© Wim van den Dungen
For Buddhism, in the
teachings of the "enlightened one", Lord Buddha, salvation, liberation or "nirvâna" is being
freed from "samsâra", the cessation of suffering ("dukkha").
This liberation can take place during life or after consciousness lost the
support of the physical body (the aggregate of form).
Hence, the First Noble Truth can be seen as the foundation of Buddhism (cf.
"bodhi" or "enlightened") :
"What, O Monks, is the Noble Truth of Suffering ? Birth is
suffering, sickness is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering.
Pain, grief, sorrow, lamentation, and despair are suffering. Association with
what is unpleasant is suffering, disassociation from what is pleasant is
suffering. Not to get what one wants is suffering. In short, the five factors of
individuality are suffering."
Buddha : First Sermon.
Liberation from suffering is the goal of the teachings of Gautama the Buddha,
the Bodhi-dharma. The Truth of Suffering is followed by the
Truth of Arising ("samudâya"), namely the fact of desire. This is then followed
by the Truth of Cessation ("nirodha"), pointing to the end of
suffering through the transformation of the
personality to bring peace, joy, compassion and a refined awareness where there
doubt, worry, anxiety and fear, absent in the enlightened mind, energy (voice)
and body. Cessation means there is an end to suffering. Liberation or
"nirvâna" is achieved by the Truth of the Path ("mârga"). This is the Eightfold
Path or "middle way" between all extremes. It is divided in Wisdom, Morality and
Put simply : we suffer because of our afflicted emotions and mental obscurations.
Take these away, and
"nirvana" is a fact.
1. Right Understanding (or Right View) : acceptance and experiental confirmation
of the teachings of the Buddha (the "dharma") ;
2. Right Resolve : commitment to developing right attitudes ;
3. Right Speech : telling the truth and speaking in a thoughtful and sensitive
4. Right Action : abstaining from wrongful bodily behaviour (killing, stealing,
and extreme sensual pleasures) ;
5. Right Livelihood : not harming others by one's occupation ;
6. Right Effort : control the mind and gaining positive states of mind ;
7. Right Mindfulness : cultivating constant awareness ;
8. Right Meditation : developing deep levels of mental calm by concentrating the
mind & integrating the personality.
All existing things coming into being bear three characteristics or "marks" :
unsatisfactoriness ("dukkha"), impermanence ("anicca") and absence of
self-essence ("anattâ") independent of the universal causal process. The Third
Noble Truth (the end of suffering) points to non-attachment to the impermanent, in particular the soul,
considered in Hindu teachings as permanent and immortal. This teaching of "anâtman",
does not deny the existence of the soul, but does not attribute any permanent
and immortal status to it (cf. the âtman). The soul exists, but, in the
Buddhist psychology of impermanence, is merely functional. In the same strict
nominalist spirit, the Buddha found no eternal creator-God (Brahman), and could therefore not
acknowledge the identification of this would-be permanent soul with the Supreme
God (cf. âtman = Brahman). This was a revolutionary teaching, contradicting
centuries of Vedic thought and ritual practice aiming at realizing this soul and
therefore realizing Godhood. Indeed, Buddhism is an unorthodox, renouncer
movement ("samana"), explicitly turning its back to any onto-theology (cf.
On the Deity, 2008).
Buddhist theology understands all phenomenal being as causally interdependent, meaning
that all beings are conditioned by something else, making their existences relative to
these conditions. In an absolute sense, nothing substantial, permanent,
identical or atomic can be found. Subjectivity is
also devoid of persisting psychic entities implying an eternal, unchanging
substance (like the "âtman"). There is no permanent, unchanging "I"-principle, ego or
Self either. Emptiness ("shûnyatâ"), interdependence and non-substantiality form a
consistent whole. Because every relative thing is connected with every other
relative thing, things cannot be posited as "on their own" like independent
substances. As they are all linked and without substance (although cyclic energy
or movement occurs), they are relative aggregates in constant movement empty of
inherent existence. The opposite is also true : when something is isolated, it
cannot relate and therefore not produce or communicate. A substantial God is
forced to be an indifferent spectator.
