I must accept as true only that which is freed from my subjective prejudices… Pierre Hadot
It’s not for me, and Buddha never thought so too! There is nothing real about re-incarnation. Why do so many perpetuate this myth? I think Buddha would be embarrassed by this sort of irrational thinking. Ancient metaphorical language and thought, from orally expressed discourses, passed down through 2500 years, translated through countless different languages, interpreted by different systems of logic, often misrepresented, and frequently altered for nefarious reasons, cannot be trusted as truth.
It’s like watching so much of the fake news today, this has always happened since the days of antiquity and it will continue. We should learn to think for ourselves. If someone sold your body to another, you would be outraged, yet we give our minds away without a second thought.
Siddhartha Buddha died before 400 BC, where is he now? Only in the hearts and minds of his followers. His use of the term “rebirth” has perhaps, been corrupted by some into “re-incarnation” with a desire and attachment to live forever and maybe to use these false promises to win converts or to pass judgment on those they dislike. I think he would not be impressed.
Chan Buddhism was founded in China during the 6th century CE. According to D.T. Suzuki, as a “natural evolution of Buddhism under Taoist conditions.” The word “Chan” means meditation. Zen, a product of 13th century Japan, was derived from Chan. The basic idea was to achieve “Buddha Nature” without the need for the written teachings and did not adhere to the scriptural dharma. Tibetan Buddhism, a sect that didn’t exist until the 10th century AD, that is 1400 years after Buddha’s death, differs very much from Chan/Zen and it is highly steeped in scriptures and dogma. Buddhism and Taoism like Christianity has taken many forms since the ancient times. Even the Taoists, some of them, deified Lao Tzu, in an attempt to compete with religions of their time.
They honor me with their words, yet their hearts are far from me… Jesus of Nazareth.
Optimists hope, pessimists complain, realists adapt. Hope is for losers, complaining is for whiners, adapting is what winners do, this is the greatest teaching of all. People the world over have survived war, natural disasters and coping with death mostly through pragmatic realism. The fact is, these trials make us all stronger. Unfortunately our modern culture has made us soft and weak. Proper meditation leads to clarity and objectivity and freedom from delusion.
The unexamined life is not worth living…Socrates
Promising afterlives, trying to explore past lives, contemplating the future, always comes at the expense of the here and now. With the exception of certain mindfulness spiritual exercises, dwelling on the past and future are worse than a waste of time. Even psychotherapists get into the act. Trying to analyze the past and encouraging their patients to re-live it, is just pain dumb, dangerous actually. As much as I love and respect the many good things and benefits to mankind brought about through religion; the worst thing to have happened in all of this was for once great philosophies to be reduced to religions, where metaphorical language has been altered into dogma or worse, attempts to control and manipulate the free thinking minds of people.
I was born at the same time as Heaven and Earth… Zhuang Tzu
I have been reborn a few times in my life, it is happening now, but the thought that I will be born again into another body is ludicrous. This in NOT a teaching of Buddha! Taoists and Zen Buddhists are more clear on this than others, believe what you want to, but don’t waste your time contemplating such things. How can anyone be free when they are attached to duality and dreams of the past and future? They are not, they are in fact slaves. Maybe you have been miss-led by the many misguided schools of thought that have emerged since the time of Siddhartha and others?
Buddha said: “Worship nothing” and when he died… they worshiped him.
The real teachings of the great sages are often not what we as a society have been led to believe. I will certainly not tell anyone what to believe, but why do people believe in myths that discredit the ancient sages with irrational beliefs? The early Christians totally threw out the Gnostic scriptures and defiled translations of Plato by changing Socrates name to Saint Paul! The corruption of the sages was a common method to gain power and control over peoples minds, how sad is it that their words have been twisted by knaves to be used against the freedom of the individual. It is ironic because Buddha, Jesus, Socrates, Ramana Maharshi, and many others fought so hard to teach truth.
I have never been born and I will never die… Nisargadatta Maharaj
Often the great teachers of antiquity knew that they had to express their thoughts in a way that their listeners could understand, based on the prevailing rules of the day and based on cultural norms. Therefore they would even say things they knew were not exactly true, but would be perceived as truth to the listener in order to convey the basic ideas to them.
In the ancient world the word “God” is often a simple metaphor for “Nature”. People, especially philosophers would be killed as heretics if they didn’t use such language. Socrates lost his life for corrupting the minds of youths, and now he is renown as the father of philosophy. “Karma” is simply cause and effect, “afterlife” means how you are remembered when you leave this earth, by your character, “rebirth” means wake up and smell the coffee and change your life now!
Instead of hoping for secret meanings in corrupted translations of metaphorical teachings, I would suggest, stop complaining about how the wind is blowing and simply adjust your sails.
Copyright Cory Williams 2017
- For more in-depth information about this topic try reading this interesting article I found after writing this one:
- Great book… Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot
- Another great book… Classics of Buddhism and Zen Volume One of Five by Thomas Cleary