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Buddhism


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©  Wim van den Dungen
Antwerp, 2017.

For Buddhism, in the teachings of the "enlightened one", Lord Buddha, salvation, liberation or "nirvâna" is being freed from "samsâra", the cessation of suffering ("dukkha"). This liberation can take place during life or after consciousness lost the support of the physical body (the aggregate of form).

Hence, the First Noble Truth can be seen as the foundation of Buddhism (cf. "bodhi" or "enlightened") :

"What, O Monks, is the Noble Truth of Suffering ? Birth is suffering, sickness is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering. Pain, grief, sorrow, lamentation, and despair are suffering. Association with what is unpleasant is suffering, disassociation from what is pleasant is suffering. Not to get what one wants is suffering. In short, the five factors of individuality are suffering."
Buddha : First Sermon.

Liberation from suffering is the goal of the teachings of Gautama the Buddha, the Bodhi-dharma. The Truth of Suffering is followed by the Truth of Arising ("samudâya"), namely the fact of desire. This is then followed by the Truth of Cessation ("nirodha"), pointing to the end of suffering through the transformation of the personality to bring peace, joy, compassion and a refined awareness where there was doubt, worry, anxiety and fear, absent in the enlightened mind, energy (voice) and body. Cessation means there is an end to suffering. Liberation or "nirvâna" is achieved by the Truth of the Path ("mârga"). This is the Eightfold Path or "middle way" between all extremes. It is divided in Wisdom, Morality and Meditation.

Put simply : we suffer because of our afflicted emotions and mental obscurations. Take these away, and "nirvana" is a fact.

Wisdom :
1. Right Understanding (or Right View) : acceptance and experiental confirmation of the teachings of the Buddha (the "dharma") ;
2. Right Resolve : commitment to developing right attitudes ;
Morality :
3. Right Speech : telling the truth and speaking in a thoughtful and sensitive way ;
4. Right Action : abstaining from wrongful bodily behaviour (killing, stealing, and extreme sensual pleasures) ;
5. Right Livelihood : not harming others by one's occupation ;
Meditation :
6. Right Effort : control the mind and gaining positive states of mind ;
7. Right Mindfulness : cultivating constant awareness ;
8. Right Meditation : developing deep levels of mental calm by concentrating the mind & integrating the personality.

All existing things coming into being bear three characteristics or "marks" : unsatisfactoriness ("dukkha"), impermanence ("anicca") and absence of self-essence ("anattâ") independent of the universal causal process. The Third Noble Truth (the end of suffering) points to non-attachment to the impermanent, in particular the soul, considered in Hindu teachings as permanent and immortal. This teaching of "anâtman", does not deny the existence of the soul, but does not attribute any permanent and immortal status to it (cf. the âtman). The soul exists, but, in the Buddhist psychology of impermanence, is merely functional. In the same strict nominalist spirit, the Buddha found no eternal creator-God (Brahman), and could therefore not acknowledge the identification of this would-be permanent soul with the Supreme God (cf. âtman = Brahman). This was a revolutionary teaching, contradicting centuries of Vedic thought and ritual practice aiming at realizing this soul and therefore realizing Godhood. Indeed, Buddhism is an unorthodox, renouncer movement ("samana"), explicitly turning its back to any onto-theology (cf. On the Deity, 2008).

Buddhist theology understands all phenomenal being as causally interdependent, meaning that all beings are conditioned by something else, making their existences relative to these conditions. In an absolute sense, nothing substantial, permanent, identical or atomic can be found. Subjectivity is also devoid of persisting psychic entities implying an eternal, unchanging substance (like the "âtman"). There is no permanent, unchanging "I"-principle, ego or Self either. Emptiness ("shûnyatâ"), interdependence and non-substantiality form a consistent whole. Because every relative thing is connected with every other relative thing, things cannot be posited as "on their own" like independent substances. As they are all linked and without substance (although cyclic energy or movement occurs), they are relative aggregates in constant movement empty of inherent existence. The opposite is also true : when something is isolated, it cannot relate and therefore not produce or communicate. A substantial God is forced to be an indifferent spectator.

In fact, "shûnyatâ" should be translated as "full-emptiness", for every phenomenon is empty of substance but full of interdependent arisings (cf. Metaphysics, 2012).

