of concise overview of the key ideas of Zen or Buddhism in general, which ought to stimulate the novice to undertake further enquiries and studies. If the summary or overview fails to do this, then clearly the reader is not ready for further exploration. But we do need to provide short, stimulating texts that will hopefully whet the appetite to find out more.


To begin with, we need to understand the role of intuition, using processes of direct experience and meditation, in developing and expanding metaphysical or spiritual intelligence.

What Buddhists call Buddhi is a faculty - call it intuition - that has the power of direct dynamic spiritual awareness [or metaphysical intelligence], unfiltered by the intellect and its bewildering myriad of helpful and unhelpful words and concepts. Ultimately words, as human constructs, can mean whatever we want them to mean. Wisdom and enlightenment, which are eternal and immutable and lie beyond the intellect, are acquired from Buddhi.

Where is the opportunity to acquire wisdom and enlightenment in our schools and colleges?
To be a Buddha is to be Awakened, Enlightened, made Aware. Which of us wouldn’t aspire to this, or aspire to even a small degree of spiritual awareness, wisdom or intelligence? But how many are fortunate enough to have spiritual intelligence as part of their school or college curricula? Is learning ‘about’ morality and religion actually contributing to the development of “direct dynamic spiritual awareness”? Of course not.

Satori (the Zen word for spiritual experience), and Samadhi (the last step on the Noble Eightfold Path) are steps on the way to enlightenment and wisdom. Nirvana (or Nibbana) is its human goal.

“Yet beyond [Nirvana] lies Parinirvana, for Buddhism is a process of becoming, and admits no conceivable end.” (Humphries)


More quotes from Christmas Humphries:

It is the criterion of all Buddhist teaching that it conduces to the achievement of Enlightenment.
Bodhi, supreme Wisdom (Maha Bodhi), is the purpose of all study, of all morality, of all attempts at self-development. It is for this that the false and separative self is slain and the true Self steadily developed; it is the sole end of all progress on the Eightfold Path; it is the Buddh in Buddhism.

In the end each living thing will achieve Enlightenment. This is the hope and the promise of Buddhism. All study and attempted practice that loses sight of this ultimate, supreme experience may be useful, but it is not Buddhism.

‘Our essence of mind is intrinsically pure’, according to the Patriarch Hui-neng. ‘All things are only its manifestations, and good deeds and evil deeds are only the result of good thoughts and evil thoughts respectively.’ Imagination, thought and willpower make deeds, and by our deeds we make ourselves. ‘All that we are is the result of our thoughts; it is founded on our thoughts, and is made up of them.’

To Buddhists, therefore, all weight and emphasis is on the mind, and none on circumstance. ‘Our mind should stand aloof from circumstances, and on no account should we allow circumstances to influence the function of our mind.’ All value lies in the mind.

To the Buddhist the moment alone is of supreme importance; all speculation and all conceptual belief are therefore valueless until made real.

[We should be valued by others and learn to value ourselves for our day to day actions and deeds. There is no point in dwelling upon or speculating about the past or the future. Only in the Now can we find joy and satori, and contribute to the joy and satori of others.]

Now is the moment of salvation, of the making an end of suffering. ‘Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof’, and its undoing.

Life is a bridge - build no house upon it; it is a river - cling not to its banks; a gymnasium - use it to develop the mind on the apparatus of circumstance; a journey - take it and walk on!

It is hard indeed to focus on infinity, and all men have at times preferred to focus on something just so much ahead of them, and not too far. Hence thoughts of Gods and gods, Saints and Saviours.

And yet, the Void is already full. It is filled with Tao or Zen or Life or Light. These names are man-made noises for the Infinite. ‘The Light is within thee’, said the Egyptian Hierophants; ‘Let the Light shine’.

The Mahayana stands upon the twin pillars of Wisdom and Compassion, of Law which manifests as justice, and Love which proves as mercy. Yet ‘Love is the fulfilling of the Law’, and like light and darkness, male and female, life and form, the two are ultimately and immediately One. [Yin & Yang. Justice is the dark side of love. Those who fail to love, those who hurt others, can expect to reap what they sow. Karma will return to them their lack of Loving-kindness, manifesting as some kind of self-punishment, as it were.]

