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Expedient means, or plain distortion?
April 6th, 2016 (April 7th, 2016)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Expedient means, or plain distortion?

   The attached post seems to rely on a very distorted rendering of the Dhammapada, for the sake of making this text say something it doesn't say.
   It relies on Irving Babbitt's translation, in 1936 (« Self is the lord of self, who else could be the lord? With self well subdued, a man finds a lord such as few can find. »), but knowledge and understanding in the West of the Pāḷi language and of Buddhist thought have much improved since 1936!

   Other, more recent translations of Dhp 160  are as follows:
Oneself is refuge of oneself, who else indeed could refuge be?
By good training of oneself, one gains a refuge hard to gain.
One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? 
With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain.
Oneself indeed is one’s protector, for what other protector could there be?
With oneself well-controlled, one obtains a refuge difficult to gain.
Oneself, indeed, is one's saviour, for what other saviour would there be?
With oneself well controlled one obtains a saviour difficult to find.

   Moreover, there's a traditional commentary on the Dhammapada,  and it makes clear that this verse is about a woman (then a nun) not counting on her son but on herself, and/or not counting on her (erroneous) teacher (Devadatta) but on herself!

   To make this verse about some god is rather twisted and this doesn't seem like inter-faith understanding to me but, rather, like clinging to the idea of God and shoe-horning God into other traditions.
   Surely Swami Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj doesn't have to agree with the Buddha… but mis-representing the Buddha isn't the proper way of "finding common ground" or "promoting harmony". Ignorance breeds ignorance, not wisdom.

   The Buddha famously stayed silent on questions which were irrelevant to the path (so he wasn't silent on much, really… since the path covers action, speech, thoughts, livelihood, views, intentions, attention and wisdom! Hence thousands of suttas!). 
   But gods routinely appear in the Pāḷi Canon, including in words attributed to the Buddha. Of course, these references can be seen as allegories, or as 'projections' by a person's mind… but this perspective often reflects a secular tendency in modern readers more than what's in the Canon!
   So, there's little reason to believe that the Buddha rejected the idea of gods.
   This being said, there's also little doubt that the Buddha simply didn't make calling on gods, or praying, the heart of the practice; and he didn't make the 'reunion' with gods the goal of the practice.
   If anything, gods are subject to impermanence and therefore to dissatisfaction, so they do not hold the keys to the cessation of unsatisfactoriness. Without them offering a solution to dukkha,  whether they're 'real', or they're mere mental 'projections', doesn't matter much! The Buddha therefore didn't need to take a strong stance vis-à-vis gods.

   Then, to turn Dhp 160  into the (Vedantic) view of a small soul ('individualised' / 'misguided' ātman) reuniting with the Creator's soul (Atman — Brahman) is disingenuous.
   It is not particularly surprising that the argument is based on the Dhammapada. This text is some sort of summary, it's very much a series of quotes and stories out of context. And it's always easier to distort quotes without their context than within!

   There are common grounds between early Buddhism and other spiritual traditions / paths. Finding, or counting on, God isn't one of them.
   When tantra and/or Vairocana are involved, or when Amitābha is involved, one could potentially find a stronger link… but then it's a Mahāyāna evolution several centuries after the teachings reported upon by the Pāḷi Canon! And in the very vast majority of Mahāyāna schools, counting on God would remain out of character but other aspects can be shared  (cf. e.g. the « Christianity and Zen Buddhism » series: (with annex, and!
   A few schools do  use such a perspective of salvation, but even then I would usually consider that one ought to be careful not to confuse temporary "expedient means" with statements on ultimate reality. For example, both Shingon (Chinese: Chen-yen) and Tendai  (Chinese: T'ien-T'ai)  Buddhism emphasise the possibility of "attaining enlightenment in this very body" through esoteric techniques including visualisation meditation, chanting of mantras and ritual gestures, however Tendai Buddhism also took the Lotus Sūtra  (the arch-reference on "expedient means"!) as a central text and fostered a wide variety of practices including Zen meditation and Pure Land devotional practices! Similarly, it is considered that Nichiren believed that the teaching of the Lotus Sūtra was far superior to the esoteric practices of the Shingon school… Inter-dependence between schools didn't allow to ignore the strong doctrines of others. The doctrine of "expedient means" existed since early Buddhism, but it was pushed further within Mayahana so this cannot be ignored when looking at any 'later doctrine'.

#Buddhism   #Dharma  
by Spiritual Awakening Radio:
Buddha and the Question of God, by Swami Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj

"In modern times some people have interpreted the Buddha’s silence on the issue of the existence of God as atheistic. In their opinion, Buddha refused to answer any questions regarding the existence of the Divine Reality and the Soul (Atman or Jivatman), and therefore they have concluded that Buddha was an atheist. 

"However, in my opinion these kinds of conclusions demonstrate limited knowledge and ignorance about the essence of the Buddhist texts. In fact, Buddhist literature contains multiple references to the soul (atta or ātman), the Lord (Natha), and the maker of the body. 

"Examples can be found even in the Dhammapada, where the Buddha elaborates on Soul or self (atta): 

"'The ātman is the lord of ātman. What else could be the Lord? When the individual self (jivatman) is well subdued, a man finds the Lord (Natha) who is difficult to fathom.'" (Dhammapada 12/ 4) 

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