The aggregates or five factors of individuality ("skandhas") are : (1) the physical body ("rûpa"), (2) sensations and feelings ("vedanâ"), (3) cognitions ("samjñâ), (4) character traits and dispositions ("samskâra") and (5) consciousness ("vijñâna"), or in other words : sensation, affect, cognition, will (volition) and consciousness. They are "carryied" by a lawful, universal world-order of interdependent causes and are thus not random, but determined. Nevertheless, these aggregates (both physical & mental) pass through the inconceivably rapid moments of arising, existing & ceasing. They thus change incessantly and are therefore impermanent and unsatisfactory (when used). From moment to moment, nothing is the same. They do not bear witness of an immortal ego, eternal soul, Self or Creator of it All. This is quite important. Buddhism is not against the Divine (atheism), but against theo-ontology : the positing (labeling) of an objective, eternalized Being or "substantia", an underlying "outer" thingness : permanent, separated, defined, continuous and solid. Its intent is transtheist.

Although the Buddha affirmed the bundles imply a carrier, he would not attribute any substantial, unchanging, essentialistic meaning to this carrier or cognizer whatsoever. Doing this, would imply the re-entry of ontology of the solid, substantial, essential and self-existing, autarchic world-system, which is not evidenced by sensation, emotion, thought, will, the consciousness of the five senses & the over-arching consciousness.

In the Elder schools of Buddhism (tradition mentions 18 schools, although over 30 different names came down to us), of which the Theravâda is the only one surviving today, "nirvâna" is a place of salvation, the "abode of immortality", a supramundane ("lokotttara"), not spatially localizable, different mode of existence. Enlightenment takes place in time but is also always already there outside time. These various Hînayâna schools and sects (a term, together with "Mahâyâna", coined during the Council of King Kaniska in the first century CE), introduced different positive views on "nirvâna". For example, in the Vâtsîputrîya school, very prominent in the third century BCE, it is a positive state in which the person continues to exist (i.e. they reject the "anâtman"). These schools envision the liberation of the person only.

For Buddhist logic (cf. Dharmakîrti) the source of knowledge is a differential moment, flash or point. As soon as one identifies this momentary flash with a mental picture or idea, a secondary, relative, unreal reality is created (constructed). This is the activity of the labeling, conceptual, dualistic mind. This mind "runs" on the afflictive emotions and is the cause of subtle suffering : mental obscuration. Through the "dharma" of the Buddha one may empty the mind of constructions (transcend the final duality between "samsâra" & "nirvâna") and arrive at "the Other Shore", the undifferentiated, indiscernible & indestructible "nirvâna". So "nirvâna" is peace, liberation from the afflictions, their causes & effects. All Buddhist "vehicles" (or ferries to this "Other Shore" of wisdom) agree with this, and differ in scope & methods of salvation.

Buddhism has a predilection for ethical questions. But its ethics is not inferred from an eternalized ontological scheme, for being is viewed as a totality of impermanent aggregates.

Life is a moving fabric of interdependent dualities and it is impossible to understand life without knowing both good & evil. An impartial judgement can not be reached without knowing both sides. Hence, evil must be understood and tested together with good.

The true purpose of human existence is to reach the "Other Shore". This is wisdom mind conquering labeling mind.

If this goal is relinquished, our passions overwhelm us (cf. the power of the devil "Mâra", who hinders "wholesome roots") and, running in circles of madness, we are lost in the web of deceptive glamour, fettered to appearances and the eighth worldly preoccupations. The "dharma" teaches life & death, good & evil per se do not exist. They are modifications of the unenlightened mind, caught by the illusions of the "samsâra" and can not be found as existing independently (cf. On Ultimate Logic, 2009). This is their "emptiness" for, on the one hand, due to the experience of impermanence and constant change, all form is found to be "empty" of substance. On the other hand, because emptiness "itself" is not a substance either, the absence of substance is witnessed "as form". Of what kind ? As continuous interdependence, i.e. the functional (meta)physics of the vast network of possible determinations (classified as causal, interactive, statistical, formal, teleological, etc.). The so-called "Net of Indra".

Good & evil are inseparable twins, as life & death and all other such complementaries. The intent initiating an act determines whether it is good or evil. Non-dual "nirvâna" is beyond good & evil and delivers from ignorance.

THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF SPIRITUALITY :
NON-DUAL NIRVANA
ABSENCE OF IGNORANCE, BLIND LUST & HATRED
FOR ALL SENTIENT BEINGS
AS SWIFTLY AS POSSIBLE

The "dharma" of the Buddha points to the true nature of reality, which is absolute. "Absolute" means "set apart". The essence of experience is inexpressible. This un-saying is rooted in the direct experience of nonconceptual, nondual thought, called "wisdom". Samsaric existence is conceptual & unsatisfying. This is the first truth to accept.

Every human has the possibility to reach "nirvâna", the non-dual state. Responsibility for one's actions and emancipation lies within the reach of every "sentient being". It is not reliance on faith, but "nirvâna" which brings to Truth. Its characteristic are absence of arising, subsisting, changing, and passing away. With "dharma", Buddhism denotes the "natural law", as well as the ethico-spiritual teachings of the Buddha. These teachings are thought to be objectively true and in accordance with the deepest nature of things ("dharmadhâtu"), encompassing both the functional, conventional truth and the absolute, ultimate truth. Buddhist "omniscience" involves both (a) the natural & consensual phenomena and (b) the absolute & universal "moral law" (or determining super-causality, "dharma" and its associated logic of merit), whose requirements were (re)discovered by the Buddha and the Buddhas before and after him. Indeed, the Buddha did not invent the "dharma", but, as a homeopathic doctor, discovered it himself !

If the notions of karma and reincarnation (cf. infra) would be eliminated from the basket of teachings (which would run against the teachings of the Buddha), then Buddhism would be identical with an elaborate form of scientific humanism, a mere science of mind (and not an art of living). However, "dharma" also manifests in the law of karma, the neglect of which entails the continuation of endless suffering in the cycle of rebirth. Both positive and negative karma cause suffering ! Without the reincarnating spiritual code of the carrier (stored in deep-consciousness), physical death would indeed become the natural terminus and thus, as it is inevitable, available to all without effort. Peace would have lost its spiritual meaning and be reduced to "eternal rest".

The ideal of the "bodhisattva", introduced by the Mahâyâna schools in the first century C.E., broadened & united Buddhism's salvic & ethical perspectives. Liberation through renunciation or "nirvâna" (the Hînayâna) was deemed necessary but insufficient, for sentient beings continue to suffer after the foe-destroyer or arhat attained liberation (entered "nirvâna") and the available methods do not allow to purify massive negative karma swiftly. Hence, to achieve liberation takes a very long time and many painful incarnations.  According to the Mahâyâna, Buddha wanted to find a way to help all sentient beings discover the "Other Shore" as quick as possible. The Great Vehicle brings universal "bodhicitta" or "compassion" into the equation. They add compassion to love. Just truly wanting somebody else to be happy is not enough. Causing somebody else to be happy is. Compassion is a verb. The bodhisattva pledges to help all sentient beings achieve the peace he or she has achieved. Liberation ("nirvâna"), associated with what happened to Buddha Shâkyamuni under the Bodhi tree, preludes final enlightenment ("parinirvâna"), associated with the death of Buddha's physical body. The bodhisattva may return from this plane of the "dharmakâya" and invest another incarnation to help sentient beings.

The reasons for the Mahayanist expansion are unclear. Tradition, as always, tries to uphold the founding myth of original Great Vehicle teachings initiated by Buddha and kept secret among his initiates. This "strategy" is also found in many religions, especially when the process of canonization has begun (this urge to codify is usually the result of an increased number of adherents and the need to manipulate them to reduce problems). However, regarding Buddhism, there is a yawning space between the first definitive texts (ca. 250 CE) and the death of the "enlightened one" (ca. 486/483 BCE). Even if elaborate ad hoc assumptions are accepted (like an adept oral tradition), then the fact remains differences were not recorded and so are lost. But does Buddhism need a "founding text" ? If the experience of true peace is everybody share, then only the "core" needs to be codified. It seems the Elder schools kept this heart of the basic teachings of the Buddha intact (grounding the "sutric" approach to meditation). Perhaps the turbo systems added by later vehicles (the Diamond Vehicle), are mostly contributions of enlightened practitioners. But this would not make them less Buddhist ! This is unthinkable in "closed" traditions such as the religions "of the book" (Judaism, Christianity & Islam).

