Buddhism and Personal Empowerment
It’s amazing what can happen in a few minutes of sitting perfectly still, eyes closed, and legs folded.
Happy Tuesday to you and those you care about.
Buddhism is an interesting anomaly in our modern world. It’s been miscast as “one of the five major religions.” It’s usually ranked fourth on that list, but if you counted the uncounted tens of millions of Buddhists that really live in China numbers would be much larger.
Buddhism is not a religion, if by a religion you mean a search for humanity’s connection to the divine. It’s life philosophy and practice built by a human for humans.
Siddhartha Gautama - the historical Buddha - chose not to engage in sectarian arguments about god in his native India.
To speed this up by taking the audacious step of summarizing his teaching related to god(s), he was not agnostic nor atheistic in today’s sense of those words. His basic conclusion was, whether there are or are not gods and whether they do or do not intervene in human affairs; we are human beings here having this human experience. That experience has certain phenomena and we need to find a human way to deal with those challenges. He summarized those in The Four Noble Truths.
There is Dukkha (variously translated as suffering, sorrow, grief, unsatisfactoriness). He said it happens in a cycle - birth, illness, aging, and death.
The cause of Dukkha is craving. By this, he meant craving of all types. Craving for existence, craving for more, craving for things.
The cessation of Dukkha comes from the cessation of craving.
There is a path that leads to the cessation of craving - The Noble Eightfold Path.
For the modern, materialistic human, this might sound like the death knell of our civilization. No consumption? No things, things, and more things?
Buddha is not saying that any of that is bad. He’s simply saying it creates craving for more in you and that creates suffering. Have you ever had that experience of wanting something so badly and then you finally get it only to discover it doesn’t fulfill you the way you’d hoped?
Buddha did not teach anti-materialism. He taught self-recognition of the trap inherent in it. He proposed what he called a Middle Path. That path recognizes the need for a certain level of material well-being (not opulent pointless luxury or abject poverty).
How does this tie to our personal development and why have I been intrigued with Buddha’s teachings for 30 years? He steadfastly rejects that humans require outside help from gods or anywhere else to walk a path to enlightenment.
”The greats of the past only show the way,” he said, you must walk the path.”
He’s the only major great spiritual teacher in our past who said it’s up to you and me. Our present and our future can only be changed by our action and by our mindfulness. There’s no cavalry coming in the form of God or aliens. We must do this ourselves.
He also stated that no other incarnation is as beneficial for making progress on that path as being a human being. Neither the gods above nor other life forms are positioned with the intellect and required humility to move forward.
Whether you adhere to his particular solution to the problem or not, I think his human-centric approach and his belief in the ultimate agency of the individual make his vision one we can adopt to move forward in this world.
If we take the reins of our lives, quiet our minds, and see, no forces of negativity nor corruption - on this earth or beyond - can stop us!
Despite all the craziness in our world, our mindsets and our commitment to a free, transparent planet will prevail.
Namaste, my friends!