Cause and effect are one, though we see the two sides of the coin in the relative illusion of time. For causation is only interrelation expanded into the ‘past’, ‘present’, and ‘future’ for convenience of our understanding.

Each must perfect himself, his own brief vortex in the flow of life; each is responsible for the changing complex of attributes called Self which grows only as the craving ‘ego’ dies.

‘Work out your own salvation with diligence’, said the Buddha. How? It is immaterial. The mountain peak is indifferent to the path by which men climb.

[As is the peak of Maslow’s pyramid!]

There is the soft way of Shin Buddhism. There is the harder road of the Theravada, with its Right Understanding and Right Action. Then there is the hardest (because the straightest) road of Zen - the direct road up the mountain-side. Meanwhile, for the vast majority of men, there is no road at all, only the drift of suffering minds.

The implications of the doctrine of Karma (Cause-Effect) are vast, and frightening to all but the strongest mind. If all that we are is the result of what we have thought [and done], then all that we shall be is the result of what we are thinking now [and what we do].

We are building now our tomorrow, creating hour by hour our heaven or hell. There is no such thing as luck or chance, and no such thing as fate. We are predestined now by the previous exercise of our own freewill. The world of time and space is seen as the workshop of an individual character.

[The so-called self] contains no single permanent factor, nor anything resembling a changeless and immortal ‘soul’. The evolving consciousness achieves successive states of spiritual development [or intelligence].

The Four Noble Truths concern the omnipresence of suffering; its cause (selfish desire); its cure (elimination of that separative desire); and the way to this removal. ‘Cease to do evil; learn to do good; cleanse your own heart’ - this is the teaching of the Buddhas.

There is no word of faith [in Buddhism], save that which a man has in a guide who tells him of a journey and a goal and a way to it; no word of a Saviour who will make that journey for him. Each must develop his own mind. There is no instrument yet invented that can do more than the mind of man can do when its powers are fully developed.

The purpose of Buddhism is to attain enlightenment, and in the lower stages of the climb all means and devices are legitimate, to be discarded when their use is ended. (Like a raft after crossing a river on it, to mix the metaphor.)

There comes a time, however, when all devices are seen as hindrances, and even the Scriptures are fetters about the awakening mind. Authority is a term which daily lessens in meaning, and the sole criterion of all value passes within. The faculty of Buddhi (intuition) slowly but steadily awakens, and the world of discrimination, which lives by the dreary comparison of opposites, is steadily left behind.

Tolerance widens, compassion deepens, serenity becomes a constant companion which neither the passions nor the problems of the human mind disturb. Certainty comes with intuitive awareness, and though sorrow still be the portion of the ever-returning night, joy as certainly comes with the morning.

The developed will begins to take the hill straight. The veils fall steadily and there comes an increasing awareness of that which lies beyond all veils. The ‘three fires’of greed, anger and illusion begin to die for want of fuelling. The stream is entered and all effort becomes increasingly ‘right’ effort.

In brief, the faculty of Buddhi [spiritual intelligence] is awakening, and the fact that it dwells in all [of us] and needs but awakening is cardinal to Buddhism. ‘So far as Buddha-nature is concerned, there is no difference between an enlightened man and an ignorant one. What makes the difference is that one realises it while the other is ignorant of it.’ (The Sutra of Wei Lang.)

In the words of The Voice of the Silence, ‘ Seek in the impersonal for the eternal man, and having sought him out, look inward - thou art Buddha!’

The process of becoming is a circle; the process of becoming more, of growth, is a spiral, either up or down according as the growth is towards or away from wholeness. Buddhism begins with the Buddha’s Enlightenment and ends with man’s.

And the final goal? We know not, nor is it yet, or likely to be for aeons to come, our immediate concern. The faint of heart will ever seek some resting-place, some weak finality; for the strong, the first and the last word is and ever more will be - Walk On!

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