In fact, in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, the definition of a proponent of Buddhist tenets is a person asserting the four seals. Each of the schools have their own particular interpretation of these seals, and non-Buddhist tenets are systems which do not assert them (if one of the four is not accepted, the system is non-Buddhist) :

1. all compounded phenomena are impermanent ;
2. all contaminated things are miserable ;
3. all phenomena lack substantial nature ;
4. nirvâna is peace.

History shows Buddhism survived by adapting to changing circumstances, both within the community as in its milieu (in India). The following consecutive strands appear :

1. Classical period (ca. 500 - 0 CE) : in this existential, basic level, man's situation is studied and ways (or "dharma-doors") are found to liberate conform the example of Buddha Shâkyamuni. Liberation can be attained, but only as a monk, after hard work and mostly after many lifetimes - the Elder Schools of which only the Theravâda survived  (cf. On the Hînayâna, 2008) ;

2. Religious period (ca. 0 - 6th century CE) : with the rise of the Mahâyâna in the first century CE, the salvic intention of the Elder Schools is superseded by a wish to liberate all sentient beings, and intent believed to speed up spiritual emancipation. The bodhisattva returns to this world as long as sentient beings suffer. The need to shorten the length of suffering is felt. The layperson, helped by bodhisattvas and Buddhas also attains "nirvâna". The latter not only points to liberation (the first, "individual" step), but also to the total realization of Buddhahood (or awakening), for by one's very Clear Light nature one is inseperable from the absolute. Liberation may be attained in a single lifetime. In the Pure Land school, founded in 402 CE by Hui-yuan, a Chinese monk, the most devotional side of the Great Vehicle emerged. With the rise of Ch'an in China (ca. 6th - 7th CE), the most stringent "yogic" form of the Mahâyâna was achieved, nondependent on sacred texts or intellectual analysis and emphasizing sudden enlightenment "hic et nunc"  (cf. Wayfaring, 2009) ;

3. Logical period (5th century CE - 1000 CE) : with the development of the two truths by Nâgârjuna (2th or 3th CE), the founder of the Mâdhyamika school, Buddhism began to slowly integrate the fundamental logical distinction between relative truth of the world of illusion and the absolute truth of that selfsame world. It represented the "Middle Way" between existence and nonexistence, proving any affirmation about existence as an eternal substance to be inaccurate and making clear how eternal substance excludes causality (and so action & merit). Hence, nothing is independent of conditions and all things are empty of a permanent state of identity or self (or selfless) and so full of functional connectivity (potential & actual). If previously, all ideas and cogitations were deemed illusion (for based on the dualism of the conceptual, constructive mind and so not appearing as they truly are), and only intuition or higher wisdom ("prâjñâ") was of any avail, now arguments proved why some conceptual thoughts liberate and analytical meditation was refined (cf. On Ultimate Logic, 2009). The fundamental concept is "shûnyatâ" (cf. Nâgârjuna, Dignâga, Dharmakîrti), translated as "emptiness". "Shunya" also expresses "purna" (full), "lopa" (absence), "akasa" (universe), "bindu" (dot) and "vrtta" (circle). It always goes hand in hand with "karunâ", compassion for all living beings : the heart of emptiness is compassion and the heart of compassion is emptiness : to work, things need to be process-based, not substance-based ;

4. Esoteric period (middle 8th century - 1419 CE) : between the time of the magical Padmasambhava, a contemporary of the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen (755 - 797 BCE), and the death of the great scholar, reformer and creator of Gelugpa doctrine Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419 CE), the Vajrayâna or "Diamond Vehicle" flourished, primarily in northeast and northwest India. Developing out of the teachings of the Great Vehicle, it reached, along with the Mahâyâna it embraced, Tibet, China and Japan. Other names for it are Tantrayâna and Mantrayâna. Its first coherent, doctrinal systems were developed in India between the 6th and 10th centuries CE, although it entered the world stage, at the earliest, in the third century CE. All tantra's originated in India and Hinduism had its own tantric models, devoid of the concept of "shûnyatâ". The emergence of the Kâlachacra Tantra in the 10th century CE markes the close of the creative phase of Vajrayâna (cf. On Tantra, 2008).

These teachings form a living & authentic esoteric tradition, combining elements of yoga and nature religion with original Buddhist concepts. Being esoteric, it incorporates occult & magical techniques. In this view, the fruit of Buddhahood is possible in one lifetime, in as little as three years or, very exceptionally, in six months. Theoretically, it may even happen in an instance ! Bang ! Gap ! Enlightened !