In fact, "shûnyatâ" should be translated as "full-emptiness", for every
phenomenon is empty of substance but full of interdependent arisings (cf.
The aggregates or five factors of individuality ("skandhas") are :
(1) the physical body ("rûpa"), (2) sensations and feelings ("vedanâ"), (3)
cognitions ("samjñâ), (4) character traits and dispositions ("samskâra") and (5)
consciousness ("vijñâna"), or in other words : sensation, affect,
cognition, will (volition) and consciousness. They are
"carryied" by a lawful, universal world-order of interdependent causes
and are thus not
random, but determined. Nevertheless, these aggregates (both physical & mental) pass through the
inconceivably rapid moments of arising, existing & ceasing. They thus change incessantly
and are therefore impermanent and unsatisfactory (when used). From moment to
moment, nothing is the same. They do not bear witness of an
immortal ego, eternal soul, Self or Creator of it All. This is quite important.
Buddhism is not against the Divine (atheism), but against theo-ontology : the
positing (labeling) of an objective, eternalized Being or "substantia", an
underlying "outer" thingness : permanent, separated, defined, continuous and
solid. Its intent is transtheist.
Although the Buddha affirmed the bundles imply a
carrier, he would not attribute any substantial, unchanging, essentialistic
meaning to this carrier or cognizer whatsoever. Doing this, would imply the re-entry of
ontology of the solid, substantial, essential and self-existing, autarchic
world-system, which is not evidenced by sensation, emotion, thought,
will, the consciousness of the five senses & the over-arching consciousness.
In the Elder schools of Buddhism (tradition mentions 18 schools, although over
30 different names came down to us), of which the Theravâda is the only one
surviving today, "nirvâna" is a place of salvation, the "abode of
immortality", a supramundane ("lokotttara"), not spatially localizable,
different mode of existence. Enlightenment takes place in time but is also always already
there outside time. These various Hînayâna schools and sects (a term, together
with "Mahâyâna", coined during the Council of King Kaniska in the first century
CE), introduced different positive views on
"nirvâna". For example, in the Vâtsîputrîya school, very prominent in the third
century BCE, it is a positive state in which the
person continues to exist (i.e. they reject the "anâtman"). These
schools envision the liberation of the person only.
For Buddhist logic (cf. Dharmakîrti) the source of knowledge is a differential moment,
flash or point. As soon as one identifies this momentary flash with a mental picture or
idea, a secondary, relative, unreal reality is created (constructed). This is
the activity of the labeling, conceptual, dualistic mind. This mind "runs" on
the afflictive emotions and is the cause of subtle suffering : mental
obscuration. Through the "dharma" of the Buddha one may empty the mind of
constructions (transcend the final duality between "samsâra" & "nirvâna") and
arrive at "the Other Shore", the undifferentiated, indiscernible &
indestructible "nirvâna". So "nirvâna" is peace, liberation from the
afflictions, their causes & effects. All Buddhist "vehicles" (or ferries to this
"Other Shore" of wisdom) agree with this, and differ in scope & methods of
Buddhism has a predilection for ethical
questions. But its ethics is not inferred from an eternalized ontological scheme, for
being is viewed as a totality of impermanent aggregates.
Life is a moving fabric of
interdependent dualities and it is impossible to understand life without knowing both good
& evil. An impartial judgement can not be reached without knowing both sides. Hence,
evil must be understood and tested together with good.
The true purpose of human existence
is to reach the "Other Shore". This is wisdom mind conquering
If this goal is relinquished, our passions
overwhelm us (cf. the power of the devil "Mâra", who hinders "wholesome
roots") and, running in circles of madness, we are lost in the web of deceptive glamour, fettered to appearances
and the eighth worldly preoccupations.
