Rudolph Draaisma had an inquisitive mind and among other things read up on the teachings of the Buddha. Then, being the free thinking spirit as he was, he constructed his own view of it. Enjoy this bit of interesting reading!
By many, theoretical Buddhism is seen as a negative and agnostic teaching about the denial, in fact the eradication of one’s very self and detaching from all worldly things. Indeed, if these were the true original teachings, they would be very negative. Nonetheless, in basically all literature on the subject, these negative aspects are brought forward as true Buddhism and the inherent contradictions of it are tried to explained away with religious arguments of salvation, reincarnation and immortality. This is because the Buddha could not unveil his, the Secret behind Enlightened Wisdom, the same secret by which he attained enlightenment.
Fact is that the Buddha never spoke any religious words, but taught about suffering and no suffering only. Unfortunately he never wrote down anything and so we do not really know for sure what the Buddha’s own words were. His teachings came to us through his followers and later scholars, who all were Hindus. Also Siddartha Gautama (the Buddha’s worldly name) was a Hindu monk himself. In the statements he made, as we can read in the literature, he never criticized the Hindu religion and did not preach any new religious views himself. His sole purpose was to find the cause of suffering and how to eliminate it.
He then finally came to the theory that it must be desire and coveting, caused by being attached to worldly things that in the end have no value of their own. Hence, one should detach from worldly things, in order to eliminate the desire for them. Meditation would bring about the understanding of the non-value of all these worldly things. So he went to live an ascetic life in a cave for around seven years, as we can read in the literature, but he finally gave up that life as it didn’t work out for him – he still experienced suffering in whatever way. How his thinking developed further after this cave-life is nowhere in the literature, only that he rather short afterwards became enlightened. Obviously, this enlightenment came through when the then Buddha understood why his cave life hadn’t worked out and we can conclude from this alone already, that detachment and denial of worldly things are not the way to go. That the correct way still is not known is the Secret of the Buddha, that those who figured it out after him also had to keep to themselves – it will never be published!
The Buddha was a holy monk, installed as such by the Royal House of his birth that for its prestige hardly could allow him to be anything less. There is nothing about this in the literature, that instead gives the impression that Siddartha simply left the royal palace and went his own way … as a common beggar in the forest? No way possible, for sure. Only based on his holiness, he could do what he did, not putting shame over the Royal House otherwise, that sooner would have ‘let him commit suicide’, than to allow such a thing to happen. Moreover, in Hinduism and Brahmanism some kind of people, usually mythological figures and kings, can be of divine origin (kind of half-gods); the King of Thailand and the Daila Lama for example, are believed to be divine reincarnations. Most likely, also Sidhattha ‘enjoyed’ this status, or close to it.
As a holy monk Siddartha had authority as such and surely had brought out his erroneous theories before and during his cave life. Most likely this is one of the reasons why we have nothing written by his own hand, as he may have destroyed whatever he had written before. As a royal prince he must have been high educated and surely been literate. After his enlightenment he had to correct his previous teachings and so no written evidence of that should be left. However, it wasn’t very popular to write down religious knowledge in those days and so the Buddha may never have written down anything after all and also the Buddhist teachings remained unwritten during around the first 400 years after the Buddha’s death and only existed in the memories of the monks. Moreover, the first great teachers of Buddhism, predominantly being the Buddha’s closest disciples, Sariputra and Ananda, formulated the teachings largely and presumably the way we know them today (they didn’t write down anything either). However, there is also mentioning of one other monk-disciple, who said that the teachings of “The Lord” were totally different from the proclaimed ones. He ‘disappeared’ and remained without a name in History…
Several schools developed with different views and so at best we know what the Buddha did not teach, but very unsure what he actually did teach in detail. One great obstacle in the Hindi language is that it has no separate word for rebirth, but reincarnation only. This circumstance surely has been one of the main reasons why Buddhists believe in reincarnation, because when we study the Law of Dependent Origination (see below), where the Chain of Suffering starts with ignorance (in the long version), it should be clear that rebirth (in the mind) is what the Buddha meant, but could not express that in a society that firmly believes in rebirth-in-the-flesh = reincarnation and where rebirth would not be seen as anything different, not even exists in the language. This error leads to the inherent contradictions within theoretical Buddhism, leading to various different schools in confusion and giving it its negative character.
Apart from this, enlightenment is a State of the Mind, thus psychology, not philosophy, the way theoretical Buddhism at large still is seen, apart from those who practice it as a religion and as such being as far from the original teachings as can be. Buddhism became a religion, which the Buddha never meant it to be, but could not prevent it, surely not as a holy monk. Religions want to change, to shape the society (for which reason they often, if not always are intertwined with worldly politics), while the Buddha addressed the individual, not wanting to interfere with society at all. But then, if you want to change the World… start with yourself…
In fact, enlightenment is not even specifically Buddhism; there are other religions that have the same goal. Moreover, the Buddha characterized enlightenment as knowing “the true nature of all things”. This is achievable for anyone, regardless one’s religious beliefs or whatever. This is “The Wisdom” of the Buddha that eliminates Ignorance, not your very self and soul. Most likely the Buddha talked about Non-Selfish, which follows inevitably and irrevocably from attaining The Wisdom. When Ignorance is eliminated (nothing else has to), one becomes unable to be selfish, instinctively ‘knowing’ that this would lead you to suffer in the end (you ‘die’, to become reborn in a new cycle of suffering). When The Wisdom is achieved, which is rather more a mental condition than an intellectual one, there is no way back to the previous ignorant life – one will not become reborn again!