So in Tibet, integrating inveterate shamanistic, magical and occult practices, the world-view of the Buddha-dharma was extendedly taught & practiced. Both psychological methods and highly ritualized practices characterized by a symbology of light rose : the Vajrayâna, or occult, esoteric Buddhism. It remained operational for over a millennium, remained isolated until 1959, gathered its best forces and spread to the West. Today, it is with us as Tibetan Lamaism. It has wealthy temples and meditation centres all over the world and features in books, films, videos, www etc. The Vajrayâna is however a minority within Buddhism, equated by the Western pop-mind with Buddhism as such. Of the ca. 350 million Buddhists world-wide, Chinese officials state Tibet has more than 46.300 Buddhist monks and nuns, while the number of Tibetans is estimated at ca.6.5 million.

As late as the 16th century, the "God-King" of old (not unlike the Egyptian divine king and the French monarch Louis XIV, "le Roi Soleil"), became the living presence of the Solar Buddha of Compassion (Avalokiteshvara), guiding the world from its lofty spiritual top (cf. the institution of the "Dalai Lama", in principle holding all spiritual and temporal powers). The titles of this God-King are "Dalai Lama" or "Ocean of Wisdom" ; "Kundun" or "Presence". The title of "Dalai Lama" was conferred by the Mongul ruler Altan Khan (1507 - 1582), "dalai" being a Mongol word for "ocean". In the West, the Dalai Lama is emphatic about not being such a "God-King", but in the minds of the common Tibetan & the monks & nuns, he still is. Tibetan education has apparently not done away with this Medieval, scholastic superstructure (cf. Tibet, 2008).  ;

5. Western period (1959 - today) ? : with the present XIVth Dalai Lama, fleeing Tibet for India and seeking help from the West, in particular the CIA and other "powers that be", Tibetan Tantrism was made available to Western readers & practitioners and the "wish-fulfilling jewel" could "shine from the West". After five decades, this New Buddhism, labeled "Navayâna", or New Vehicle, incorporates the best of both Theravâda, Sutric Mahâyâna, Zen, the Pure Land school, Tantric Vajrayâna, and Bonpo Dzogchen, etc. It also takes Western philosophy & science into account. Clearly this movement was initiated by the Tibetan Lamas themselves, publishing cherished secrets and performing public rituals.

Views of "nirvâna" differ among all these schools. The Mâdhyamikas identify it with emptiness ("shûnyatâ"). The Yogâcâra with the cessation of discrimination (the non-distinctness of "samsâra" and "nirvâna") & the (idealist) awareness that only the absolute mind substantially exists, whereas the phenomena are but confusion of mind. Finally, "Dzogpa Chenpo" (the "Great Perfection") is the direct discovery of the natural, non-conceptual, non-dual, clear state of mind, one with the essence of the base of reality, the absolute inherent existence of emptiness, expressing a manifold of energies or movements, of which the luminous ground of mind is part.

Sub-traditions : Theravâda (or Hînayâna), Mahâyâna, Pure Land, Zen, Varjayâna, Nichiren  ... each with various schools & sects ... and recently Navayâna (or "New Vehicle").

Criticism of Buddhism :

§ 1/+ Specialists discovered two outstanding elements in the teachings of Gautama the Buddha : the absence of Divine revelation & the no-soul. Rarely, almost never, can these be found in other systems and nowhere do they occur combined. Buddhism is therefore very original. No doctrinal dogma and no provision for a centralized authority are in place. Only the accuracy of a truth verifiable by a nominal, reasonable mind is acceptable. Spiritual truth -in Buddhism fundamentally related with the issue of spiritual freedom- is its own proof

Individual effort is stressed and self-reliance is the essence of the spiritual practice. The Buddhist is responsible to himself for his actions and does not behave irresponsibly in order to avoid the outcome of his evil thoughts, words & deeds (loss of benefits or merit, "punya"). The four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, training in discipline & morality, meditation, wisdom & insight are the basic salvic operators as summed up in the Tripitaka and taught by the Elder Schools. Although seeking refuge in someone else is rejected, in the Pansil ceremony, the thrice repeated declaration : "I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Teaching. I take refuge in the Brotherhood of Monks" precedes the promise to observe the Five Precepts : not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to lie, not to take intoxicants.