The "dharma" teaches life & death, good & evil per se do not
exist. They are modifications of the unenlightened mind, caught by the illusions of the
"samsâra" and can not be found as existing independently (cf.
On Ultimate Logic, 2009). This is
their "emptiness" for, on the one hand, due to the experience of impermanence
and constant change, all form is found to be "empty" of substance. On the other
hand, because emptiness "itself" is not a substance either, the absence of
substance is witnessed "as form". Of what kind ? As continuous interdependence,
i.e. the functional (meta)physics of the vast network of possible determinations
(classified as causal, interactive, statistical, formal, teleological, etc.).
The so-called "Net of Indra".
Good & evil
are inseparable twins, as life & death and all other such complementaries. The
intent initiating an act determines whether it is good or evil.
Non-dual "nirvâna" is beyond good & evil and delivers from
|THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF
ABSENCE OF IGNORANCE, BLIND LUST & HATRED
FOR ALL SENTIENT BEINGS
SWIFTLY AS POSSIBLE
The "dharma" of the Buddha points to the true nature of reality, which is absolute.
"Absolute" means "set apart". The essence of experience is inexpressible. This
un-saying is rooted in the direct experience of nonconceptual, nondual thought, called
"wisdom". Samsaric existence is conceptual & unsatisfying. This is the first
truth to accept.
Every human has the possibility to reach "nirvâna", the non-dual state.
Responsibility for one's actions and emancipation lies within the reach of every
"sentient being". It is not reliance on faith, but "nirvâna" which
brings to Truth. Its characteristic are absence of arising, subsisting, changing,
and passing away. With "dharma", Buddhism denotes the "natural law", as well as
the ethico-spiritual teachings of the Buddha. These
teachings are thought to be objectively true and in accordance with the deepest nature
of things ("dharmadhâtu"), encompassing both the functional, conventional truth and the
absolute, ultimate truth. Buddhist "omniscience" involves both (a) the natural &
consensual phenomena and (b) the absolute &
universal "moral law" (or determining super-causality, "dharma" and its
associated logic of merit), whose requirements were (re)discovered by the Buddha and
Buddhas before and after him. Indeed, the Buddha did not invent the "dharma",
but, as a homeopathic doctor, discovered it himself !
If the notions of karma
and reincarnation (cf. infra) would be eliminated from the basket of teachings (which
would run against the teachings of the Buddha), then Buddhism would be identical
with an elaborate form of scientific humanism, a mere science of mind (and not
an art of living). However, "dharma" also manifests in
the law of karma, the neglect of which entails the continuation of endless
suffering in the cycle of rebirth. Both positive and negative karma cause
suffering ! Without the reincarnating spiritual code of
the carrier (stored in deep-consciousness), physical death would
indeed become the natural terminus and thus, as it is inevitable, available to
all without effort. Peace would have lost its spiritual meaning and be
reduced to "eternal rest".
The ideal of the "bodhisattva", introduced by the Mahâyâna schools in
the first century C.E., broadened & united Buddhism's salvic
& ethical perspectives. Liberation through renunciation or "nirvâna" (the
Hînayâna) was deemed
necessary but insufficient, for sentient beings continue to suffer after the
foe-destroyer or arhat attained liberation (entered "nirvâna") and the
available methods do not allow to purify massive negative karma swiftly. Hence, to achieve
liberation takes a very long time and many painful incarnations. According
to the Mahâyâna, Buddha wanted to
find a way to help all sentient beings discover the "Other Shore" as
possible. The Great Vehicle brings universal "bodhicitta" or "compassion" into
the equation. They add compassion to love. Just truly wanting somebody else to
be happy is not enough. Causing somebody else to be happy is. Compassion is a
verb. The bodhisattva pledges to help all sentient beings achieve the peace he
or she has achieved. Liberation ("nirvâna"), associated with what happened to
Buddha Shâkyamuni under the Bodhi tree, preludes final enlightenment
("parinirvâna"), associated with the death of Buddha's physical body. The
bodhisattva may return from this plane of the "dharmakâya" and invest another
incarnation to help sentient beings.
