“What is the Buddha” and “How does Buddhism work?”


Is Buddhism like a political party platform, a list of concepts with which you concur. If you agree with all of those ideas then you are a Buddhist?


Is Buddhism a ladder of thoughts? If you think certain thoughts in a certain order that is like walking a certain number of steps from your backyard into the forest where at the base of the tree you have buried your personal treasure?


Is Buddhism a description of the universe? And is the universe something about which there are facts that are absolutely true and untrue? Is discovering those facts about the universe the game?


Buddhism is none of these things, really.


Take a look at who the Buddha was and what he was doing when he did what he did that was so special, supposedly.


The Buddha lived 2400 years ago in a time in a small principality that is near the border of what is today India and Nepal. At that time the religion was a cookbook religion. For every event in life there was a religious right you paid a professional priest to read to enhance that experience. This was a religion of the Vedas. And society have gotten to the point where people were dissatisfied with that cookbook religion because it simply didn't seem to work to make life meaningful.


So there was a large social movement of men and some women who went into the wilderness to figure it all out in meditation. These ascetic mendicants form small gangs of people who actually live together or actually agreed with each other about ideas about how to find the truth of reality or find some way for life to be meaningful.


Most of them believed that there was a God created the universe called Brahma. They also believed that Brahma was the absolute reality or substance of the universe. They also, some of them, believed that there was an absolute substance or essence of each individual person called the Atman.


It was an open secret that many believed the great “ah ha!” of the universe was that this Atman in the deepest part of our reality was wondering the same as the secret substance of Brahma.


The universe was considered to be a shout so to speak much like our Big Bang and if you just quieted your body and mind and cut off your thoughts and your senses you would calm down to the point where you were stripped down to your own innermost onion skin to that point in which you and Brahma were one and you dissolved into Brahma.


This was considered a good thing because the world was a mystery and a confusion and a place of suffering called the wheel of life in which you were born again and again and again and by merging with Brahma useful work to the hub of the wheel and no longer were reborn in a miserable world were you were a little a little person who was blown around by fate and never knew what was going on for real.


Now the Buddha left home and join this movement of searchers but he had a slightly different goal. He was so shocked as a rather insulated young son of a tribal chief important landowner to discover about such as old age and death when he played hooky and escaped palace for some adventures of exploring.


What the Buddha wanted to do was find a cure for the suffering of the world. He assumed that the suffering of the world lay in our humanity.


In that he was not looking for a supreme self when he looked at his meditation experience he wasn't looking for a hidden in the depths of his mind and therefore just looked his experience to see what was there. What an idea!


What he saw was that we had and experiences of forms which we reacted to with deep habits of thought that seem to be unique to us as individuals like an inheritance of DNA, we also seem to have a sense of these forms as perception experiences about which we had a emotional feeling tone reactions, and as people we had a lifetime of building up prejudices about how to react to the various sorts of experiences we had. So we as human beings were actually built up of 5 different kinds of aggregates of different qualities. We were like clouds of dust in the wind that took form due to causes and conditions. And all those elements themselves are causes and conditions and came into experience, persistent for a while, and then dissolved.


The Buddha had a great “Ah ha!” It which you realized there was no self to itself.


Intern this allowed him to reason that it was basing our lives on this false idea of a self, this fiction of our personality, that led us to behave mistakenly. Based on the ignorance of this fictional self we would grasp at things we wanted to add to her self and then we would grasp at other things that we wanted to push away from our self. Ignorance, craving and antipathy were the 3 building block emotional mistakes of our human hood. By acting based on this wrong information we planted the seeds of wrong minded deeds that led to pleasurable landscapes as a ripening of the consequences of those wrong deeds.


A person who looks for the truth of their human hood in meditation is called a Yogi. The Buddha was a Yogi.


His realization, his “Ah ha!”  moment was actually an experienced insight into the true nature of the world which immediately was like a little door that opened to experiencing himself inside that world of truth.


Both that flash of insight and that transference of mind from the mistaken world scape of a ordinary human being to the wisdom world scape of a Buddha or non-conceptual experiences of a person opening their eyes to the reality of human hood.


So all of these ideas I've been talking about or actually leading up to a moment of experience that is not built of ideas but is a non-conceptual “here and now” moment experience in which you live like a person in a illuminated world.


This means that the wrong ideas about the world you have must be replaced with more truthful ideas about the world. But it also means that the way that you react to those ideas planted the seeds that blossom into the landscapes of the world that you live in in the future.


It is the result of planting the right seeds of deeds rather the wrong seeds of deeds that creates the world of the rising experience of the world as a Buddha.


This experience is not found inside the words but arises as a result of hearing those words contemplating them and meditating on them until your personal character changes and you spontaneously respond to those changes in your view of the world by behaving differently. In turn that difference in your behavior, both in what you meditate on in meditation and the way you act in your conduct in the world, accumulate as deep changes in your personality which causes your mind to arise in a more spacious and less selfish space and the world that arises within your space of awareness is more and more the experience of a Buddha.


