Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kill the Buddha!

It is common among many fundamentalists to consider any organized system of belief to be a "religion" or "dogma" and a form of worship (this includes obviously both Buddhist psychology and scientific theory).  This obviously speaks more to the limitations of a fundamentalist worldview than any supporting evidence that might be discovered on a solid ground of logical discourse.  There is saying common among Buddhists, "Kill the Buddha!" which addresses this problem.  It is meant to remind of person to be mindful of their attachments, as the Buddha was never meant to be "worshipped" in any sense of the word.  To a Buddhist, faith is not a required in order to gain knowledge of this world.  What many people often fail to realize (due possibly to their own spiritual narcissism and limited world view), is that the Buddha or the teachings associated with him were not meant to be canonized the way the 10 Commandments were believed to be etched in stone - they were merely meant to be viewed as a guide to ones own inherent wisdom - merely a "finger pointing to the moon" as many Buddhists often say. Buddhists often believe very strongly about the dangers of attachment and how it relates to human suffering, even to attachments to the teachings of the Buddha.  Most Buddhists don't accept the sin hypothesis or the mythology of pure evil because it's not what they see when they examine human nature on a deeper level of understanding. What a traditional Christian would see as "evil" most Buddhists would traditionally call ignorance and influenced by dependent arising (the idea that, due to the existence of this, that arises).   

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” - The Buddha

Similarly, nothing in science is etched in stone.  Science merely reserves judgement in light of the evidence.  Science sees personal biases very similar to the way a Buddhist might view attachment, and often constructs experiments to limit researchers attachments to their own opinions or outcome desires in examining results.  But how is science different than a religion since it's based on a belief?  Science is based on hypothesis (a "belief" if you will) which is further based on observations of the natural world. It would be hard to see how one could call that a "religion."  But opposed to most fundamentalists worldviews, both Buddhists and scientists tend view a persons attachment to personal ideas very similarly - as a problem.  

If one were to examine it closely, one would see how the scientific method is the fundamental basis of Buddhist psychology.  A Buddhist examines the natural world through the utilization of non-judgmental awareness (mindfulness). Buddhism is a psychology, not a religion. If there is a deep faith in Buddhism, it would have to be in humanity itself, but again, this is not a belief separate from introspective learning - it is not a blind and credulous faith or marriage to unreason.  To a Buddhist, while humanity might be seen as having the propensity for compassion and good deeds, they are also seen as having the capacity to commit atrocities.  And these are not unjustifiable claims.  Only with understanding can one truly have compassion.  The "belief" (I use the term lightly) that people are generally good tends to be supported by evidence.  Buddhism generally does not support blind faith in the supernatural, or the god hypothesis.  This is because there is not such evidence for such a thing.  So is this a religion?  No.  Non-theism is no more a religion than not collecting stamps is a hobby. Only a spiritual narcissist unable to look outside of their own inherited dogma would make such a claim.   

Religious belief = unquestioning faith in some invisible, all-knowing supernatural being whose teachings are typically written down in some holy book shared by a group of like-minded individuals. Main tenet tends to be one of unquestioning obedience.

Scientific belief = based on observable evidence from the natural world which evolves and is open to correction with new evidence, typically based upon the scientific method. Main tenet tends to be questioning and challenging established hypothesis.

I don't believe these two are the same thing and should be lumped under the umbrella of religion. Again, I don't mean to be insulting here, but I find that to be a very limited worldview. Religious belief is a very specific thing, which does not translate well to other non-theistic beliefs. There is a common saying, that trying to get an atheist to agree upon something is like trying to herd cats (and I'm not saying atheism is a religion btw, because it's not). I think the same can be said for most scientists as well. I think the way we cling to the labels we give to things in this world can severely limit our understanding of them. 

Scientific understanding is obviously not a religion.  I use scientific "belief" as an example of challenging what I see as a blanket statement - that any belief was automatically religion, which I obviously disagree with.  Science and religion are both founded upon certain beliefs.  The scientific method demands hypothesis testing which is the attempt to find evidence which will either prove or disprove a certain belief/hypothesis (which is obviously the opposite of the fundamentalist approach to truth).   One can say the same for Buddhism and atheism (which many erroneously view as religions or dogmas).  Both Buddhism and atheism support a "belief" - in the importance of challenging established belief systems in the quest for truth (which is obviously quite different from pure credulity or faith).

The sky/solar god I often talk about is the Judeo-Christian god (which includes Pentecostals - the fastest growing global Christian-based religion).  This belief is opposed to the manner of worship of a lunar/earth goddess which predates the sky/solar god(s) by roughly 40,000 years (give or take a few thousand years).  Goddess "worship" (again, I use the term lightly) was about living as an intimate part of a sacred world and a holistic circle of life which transcended the modern concept of death as final.  It was about respecting the sacred web of life and noticing the subtle connections.  Earth WAS viewed as sacred - as heaven.  The earth goddess often was (and still is) a great metaphor for gaining a deeper understanding of the sacredness of our world.  The goddess and most earlier 'religious' beliefs were often taken "symbolically" - not literally (the Gaia hypothesis is a good example of this).  It was only later, with the rise of agriculture and the inevitable popularity of sky/solar gods that the goddess worship began to be taken literally.  Such distinction can merely be seen as a general product of our inherited Bronze Age dualism however, which tends to divide the world (into "us vs. them," "heaven vs. earth," "right vs. wrong," "death vs. life," etc.) and rely on left-brained, logical functioning, or a abstract word and/or written text.  Earth goddess "worship" on the other hand (as well as modern day meditation and prayer), relied more on right-brained, holistic functioning.

Personally, it sounds to me as though people are generally talking about the same thing here.  Humanity has more that connects us than that which divides us.  The only difference sometimes, lies mostly in the semantics. 

No comments:

Post a Comment