the Buddha entering parinirvana or "final nirvana"

§ 2/+ To lack a permanent and immortal soul implies Buddhism has to introduce a new process-based psychogenesis, especially in terms of "karma" and reincarnation, both confirmed by the Buddha. The "I" or empirical ego of the "personality" is a temporal composition of different parts, a bundle of 5 attributes permanently coming to pass, ceasing and rising. These attributes are constantly moving and changing like the waters of a swiftly flowing river (cf. endless wandering or "samsâra"). Physical, psychological and sociological dispositions and acquired attitudes, prejudices, beliefs, norms, expectations, values and the countless memorized experiences of an entire lifetime together constitute this ever-changing sense of "I-ness". As soon as our mind says "I", selfishness and lack of compassion ensue. As the "I" is caused by the impermanent, it is sizeable, destructible and attached. So the illusion of separation (and not of the ego as such) is the first cause of sorrow. It seems as if we are separate beings, but we are not. The Eightfold Path leads to a state of purity, to a deathless bliss amidst continuous change. The cravings (psychological traits) active at the time of physical death are able to exist independently of their extinct brain and are transferable to another newly born living being, to eventually become a part of its consciousness.

"Everyone, big and little, strong and weak, works continually -and in general unconsciously- at the formation of new groups whose members, through lack of perspicacity, are not aware of their heterogeneity and, who insensible to the discordances of their voices, or without dwelling on it, shout in chorus "I", I am Me !"
David-Neel, A. & Lama Yongden : The Secret Oral Teachings, City Lights Books - San Francisco, 1974, p.103.

The notion of transferable attributes seems to run against the idea of impermanence. Who secures the transfer and how ? Although there is no substantial soul, physical death is not the end of the story. The mind and the body (like two persons in one boat) travel together, but at the end of this life the latter perishes, while its constituent parts return to the material plane of the world-order. Nevertheless, the mind (the aggregates of volition, affection, thought & consciousness) is not annihilated by physical death. Existing in a realm of its own, it continues to exist as does its personality. Although essentially impermanent, it nevertheless lasts longer than the body. The "spiritual code" of each person's mind survives and, driven by karmic forces, seek a new vehicle to incarnate. Eventually, the mind, jumping from life to life catching the carrot, will perish in the fire of liberation. But, on this other, absolute shore of reality (the "dharmakâya"), it nevertheless conditions a Buddha-field of its own. Hence, every Buddha and bodhisattva has characteristics. In this way, transmigration is explained, as well as the influence of bad actions done in this life on the next life.

§ 3/+  The Great Vehicle introduces a variety of Buddhas & bodhisattvas who actively help the layperson to attain liberation (this may even lead to highly developed magic-oriented ritual schools like the Vajrayâna). Like all of us, these bodhisattvas reincarnate (manifest in or assume a physical body on our plane). In Zen ("Ch'an"), more than in any other school, except Dzogchen, the prime importance of enlightenment ("kenshô" or "satori") is stressed. Zen Buddhists sternly regard doctrine, intellectual analysis, and ritual practices as of little to no use. Zen likes to be unorthodox, nondependent on Divine revelation, "direct pointing to the human heart", leading to Buddhahood (cf. Nansen Fugan). All these schools have their own texts, local beliefs and dogma's.

§ 4/- The bulk of authoritative scriptures of the numerous traditional schools covers tens and hundreds of thousands of pages. The Pali Canon (restricted to one school, namely the Theravâda) fills 45 huge volumes in the complete Siamese edition, exclusive of commentaries. The recent Japanese edition of the Chinese scriptures consist of 100 volumes of 1,000 closely printed pages. Because at present, scholars have no objective criterion to isolate the original teaching of the Buddha (although the Tripitaka is considered as the most trustworthy), discussions on the subject lead to fruitless disputes. Moreover, tradition holds Buddha stated that the things he revealed are very few in comparison with those which did not reveal. In Buddhism, books written by genuine practitioners are often more interesting than meticulous linguistic and philological knowledge of Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese or Tibetan texts.