This means that all concepts are just tools to bring your beliefs and expectations about the world around to the place where you can have a “existential change of heart”. This means that meditation is like a tugboat guiding your the ship of your personality into the harbor. This means that you were looking to experience a non-conceptual insight that is like a door into a new way of experiencing the world that you transfer to like from the dock to a boat. And this boat in turn leaves the ordinary world of ordinary men and women and crosses over to the shore a new country were Buddhas live.


This in turn means that you treat ideas about Buddhism differently than you treat ideas about how to build a machine. You are not trying to design the right parts that go together in the right way to produce some activity of the world. You're not trying to build a clock or a stove.


Buddhist ideas are more like themes and approaches to thinking about things which is a feeling around in your own experience until you get a sense of the way things work that is intangible, that is an intrusion about your own human hood.


This is why Buddhist thinking is open-ended but newer Buddhist ideas about how to think replace or necessarily really disagree with new ways of thinking about Buddhism in reality. The history of Buddhist ideas and meditation practices is really more like developing different exercise sets for the calisthenics we go through to train ourselves for a sport. There is a difference between the things we do to train ourselves and the actual engagement in the sport.


Meditation is training. Transferring from conceptual contemplation and meditation to non-conceptual meditation is like going from the gym where you had been doing exercises out on the playing field where you actually play the game.


This is why I like to learn about the different styles of the Yogacara Buddhism which developed in the late 2nd century and culminated in the 5th century in India.


These various collections of ideas based on various 3rd turning of the wheel sutras actually were different approaches to examining how we examine ourselves as yogis looking for our human hood.


Each of those groups of ideas represented people who had different philosophies of Buddhist yoga that they all thought were better than the other guys version for different reasons, and that competitive way of thinking is the way human beings relate to each other.


But I believe the real point is to study these various perspectives until you “get your own take on it” and develop a personal style of meditative experience.


This is where being a Buddhist yogi is more like being an artist than a politician or a scientist. We are not looking for a political platform or to get an understanding that allows us to build machine so much as we are looking for ideas that are experiences that stimulate us to have a new creative experience of our own. This is what artists grow by stealing from each other until they finally develop their own voice.


To be a Buddhist yogi like the Buddha himself you do what the Buddha did. The Buddha joined a social movement of meditators and learned their techniques but applied them in his own way because he was looking for his own unprejudiced view of his human hood.


This doesn't mean you don't try to practice as your teachers teach you as accurately and enthusiastically and diligently as possible. But is part of incorporating teaching into your personality that eventually you get your own certificate to practice as a teacher who teaches yourself your own path as you explore up in the wilderness of your own witness of reality.


This is why as a Buddhist I don't “swear by” the emptiness school of Buddhism which is the 2nd turning of the wheel of Dharma or “swear by” the Buddha nature school of voodoo yogis which is the 3rd turning of the wheel of Dharma. My belief that we grow and extend the Buddhist path as we go just the way the Buddha did means I also don't turn the 1st turning of the wheel of Dharma and the teachings of it into something that I think is more truthful simply because it is closer to what the Buddha himself bought as a human being or denigrate it as being “old-fashioned and not up to date”.


Just the way the Buddha went to different teachers and then eventually went his own way I go to different Buddhist teachings and know that it is I who experience what I experience and will die alone having the thoughts of someone who is dying when it is my time to die.


This doesn't mean that I don't have a personal teacher that I follow as a student should. It means I am being realistic about what it is to be a human being.


Experiencing yourself is ultimately a non-conceptual thing. It is a wake up and look through the eye of your human hood thing.


The more you engage yourself this way the more you change your personality and the more that you plant wholesome seeds rather than unwholesome seeds for blossoming into future landscapes of experience.


Being a Mahayana Buddhist for me means that I practice because knowing the nonself of self means that I understand the ethically good or bad qualities of life or qualities of experience and I don't want those qualities to be in experience. It doesn't matter to me whether those good or bad things are happening “to me” or to anyone else. Because I know that there is no self or other my not wanting bad things and my wanting good things is a universal desire. I don't personally care what individual or individuals planted the bad seeds that resulted in bad experiences in my world but I live in. I don't personally care if there is such a thing as free incarnation in which I somehow personally experience the world in a new body which has to put up with living in the ripening consequences of my deeds.


For me what is real arising in my experience is the path.


For me it is unacceptable to plant seeds of unwholesome experiences for experience, anybody's experience.


And my job is wrestling with the big ship of my personality up to the dock of nonbeing and non-conceptual realization.


Not being is emptiness. Non-conceptual realization is Bodhi.


It is like the little book says, “form is emptiness and emptiness is form”.


Eventually hearing the teachings, contemplating the teachings and meditating on the teachings in yogic meditation with a heart of goodwill for all beings ripens one's character so the world arising in their experience of their human hood is the world in which a Buddha opens their eyes with truth and love.


Truth and love are like the Buddha that woke up before us are 400 years ago if the subcontinent and the Buddha who will wake up in our future called Maitreya.


The root of the word Buddha is Bodhi. The root of the word Maitreya is love.


Truth and love should be the bookends of the shelf full of the books of our thoughts.


Truth and love is the way of the bodhisattva.



Leo Rivers


Tuesday, December 6, 2011 3:47:51 AM

 © Leo Rivers 2013