Friday, December 14, 2012

wrongly accused

Siddhartha Gautama, the man wrongly-accused of founding Buddhism, included in his teachings the warning to steer clear of "imponderable" matters -- the questions that allow of no fruitful resolution or truth. Basically, he suggested that there was already enough nitwit-dom to cope with, so let's not throw fuel on that fire.

"Imponderable" things -- stuff like the first cause or origin of the world -- are so delicious, however, that whole religions can make a lot of long-term hay by employing and insinuating them ... eg. what happens after I die?

If your mother leaves the house with the admonition, "and don't stick beans up your nose while I'm gone," what is the first thing any child is likely to try? I guess the "imponderables," whether unwise or not, are here to stay.

To point out what is fruitlessly imponderable is to suggest that other possibilities can be more fruitful ... more realistically and usefully ponderable.

But today I wonder if that which might be called usefully ponderable isn't, like Siddhartha Gautama, wrongly accused.

Or is that imponderable and a waste of time?


  1. "Siddhartha Gautama, the man wrongly-accused of founding Buddhism..."

    Sorry, but this is bullshit. Perhaps you think the "ism" in Buddhism protects this pov from scrutiny, but Shakyamuni founded a particular order that had definite beliefs and hierarchies, even if questions and answers as to the origin of the world were not included in them.

    His first act after "awakening" was to demand those interested in his teachings to bow to him. He met with political leaders of the day and accepted their use of power to provide land for his order (to the exclusion of other orders). He saw attendance upon his own needs as acts that would merit better lifetimes for others. He openly criticized other teachers of the day for wrong views. He robed and propagandized his eight year old son, excluding him from ordinary human life (an attitude toward dharma, childhood and parenting I notice you yourself repudiate without noting its source--your teacher may say "take care of your family but Shakyamuni pointedly refused to care of his). He offered refuge in the Buddha Dharma and Sangha as the beginnings of a path that provided an ultimate liberation from rebirth, clearly interpreted as an outcome different from those who did not follow that path. He definitely distinguished himself as a Buddha from followers who could only be Stream Enterers and Arhants.

    The words "religion" and "Buddhism" did not exist at that time, but Shakyamuni founded an order and a tradition that is easily distinguished from others by many debatable propositions that he and his followers never cared (or care)to debate.

  2. Just as one might ask Jesus if modern xtianity was the church he intended, one might ask Shakyamuni the same. As i recall he expected the teachings to be polluted within five hundred years.

  3. olcharlie,

    I am not sure whether you intended your comment as a comment on mine, but if so, it is a cop out.

    Everything I cite is what Shakyamuni actually did at THAT time, based on available historical evidence. Nothing is about what happened after he died.

    Speaking about what happens after death, I should have added that, contrary to Genkaku's insinuation that questions of what happened after death were not encouraged by him, Shakyamuni definitely addressed what happens after death to those who behave or believe in certain things. For instance, in a famous example, he told Talaputa that performing in the theater would result in rebirth in hell or among animals.

    On the other hand "who am I? or what is this?" were never questions encouraged by Shakyamuni.

  4. Omniadeo -- You are right. I am wrong. I hope that helps.

  5. Genkaku,

    If I choose to consider your response, it seems I can take it in two ways.

    The first would be to see you as sincere, in which case I apparently changed your mind and you now no longer see Siddhartha Gautama in the same light. You would then see that, from the evidence, he did in fact entertain the question of what happens after death—in fact he answered it many times. He did (again from the evidence) found a particular order in competition with other orders and passed specific value judgments on many, many human activities from sex, theater, laughter and attachment to ones children (all a cause of suffering) to taking vows of celibacy, listening to dharmic discourses, giving food to monks and setting aside land for their retreats (all tending towards ending suffering). I admit, he may not have founded “Buddhism” (easy to admit because it is an almost meaningless term) but he founded a particular order, worked to advance it as a cause and held definite opinions, some of which seem to contradict your own (and, by the way, my own) on many subjects.

    If this first way of seeing your response is right, I would be interested to know if and how it changes anything else in your life. I assume you made the statement for some reason and it has some meaning to you. Now that you no longer hold it as true, has anything else changed?

    The other way to take your response would be to see it as a somewhat snarky comment insinuating that my main interest is to prove you wrong and me right as well as an ironic suggestion that you consider yourself above debating a difference of what to you is an unimportant opinion.

    If this second way of seeing your response is more correct, please know that I (rightly or wrongly) see myself as motivated by a concern that the notion of Siddhartha Gautama as someone uninterested in founding a definite tradition of teachings in order to wield a particular type of power in his society is HARMFUL because it helps to mask the way that he and his self-described followers, whether of the traditional “religious” or the modern “secular” variety use those teachings (however interpreted) to wield power themselves.

    It is my observation (I practiced in a “Buddhist” tradition for almost as long as you) that the those who most strongly deny this aspect of the historical Buddha are also most likely not to see their own use of the tradition to wield power— either over others or over their own repressed psychology, which often ends up being a passive aggressive version of the same thing. I will leave you to you decide whether any thing there rings true in your world.

    Of course there may be a third way to take your response I have not thought of. That is always possible.

    In any event I find a lot of your writing very interesting and entertaining, but notice a tendency, common in my experience among lots of “Buddhist” practitioners, to use “spiritual” teachings to avoid conflict (inner and outer) and mute debate and conflicting opinion.

  6. Omniadeo -- What a thoughtful and careful response. Thank you. About the best I can offer in reply is to say (and I mean this literally) that I am getting old and fat and lazy. I really don't care very much whether someone is right or wrong except to the extent that they (and I include myself in this) are willing to find out.

    My Zen teacher once commented to me (and you may consider this too fluffy by half) that "The Buddha did not study 1,700 koans." 1,700 koans are more or less the recognized number of formal situations that Zen students might embrace. Was my teacher saying that the Buddha studied no koans at all? I doubt it: Koans are naturally-occurring substances in anyone's life ... with or without the "Buddhism" add-on. And those substances usually inspire a format for resolution ... perhaps Buddhism, perhaps tatting ... I don't know.

    So, for the sake of discussion, Buddhism is very good, very helpful, very useful. A good format. What I think is good about it is that it is a format that does not seek to close things in, but rather opens things up ... wide, wider, widest ... until, like wood smoke from a camp fire, it simply disperses into the night sky. Camp fires are cozy, but no one in his or her right mind would want to spend a lifetime huddled around one.

    Anyway ... just some spitballing. If someone wants to call something "right," I hope they are right. If someone wants to call something "wrong," I hope they're not wrong. For my money, everyone just picks his poison and then searches out the antidote. Buddhism, its history, its format and suggestions ... sounds good. Passive-aggressive or other psychological entry points ... give it a whirl. I am not being dismissive or disparaging here ... I really mean it. This is serious shit ... so ... pick a format and be serious.

    Old and fat and lazy. I apologize. But I appreciate your effort.