§ 5/- In all schools, the role of woman is problematic, and a mysogynist streak is evident. In Theravâda, they are accepted with great reluctance and identified with illusion (cf. the death of Gautama's mother Maya directly after giving birth and the transfeminine birth myths). In Mahâyâna, they are a "lower incarnation" and need a sex-change (the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha accepts only men). In Vajrayâna, they are wisdom-consorts used to assist the male guru and only seldomly receive the same power as men. Although this situation is inconsistent with the principles of Buddhism, it nevertheless remains an important cultural factor part of the spiritual "canons" of the schools. Hence, Buddhist sexual morality, like that of all major religions, remained incomplete and biased.

§ 6/- Although the basic notion of Tantrism involves the primordial wholeness and completeness of being (represented by the union of the male method-deities with their female wisdom-consorts or yab-yum), the deeply entrenched domination of woman by the male elite (using sexual intercourse with woman exclusively to charge their spiritual batteries), gave rise to tantric teachings in which the mother goddess emanated from the masculine god, and the androgyny (male-female forces possessed by a man) remained uncompensated by gynandry (female-male forces possessed by a woman), building in a fundamental disparity within the tantric system (cf. the Trimondi Studies by Mariana and Herbert Röttgen). Bi-sexual eroticism is then reduced to heterosexual machoism. As a result, and not solely because of feminist critique, some Western practitioners try to develop a Buddhist system for the West, i.e. in harmony with Western science, secular thought and basic human rights. This runs against the authoritarian approach and involves a rethinking of the schools of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen in terms of the discoveries of Western secular science.

In January 2007, the author wrote to bhikkhu Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama, and respectfully asked him what he thought about the criticism of the Trimondi's. As yet, he did not receive any answer, not even an acknowledgment of reception.

Seem contrary to the spirit of the "dharma" of Buddha Shâkyamuni, promoting liberation from all attachment (also attachment to rituals of renunciation) : (a) the hierarchic "power" relationship between pupil and teacher (in Zen, the teacher is a mentor, never a super-being of sorts) ; (b) the public performance of rituals with magical weapons of war, pain, etc. (like cleavers, skull-cups, daggers, axes, hooks, etc.) and (c) the public propagation of dangerous warrior-myths like Shambhala, part of the Kâlachakra Tantra.

It goes without saying, that of the ca.50.000 Tibetan monks & nuns, some are excellent spiritual masters, and teach the "dharma" in the spirit of the Buddha (keeping Tantra secret and for experienced practitioners).

§ 7/- Between the various schools of Buddhism of a given tradition, internal contradictions also pertain (cf. between Zen and Vajrayâna, between the Pure Land school and Mâdhyamika).

For example, in Vajrayâna, a crucial difference exists between sûtrayâna and Dzogchen, the so-called Great Perfection, preserved in the Nyingma and Bon traditions of Tibet. The historical lineage is said to begin with Garab Dorje around the first century CE, who summarized the 6.4 million verses of Dzogpa Chenpo in "The Three Incisive Precepts" (Tsiksum Nedek) :

"A direct introduction into the nature of mind is the first imperative.
Absolute conviction in the practice is the second imperative.
Gain confidence in release is the third imperative."


Sûtrayâna strictly follows the emptiness-teachings of the Middle Path and so considers both the world (object) and the person (subject) as devoid of inherent existence. So to reach liberation, renunciation, compassion and the so-called "analytical" meditation on emptiness are considered as valid. This authentication is gradually inferred and the logic of emptiness yields two truths, namely conventional or everyday truth and the absolute truth of the enlightened ones. Some conventional truths accommodate the coming of absolute truth. In Dzogchen, by contrast, the base of all is unbounded wholeness, and although its essence is deemed "empty", it is also of the nature of clarity (light) and energy (spontaneous display from emptiness). Both runs against the sûtric notion of emptiness. Only a non-gradual, immediate introduction to or a direct discovery of the natural state of mind enlightens. Moreover, in Dzogchen, analytical, inferential logic cannot validate the direct experience of the nature of mind, which lies outside the conceptual mind. These differences show the dogma holding that both object and subject are empty is not accepted by all and thus doubtful.

§ 8/- Although Buddhism is often presented as an ethical philosophy, one should not forget only intention is paramount in Buddhist morality. This means the equation of ethics is mainly a subjective construction, granting less importance to objective goals and values (cf. Behaviours, 2006). Only this explains why in Tantrayâna the most evil deeds (like human sacrifice or eating excreta) may be accepted if they are deemed to lead to universal liberation, the ultimate intention.


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initiated : 06 IV 2000 - last update : 31 XII 2012 - version n°53