Observe the analogy with physical death. Once the Wisdom is achieved, there is no way to become ignorant again, as little as you can return to life from death. As little as you have to learn how to die, as little you have to learn how to become free from suffering – most likely the Buddha left his cave when he at least sensed this. There is thus no need for meditations on whatever teachings and procedures, but to know “the True Nature of all Things” only. This knowledge however is psychological, because it changes one’s mental condition beyond reasoning! It is expressed in the first and second laws of theoretical Buddhism:
- The Law of Conditionality (Idappaccayatä)
It is basically what we know as the law of cause and effect, but it goes much further than that. It says that for everything that is, there is a condition that determines it. You cannot say if something is short, long, big, small, etc, without comparing it with something. That something is the condition. The same if something is nice, funny, awkward, beautiful, ugly, etc – there always is a condition that defines it.The Buddhist terminology is: “from this, arises that”. Most importantly follows that all feelings are conditioned!
- The Law of Dependent Origination (Pattica-Samuppäda)
This is the core teaching of the mechanism behind suffering and also the most misunderstood one. There is a long and a short version and normally the short one is given, starting with ‘contact’, the basis of ‘negative’ Buddhism. If you are interested, look up the long version, starting with ignorance, in the literature (Google on it), as it is far too extensive to explain it all here. The essential content of it however is, that all conditions are dependent.
The combination of the two leads to the conclusion that ALL feelings are conditionally dependent, which means that no feeling (or emotion) exists on its own! The Wisdom is to understand your and others dependencies and the conditions of them. When you understand those, you will no longer be subjected to them. However, this IS a very painful process, because an all pervasive dependence (behind the prime human drive) and some thereof derived dependencies and conditions, are “unacceptable” to be acknowledged by the ‘social human’ and thus also by yourself. The Why, is the very Secret of the Buddha!
Therefore, if you become aware of it (after a long battle with your self – years), you can’t talk about it with others. You would make yourself ‘impossible’, lose your friends, most surely your spouse and even your grown children would turn away from you. It’s dynamite (and will thus never be published)!
As long as this awareness is circulating in your mind, it is still on the intellectual level and you are still not free from suffering. Once you stop thinking about it, or at least stop making a problem of it, it has come on the subconscious level, by which you will no longer be able to act in conflict with it, because it has irrevocably become a part of your mental state – this is The Wisdom of the Buddha. You then have become mentally “immortal”, never to become reborn again (to a new cycle of suffering).
This state of mind is definitely not a kind of ‘self-brainwash’, because such is on the intellectual level and can successfully be argued against. A brainwashed person can therefore be converted, an enlightened one can not. Occult meditation on the contrary, could lead to a ‘self-brainwash’ (dangerous). This is what most ascetic monks are practicing, trying to eradicate their very soul and self, erroneously believing it will make them ‘enlightened’, while committing ‘mental suicide’ instead.
However, enlightenment will not make you “happy”. In fact, happiness is not the opposite of “unhappy”, or of suffering, otherwise than momentarily perceived as such and exists during shorter periods of time, after something desirable has come through – it never lasts. Are you happy because you are in good health, are you aware of it at all, praising yourself lucky every day for your good health? Hardly you do, though it is the highest good one actually can have, far more important than all the money in the world. If you on the other hand would loose your good health, you will suffer and be very much aware of the situation, for as long as it lasts. Hence, someone who doesn’t suffer in any way, IS as happy as can be and thus an enlightened one would never strive for “happiness”. The highest ‘happiness’ one can attain, simply is not to suffer.
To achieve it you will not have to eliminate anything but your ignorance, because the original teachings are not about eliminating desire, greed, etc, but about avoiding them to arise. In the cave, Siddartha tried to eliminate them through suppression and denial (negative); the Enlightened Buddha avoided them to arise through Wisdom (positive).
Yet, as stated before, this Wisdom is not an intellectual thing, but a mental state, that comes about in an unaware manner, with no other indication than becoming free from suffering as it happens – many (very) old people likely achieve it without knowing it, never gave it a thought. What is suffering in this sense? Basically, it is everything based on ignorance, that drives one into actions that aim to achieve ‘happiness’, forcing one to take risks that puts one under stress and in fear for failure. Ironically, striving for ‘happiness’ (the common perception of it), is the sure way to suffering – aren’t we all doing this? Honestly, if you are old enough and think back in life, whatever was so terribly important before, so important that you almost could have “killed” for it, still is that today? In theoretical Buddhism it is referred to as “non-permanent” (Aniccä) and “nothingness” (‘Suññatä) – indeed ‘negative’ terms, but not without truth.
An enlightened one is incapable of making wrong choices (those leading to suffering), incapable of doing harm to others, incapable of selfish acts, but also incapable of ‘unconditional’ love and hate, which means being “in control” of his/hers motivations, no longer defiled and corrupted by “ignorant feelings”.
The Buddhist terminology expresses it as: “There are feelings, but one doesn’t have them”.
It’s profound and beyond verbal comprehension, but not transcendental. An enlightened one is not the “cold fish” that the soulless non-self is in the ‘negative’ literature, but can be compassionate and caring, yet not being subjected to the causing conditions (first law). If you still think you can reason yourself to ‘enlightenment’ (meditation), you have not understood the content of this page and you will never find the Secret of the Buddha…
Is this page written by someone who is enlightened? I think no enlightened one really knows whether he/she is, just experiences that suffering has disappeared – that is the arbiter.