Demystifying Buddhism — Part 1 — Prelude
If you give me 5 minutes of your time, I’ll use reason and facts to dispel five crucial myths about Buddhism and show you its nothing but common sense
MYTH: Buddhism is a Religion
FACT: Buddhism is the antithesis of religion
Buddhist practitioners take many vows, first of which is to never believe in god. One of the well-known public teachings of the historical Buddha’s he emphasized that we should never believe something that we can’t conclude by the power of our reason. In other words, we should not simply believe something because we are told that it is so or because we could not find a better answer. He further emphasized not to believe anything he says, unless one could conclude it to be so by the power of one’s own reason.
MYTH: Statues of Buddha are for Worshipping
FACT: Any form of worshipping is strictly renounced in Buddhism
Following a doctrine completely void of any theism, Buddhist masters emphasize the point about not allowing yourself to be a worshipper. This is also 100% true in the case of the more advanced Tantric practices that characterize Tibetan Buddhism. The elaborate paintings with various nonhuman characters are simply the technology part of an ancient meditation technique. They are never referred to as gods, but as Meditational Deities and represent various aspects of our experience such as compassion or anger. Why then Buddhist practitioners have statues and other items, you may ask? It is so that they would not forget Buddha’s teaching and instructions, and in some cases to support meditative concentration.
MYTH: Buddha was a Buddhist
FACT: There was no such thing as Buddhism during Buddha’s time
During Buddha’s time there was no idea or organization with the demarkation Buddhism. The word Buddha comes from the word “Bodhi” that means “awakened”. In this context awakened refers to not being delusional. Delusional means being trapped in ignorance, desire and fear. The other way of looking at the meaning of awakened is that it is a person who has completely given up self-centered activity of mind, speech and body.
Actually Buddha was a meditator and a meditation teacher. The modes of organization that he introduced all aimed towards creating a conducive environment both externally and internally for meditation.
MYTH: Buddhist texts are like any other religious texts
FACT: All authentic buddhist texts are meditation manuals
Every teaching Buddha gave was an outline for a meditation on a given topic. Today we know these texts as Sutra, a reference to a teaching that Buddha himself had given. They are all without exception manuals that support a three staged approach to attaining a realization on a given topic:
- Listen so that you know what it is
- Contemplate so you understand why it’s important
- Meditate so you experience it rather just intellectualize it
This method is at the heart of the Buddhist practice, and goes back to the point about not believing anything. But Buddha didn’t just stop there, he also said that it’s important that we really feel at the level of our own experience the information to be accurate. Mere intellectualization is not enough.
MYTH: You can born to being a Buddhist
FACT: Buddhism is not a birthright, but a practice
While you can born in to religion, you can’t born in to practice. For example, you can’t born in to being a chess player. You have to adopt certain ideas and methods and you have to develop certain skills. It is like that with Buddhism. First and foremost you have to meditate, because that was the practice Buddha was focused on. Also it is said that anyone can be a Buddhist, if they see the world in a particular way introduced by Buddha and later formalized the early Indian Masters. There are four points, three of which I will briefly cover below.
- All compound things are impermanent
- All emotions are painful
- All phenomena is without inherent existence
Can you name something that is compound, but is also permanent? Of course you can’t, because the very fact that it manifest shows how it is a result of other things coming together. Because it is coming together as a result of other things, it will change in relation to those other things.
Are all emotions really painful? Think about it. If you do something painful, the more you will do it, the more you suffer. It does not become happiness at any point. How about things that you find pleasurable, for example sex? It is the same, when you keep doing it more and more, it will become suffering. This you will find is true to everything that you thought is happiness, which actually is just a contrast to the more gross forms of suffering.
Because phenomena, manifest things, are actually made out of causes and conditions, consequently it follows that those causes and conditions also need to be a result of other causes and conditions…ad infinitum.