The reasons for the Mahayanist expansion are unclear. Tradition, as always, tries to uphold the
of original Great Vehicle teachings initiated by Buddha and kept secret among
his initiates. This "strategy" is also found in many religions, especially when
the process of canonization has begun (this urge to codify is usually the result
of an increased number of adherents and the need to manipulate them to reduce
problems). However, regarding Buddhism, there is a yawning space
between the first definitive texts (ca. 250 CE) and the death of the "enlightened
one" (ca. 486/483 BCE). Even if elaborate ad hoc assumptions are
accepted (like an adept oral tradition), then the fact remains differences were
not recorded and so are lost. But does Buddhism need a "founding text" ? If the
experience of true peace is everybody share, then only the "core" needs to be
codified. It seems the Elder schools kept this heart of the basic teachings of
the Buddha intact (grounding the "sutric" approach to meditation). Perhaps the
turbo systems added by later vehicles (the Diamond Vehicle), are mostly contributions of enlightened
practitioners. But this would not make them less Buddhist ! This is unthinkable
in "closed" traditions such as the religions "of the book" (Judaism,
Christianity & Islam).
In fact, in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, the definition of a proponent of
Buddhist tenets is a person asserting the four seals. Each of the schools have
their own particular interpretation of these seals, and non-Buddhist tenets are
systems which do not assert them (if one of the four is not accepted, the system
is non-Buddhist) :
1. all compounded phenomena are impermanent ;
2. all contaminated things are miserable ;
3. all phenomena lack substantial nature ;
4. nirvâna is peace.
History shows Buddhism survived by adapting to changing
circumstances, both within the community as in its milieu (in India). The
following consecutive strands appear :
1. Classical period (ca. 500 - 0 CE) : in this
existential, basic level, man's situation is studied and ways (or
"dharma-doors") are found to liberate conform the example of Buddha
Liberation can be attained, but only as a monk, after hard work and mostly after
many lifetimes - the Elder Schools of which only the Theravâda survived
On the Hînayâna, 2008) ;
2. Religious period (ca. 0 - 6th century CE) : with
the rise of the Mahâyâna in the first century CE, the salvic intention of the
Elder Schools is superseded by a wish to liberate all sentient beings,
and intent believed to speed up spiritual emancipation. The
bodhisattva returns to this world as long as sentient beings suffer. The need to
shorten the length of suffering is felt. The layperson, helped by bodhisattvas
and Buddhas also attains "nirvâna". The latter not only points to liberation
(the first, "individual" step),
but also to the total realization of Buddhahood (or awakening), for by one's very
Clear Light nature one is
inseperable from the absolute. Liberation may be attained in a single lifetime.
In the Pure Land school, founded in 402 CE by Hui-yuan, a Chinese monk, the most
devotional side of the Great Vehicle emerged. With the rise of Ch'an in China
(ca. 6th - 7th CE), the most stringent "yogic" form of the Mahâyâna was
achieved, nondependent on sacred texts or intellectual analysis and emphasizing
sudden enlightenment "hic et nunc" (cf.
Wayfaring, 2009) ;
3. Logical period (5th century CE - 1000 CE) : with
the development of the two truths by Nâgârjuna (2th or 3th CE), the founder of
the Mâdhyamika school, Buddhism began to slowly integrate the fundamental
logical distinction between relative truth of the world of illusion and the
absolute truth of that selfsame world. It represented the "Middle Way" between
existence and nonexistence, proving any affirmation about existence as an
eternal substance to be
inaccurate and making clear how eternal substance excludes causality (and so
action & merit). Hence, nothing is independent of conditions and all things are
empty of a permanent state of identity or self (or selfless) and so full of
functional connectivity (potential & actual). If previously, all ideas and
cogitations were deemed illusion (for based on the dualism of the conceptual,
constructive mind and so not appearing as they truly are), and only intuition or higher wisdom ("prâjñâ") was of any
avail, now arguments proved why some conceptual thoughts liberate and analytical
meditation was refined (cf.
