thoughts on a buddhist saying

the saying:  “it is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.” – buddha

the thoughts:  buddhism was partially a revolt against the complicated and expensive rituals required to serve the hindu gods.

in many ways, the modern expression of buddhism, particularly in the west, represents the same “revolution” against the judeo-christian religions.

this is not to say buddhism, or its constituency, is only reactionary.  not at all.  the concepts in buddhism – the human coming to terms with the world and its suffering through an understanding of the self, and of the eternal present – seems to have no hidden agenda.  it is hard to imagine buddhism as a means to control the people.  quite the opposite; it is a practice of liberation.

at the same time, buddhism’s origins are in hindu culture.  hinduism has treasured concepts for centuries such as “atman” – the idea that a pure, constant and immortal soul exists that is, in some sense, associated with “brahman,” which is the underlying motivating principle of the universe, or, ultimate reality.

in approaching the huge and obviously boundless notion of ultimate reality, we are dwarfed by possibility and mystery.  we cannot say we know all that the universe holds – “there are greater things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in man’s philosophy,” to paraphrase the bard.

buddhism tends to focus not on answering the questions of the universe or posing allegory to describe them, but eschews them to focus on means for living.  the noble eightfold path, the branches of buddhism into zen, the meditative aspects, etc.  only the story of siddhartha himself, with the “five sights” and his diving into asceticism from total affluence, only to arrive at the conclusion of the “middle way,” serves as allegory.  the rest, in poetry, meditation, and philosophy, are applications for everyday living and harmony.  in short, they are practical.

i only “disagree” with buddhism insofar as it conceits no afterlife, or no existence of good and evil.  yet i do not make the distinction of “good & evil” between only existing in the mind of a man, or as things that “actually exist” in an external way.  for me, there is no difference; it is both.  it is that very division of thinking itself that seems to contradict a central tenet of buddhism, which is the dissolution of duality.

while i consider buddhism truly awesome, and know that i practice, in my own way, much of its applications, i feel no need to conclude that the energy which penetrates, binds, and animates all does not contain within it the concentrations of the ultimately negative, or evil, and ultimately positive, or good.  we are each of us a reflection of the total universe, we are each an expression of brahman, or, ultimate reality.

for more on duality, the spell of the sensuous, human origin, ultimate reality, etc., check out this huge, long, poorly written book about it.

or, read a relatively short excerpt.