What would the Buddha say?
All this talk about lineage and dharma, precepts and which form of Buddhism is best, whether Soto or Proto Zen should be followed, or the forms of Rinzai? Mahayana or Theravada?
To me, that is all semantics and superfluous. At the heart is would he even approve of the statues and processions, the flowing robes and flickering candles, the golden statues of his own image to which everyone bows? Would he be more content with practitioners simply seeking to meditate in their own way? Perhaps even out in nature as he did?
Having turned away from the path of formal ordination, I think he would have said, what he actually did say:
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it,
no matter if I have said it,
unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
My guess is that the Buddha would have spoken against the golden chalices and flowing robes that have filled so many zendos and which some monks believe are a necessary part of their ceremonies if they are to stay true to their lineage.
At some point the messages of the Buddha has gotten lost to the fund raising that some consider to be the foundation of their efforts to save the souls of sentient beings. Whether it is the precepts or the dharmas they dole out, they forget that their teachings have strayed far from the simple truth that is behind their words. And, that makes me very sad, because the original messages were so simple – to Love and have compassion for all things, to simply do no harm.
And this is the thread that links, not just Buddhism, but all faiths to the mass killings that plague our country. Those simple words that have been pushed aside remain the foundation of any faith – Love and Compassion.
What would the Buddha say?
Would the Buddha look at the way his simple message of Love and approve of how it is being practiced? Or would he want whatever money is being spent on robes and golden statues, the latest head sets and digital sound mixers so that the faithful can hear the voices of the holiest of holies tweaked so that they resonate deeply throughout the high ceilings and reach into the deepest recesses of the halls?
You already know the answers to this. It is within you.
I only hope the monks and clergy understand this as well. Faith and belief are not about how loud and far your voice carries, but how deeply you believe in the Love and compassion we all share.
If you read anything of history, you will know the faithful carried statuettes and shared scripture as they traveled the trade routes several thousand years ago. They shared their beliefs with other acolytes and found the common thread shared among the faithful of all religions – a thread of Love, compassion and caring.
Humans were not born to be killers. They were born to be compassionate, to look out for each other and to care. We were born into community and were raised in kinship. That is how we humans survived this long. That is why our streets are not ravaged with violence and why the antennas on our cars are not twisted into tangles when parked overnight, unwatched and free of alarms. It is why windows are not smashed in and doors are still left, in many communities, unlocked.
Let’s not deceive ourselves, it is still a dangerous world out there. But not because all humanity is evil, that is the work of just a few confused and angry individuals – oh yes and the wrongly open gun laws that a few organizations pay government officials to keep open.
The rest of us remain caring, Loving people hoping to help others and confused by the violence so few inflict. Many communities are still rocked by school and police violence, but that is also why people of every race, religion, gender and sexual persuasion see hope rather than despair as a way out. I truly believe that the next generation will do what my generation could not, and that is to say “enough!”
If you think these two topics, that of monks seeking money over saving, think again. One is based in doing no harm. The other is based in a warped sense of greed with which they convince themselves they are just protecting their flocks at any cost.
This week I ask you to ask the simplest of questions, what would the Buddha think about how his solitary practice has been transmitted to those around you? What would Jesus do in the halls that bear his name? What would Mohammad say? What would Abraham? What would our founding fathers? Is this really what they had in mind when they wrote Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
None of them saw the ugliness in people. Each of them saw the beauty that is still in our souls.
Shouldn’t each of us do the same for each other?