On Ultimate Logic, 2009). The fundamental concept is "shûnyatâ" (cf. Nâgârjuna, Dignâga,
Dharmakîrti), translated as "emptiness". "Shunya" also expresses "purna" (full),
"lopa" (absence), "akasa" (universe), "bindu" (dot) and "vrtta" (circle). It
always goes hand in hand with "karunâ", compassion for all living
beings : the heart of emptiness is compassion and the heart of compassion is
emptiness : to work, things need to be process-based, not substance-based ;
4. Esoteric period (middle 8th century - 1419 CE) :
between the time of the magical Padmasambhava, a contemporary of the Tibetan
king Trisong Detsen (755 - 797 BCE), and the death of the great scholar,
reformer and creator of Gelugpa doctrine Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419 CE), the
Vajrayâna or "Diamond Vehicle" flourished, primarily in northeast and northwest
India. Developing out of the teachings of the Great Vehicle, it reached, along
with the Mahâyâna it embraced, Tibet,
China and Japan. Other names for it are Tantrayâna and Mantrayâna. Its first coherent, doctrinal
systems were developed in India between the 6th and 10th centuries CE, although it
entered the world stage, at the earliest, in the third century CE. All tantra's
originated in India and Hinduism had its
own tantric models, devoid of the concept of "shûnyatâ". The emergence of the
Kâlachacra Tantra in the 10th century CE markes the close of the creative phase
of Vajrayâna (cf.
On Tantra, 2008).
form a living & authentic esoteric tradition, combining elements of yoga and
nature religion with original Buddhist concepts. Being esoteric, it incorporates
occult & magical techniques. In this view,
the fruit of Buddhahood is possible in one lifetime, in as little as three years or, very
exceptionally, in six months. Theoretically, it may even happen in an instance !
Bang ! Gap ! Enlightened !
So in Tibet, integrating
inveterate shamanistic, magical and occult practices, the world-view of the Buddha-dharma was
extendedly taught & practiced. Both psychological methods and highly
ritualized practices characterized by a symbology of light rose : the Vajrayâna,
or occult, esoteric Buddhism. It remained operational for over a millennium,
remained isolated until 1959, gathered its best forces and spread to the West. Today,
it is with us as Tibetan Lamaism. It has wealthy temples and meditation centres all over
the world and features in books, films, videos, www etc.
The Vajrayâna is however a minority within
Buddhism, equated by the Western pop-mind with Buddhism as such. Of the ca. 350 million Buddhists
world-wide, Chinese officials state Tibet has more than 46.300
Buddhist monks and nuns, while the number of Tibetans is estimated at ca.6.5
late as the 16th century, the "God-King" of old (not unlike
the Egyptian divine king
and the French monarch Louis XIV, "le Roi Soleil"),
became the living presence of the Solar Buddha of Compassion (Avalokiteshvara), guiding the world from its
lofty spiritual top (cf. the institution of
the "Dalai Lama", in principle holding all spiritual and temporal powers). The
titles of this God-King are "Dalai Lama" or "Ocean of Wisdom" ; "Kundun" or "Presence".
The title of "Dalai Lama" was conferred by the Mongul ruler Altan Khan (1507 -
1582), "dalai" being a Mongol word for "ocean". In the West,
the Dalai Lama is emphatic about not being such a "God-King", but in
the minds of
the common Tibetan & the monks & nuns, he still is. Tibetan education has apparently not done away
with this Medieval, scholastic superstructure (cf.
Tibet, 2008). ;
5. Western period (1959 - today) ? : with the
present XIVth Dalai
Lama, fleeing Tibet for India and seeking help from the West, in particular the
CIA and other "powers that be", Tibetan Tantrism
was made available to Western readers & practitioners and the "wish-fulfilling
jewel" could "shine from the West". After five decades, this New Buddhism,
or New Vehicle, incorporates the best of both Theravâda, Sutric Mahâyâna, Zen,
the Pure Land school, Tantric Vajrayâna, and Bonpo Dzogchen, etc. It also takes
Western philosophy & science into account. Clearly this
movement was initiated by the Tibetan Lamas themselves, publishing cherished
secrets and performing public rituals.
Views of "nirvâna" differ among all these schools. The Mâdhyamikas
identify it with emptiness ("shûnyatâ"). The Yogâcâra with the cessation of
discrimination (the non-distinctness of "samsâra" and "nirvâna") & the
(idealist) awareness that only the absolute mind substantially exists, whereas the phenomena are but
confusion of mind. Finally, "Dzogpa Chenpo" (the "Great Perfection") is the
direct discovery of the natural, non-conceptual, non-dual, clear state of mind,
one with the essence of the base of reality, the absolute inherent existence of
emptiness, expressing a manifold of energies or movements, of which the luminous
ground of mind is part.
Sub-traditions : Theravâda (or Hînayâna), Mahâyâna, Pure Land, Zen, Varjayâna,
Nichiren ... each with various schools &
sects ... and recently Navayâna (or "New Vehicle").
Criticism of Buddhism :
§ 1/+ Specialists discovered two outstanding elements in the teachings of Gautama the
Buddha : the absence of Divine revelation & the no-soul. Rarely, almost never, can
these be found in other systems and nowhere do they occur combined.
Buddhism is therefore very original. No doctrinal dogma and
no provision for a centralized authority are in place. Only the accuracy of a truth
verifiable by a nominal, reasonable mind is acceptable. Spiritual truth -in Buddhism
fundamentally related with the issue of spiritual freedom- is its own proof.
is stressed and self-reliance is the essence of the spiritual practice. The Buddhist is
responsible to himself for his actions and does not behave irresponsibly in order to avoid
the outcome of his evil thoughts, words & deeds (loss of benefits or merit,
"punya"). The four Noble Truths, the Eightfold
Path, training in discipline & morality, meditation, wisdom & insight are the
basic salvic operators as summed up in the Tripitaka and taught by the
Elder Schools. Although seeking refuge in someone else is rejected, in the
Pansil ceremony, the thrice repeated declaration : "I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the Teaching. I take refuge in the Brotherhood of Monks"
precedes the promise to observe the Five Precepts : not to kill, not to steal,
not to commit adultery, not to lie, not to take intoxicants.
the Buddha entering parinirvana or "final nirvana"
§ 2/+ To lack a permanent and
immortal soul implies Buddhism
has to introduce a new process-based psychogenesis, especially in terms of "karma" and
reincarnation, both confirmed by the Buddha. The "I" or empirical ego
of the "personality"
is a temporal composition of different parts, a bundle of 5 attributes permanently
coming to pass, ceasing and rising. These attributes are constantly moving and changing
like the waters of a swiftly flowing river (cf. endless wandering or "samsâra"). Physical, psychological and sociological
dispositions and acquired attitudes, prejudices, beliefs, norms, expectations, values and
the countless memorized experiences of an entire lifetime together constitute this
ever-changing sense of
"I-ness". As soon as our mind says "I", selfishness and lack of compassion
ensue. As the "I" is caused by the impermanent, it is sizeable, destructible and
attached. So the illusion of separation (and not of the ego as such) is the first cause of sorrow.
It seems as if we are separate beings, but we are not. The
Eightfold Path leads to a state of purity, to a deathless bliss amidst continuous change.
The cravings (psychological traits) active at the time of physical death are able to exist
independently of their extinct brain and are transferable to another newly born living
being, to eventually become a part of its consciousness.
"Everyone, big and little, strong and weak, works continually -and in general
unconsciously- at the formation of new groups whose members, through lack of perspicacity,
are not aware of their heterogeneity and, who insensible to the discordances of their
voices, or without dwelling on it, shout in chorus "I", I am Me !"
David-Neel, A. & Lama Yongden : The Secret Oral Teachings, City Lights Books -
San Francisco, 1974, p.103.
The notion of transferable attributes seems to run against the idea of
impermanence. Who secures the transfer and how ? Although there is no
substantial soul, physical death is not the end of the story. The mind and the
body (like two persons in one boat) travel together, but at the end of this life
the latter perishes, while its constituent parts return to the material plane of
the world-order. Nevertheless, the mind (the aggregates of volition, affection,
thought & consciousness) is not annihilated by physical death.
Existing in a realm of its own, it continues to exist as does its personality.
Although essentially impermanent, it nevertheless lasts longer than the body.
The "spiritual code" of each person's mind survives and, driven by karmic forces, seek a new vehicle to incarnate. Eventually, the
jumping from life to life catching the carrot, will perish in the fire of liberation. But,
this other, absolute shore of reality (the "dharmakâya"), it nevertheless conditions a Buddha-field of its own.
Hence, every Buddha and bodhisattva has characteristics. In this way,
transmigration is explained, as well as the influence of bad actions done in
this life on the next life.
§ 3/+ The
Great Vehicle introduces a variety of Buddhas & bodhisattvas who actively help the layperson
to attain liberation (this may even lead to highly developed magic-oriented ritual schools
like the Vajrayâna). Like all
of us, these bodhisattvas
reincarnate (manifest in or assume a physical body on our plane). In Zen
("Ch'an"), more than in any other school,
the prime importance of enlightenment ("kenshô" or "satori")
is stressed. Zen Buddhists sternly regard doctrine, intellectual analysis, and ritual practices as of
little to no use. Zen likes to be unorthodox, nondependent on Divine
revelation, "direct pointing to the human heart", leading to Buddhahood (cf.
Nansen Fugan). All these schools have their own texts, local beliefs and
§ 4/- The bulk of authoritative scriptures of the numerous traditional schools covers
tens and hundreds of thousands of pages. The Pali Canon (restricted to one school,
namely the Theravâda)
fills 45 huge volumes in the complete Siamese edition, exclusive of commentaries. The
recent Japanese edition of the Chinese scriptures consist of 100 volumes of 1,000 closely
printed pages. Because at present, scholars have no objective criterion to isolate the
original teaching of the Buddha (although the Tripitaka is
considered as the most trustworthy), discussions on the subject lead to fruitless
disputes. Moreover, tradition holds Buddha stated that the things he revealed
are very few in comparison with those which did not reveal. In Buddhism, books
written by genuine practitioners are often more interesting than meticulous
linguistic and philological knowledge of Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese or Tibetan
§ 5/- In all schools, the role of woman is problematic, and a mysogynist streak
is evident. In Theravâda, they are
accepted with great reluctance and identified with illusion (cf. the death of
Gautama's mother Maya directly after giving birth and the transfeminine birth
myths). In Mahâyâna, they
are a "lower incarnation" and need a sex-change (the Pure Land of Buddha
Amitabha accepts only men). In Vajrayâna, they are wisdom-consorts used to
assist the male guru and only seldomly receive the same power as men. Although
this situation is inconsistent with the principles of Buddhism, it nevertheless
remains an important cultural factor part of the spiritual "canons" of the
schools. Hence, Buddhist sexual morality, like that of all major religions,
remained incomplete and biased.
Although the basic notion of Tantrism involves the primordial wholeness and
completeness of being (represented by the union of the male method-deities with
their female wisdom-consorts or yab-yum), the deeply entrenched domination of
woman by the male elite (using sexual intercourse with woman exclusively to
charge their spiritual batteries), gave rise to tantric teachings in which the
mother goddess emanated from the masculine god, and the androgyny (male-female
forces possessed by a man) remained uncompensated by gynandry (female-male
forces possessed by a woman), building in a fundamental disparity within the
tantric system (cf.
the Trimondi Studies by Mariana and Herbert
eroticism is then reduced to heterosexual machoism. As a result, and not solely
because of feminist critique, some Western practitioners try to develop a Buddhist
system for the West, i.e. in harmony with Western science, secular thought and basic human
rights. This runs against the authoritarian approach and involves
a rethinking of the schools of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen in terms of the
discoveries of Western secular science.
In January 2007, the author wrote to bhikkhu Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama,
and respectfully asked him what he thought
about the criticism of the Trimondi's. As yet,
he did not receive any answer, not even an acknowledgment of reception.
Seem contrary to the spirit of the "dharma" of Buddha Shâkyamuni, promoting
liberation from all attachment (also attachment to rituals of renunciation) :
(a) the hierarchic "power" relationship between pupil and teacher (in Zen, the
teacher is a mentor, never a super-being of sorts) ; (b) the public performance
of rituals with magical weapons of war, pain, etc. (like cleavers, skull-cups,
daggers, axes, hooks, etc.) and (c) the public propagation of dangerous
warrior-myths like Shambhala, part of the Kâlachakra Tantra.
It goes without saying, that of the ca.50.000 Tibetan monks & nuns, some are
excellent spiritual masters, and teach the "dharma" in the spirit of the
Buddha (keeping Tantra secret and for experienced practitioners).
§ 7/- Between the various schools of Buddhism of a given tradition, internal
contradictions also pertain (cf. between Zen and Vajrayâna, between the Pure
Land school and Mâdhyamika).
For example, in Vajrayâna, a crucial difference exists between sûtrayâna and
Dzogchen, the so-called Great Perfection, preserved in the Nyingma and Bon
traditions of Tibet. The historical lineage is said to begin with Garab Dorje
around the first century CE, who summarized the 6.4 million verses of Dzogpa
Chenpo in "The Three Incisive Precepts" (Tsiksum Nedek) :
"A direct introduction into the nature of mind is the
Absolute conviction in the practice is the second imperative.
Gain confidence in release is the third imperative."
Sûtrayâna strictly follows the emptiness-teachings of the Middle Path and so
considers both the world (object) and the person (subject) as devoid of inherent
existence. So to reach liberation, renunciation, compassion and the so-called
"analytical" meditation on emptiness are considered as valid. This
authentication is gradually inferred and the logic of emptiness yields two
truths, namely conventional or everyday truth and the absolute truth of the
enlightened ones. Some conventional truths accommodate the coming of absolute
truth. In Dzogchen, by contrast, the base of all is unbounded wholeness, and
although its essence is deemed "empty", it is also of the nature of clarity
(light) and energy (spontaneous display from emptiness). Both runs against the
sûtric notion of emptiness. Only a non-gradual, immediate introduction to or a
direct discovery of the natural state of mind enlightens. Moreover, in Dzogchen,
analytical, inferential logic cannot validate the direct experience of the
nature of mind, which lies outside the conceptual mind. These differences show
the dogma holding that both object and subject are empty is not accepted by all
and thus doubtful.
§ 8/- Although Buddhism is often presented as an ethical philosophy, one should
not forget only intention is paramount in Buddhist morality. This means the
equation of ethics is mainly a subjective construction, granting less importance to objective goals and values (cf.
Behaviours, 2006). Only this explains why in Tantrayâna the most evil
deeds (like human sacrifice or eating excreta) may be accepted if they are deemed
to lead to universal liberation, the ultimate intention.
A more comprehensive study
of the Buddhadharma can be found
initiated : 06 IV 2000 - last update : 31
2012 - version n°53