BUDDHISM INVOLVES INNER TRANSFORMATION THROUGH INTELLECTUAL EFFORT AND SCIENTIFIC REASONING
Posted on May 18th, 2013
Dr. Daya Hewapathirane Vancouver, Canada
No useful purpose is served by explaining to or arguing with those who depend exclusively on religious books and accept their words without question or without debate. No monotheistic religion respects the human mind. Spiritual wisdom is lost when one embraces monotheism. Understanding the human mind is the central theme in the Buddha Dhamma. It is up to us to decide where we are heading and it all depends on our intelligence not on any so called “holy” book. One may read the Quran or Bible or whatever, and examine what’s in it. Ultimately, you are your own savior. Blind faith in any ideology/religion will not take you anywhere – no matter who uttered the words. In the “Kalama Sutta the Buddha speaks of the utter futility of depending on others for one’s salvation. “Be a lamp unto yourself” is what the Enlightened One said.
Our understanding of the workings of human mind and psyche itself, have been the result of the scientific reasoning and intellectual efforts of a small number of individuals. Without the free creative work of philosophers and physical, social and medical scientists, man would still be living in the fear and delusion-filled, superstitious primitive world when supernatural spirit beings, were first created in the human imagination to explain that which was unexplainable in the natural world. The Buddha is foremost among these philosopher-scientists.
SUPERNATURAL NONSENSE AND BLIND BELIEFS
Buddhists strive to attain inner transformation through intellectual effort and scientific reasoning. Supernatural nonsense and blind beliefs are contrary to Buddhist teachings. One of the great tragedies of European history was the overthrow of the rational naturalistic ethical philosophies of ancient Greece and Rome, by supernatural nonsense and beliefs dictated by Islamic and Christian power centres during the Dark Ages (450 “”…”1000 CE or about 1000 to 1500 years ago). This greatly restricted the freedom of thought of the mass of people.
However, during the last 2000 years man’s knowledge of the truth concerning himself and the universe has expanded exponentially because of the work of free thinking philosophers and physical, social and medical scientists “”…” Charles Darwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas James, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, Bertrand Russell to name just a few. In the centuries to come, man will continue to gain wisdom to avoid illusionary paranormal beliefs which foster alienation, hatred, greed, and self destruction.
Fear of the unknown, the mystery, remains in the psyche of man. Like a long caged animal, man fears venturing into new mysterious and untested territory and relinquishes his freedom by holding onto ancient comforting, but illusionary beliefs. The attainment of knowledge and truth will continue to be suppressed in those people clinging to ancient pre-science mythological beliefs when faced with the unknown, the unexplainable, and “short-circuit” their thinking usually motivated by fear, with the human cop-out “”…” “god caused it”.
Today, Muslims and Christians (most of the racist Tamil terrorists are basically Christians) engage in suicidal activities, in suicide terrorist attacks and “holy wars” These Muslims and Christians cling fanatically to the belief that by faith to the end they will be awarded a never ending life of joy and pleasure in a paradise. They have sidestepped reason, and forfeited this life because of belief in a mythical jealous Allah or God.
Life is for living, in the fullest, helping to make the world a better place for those we share it with and for those who follow. This is what Buddhist teaching is all about. Only through compassion for others, through positive aspiration of individuals, followed by positive action can we hope to make this a brighter and better world. If we allow us to be brainwashed from childhood with illusionary paranormal beliefs and wait for an Allah-god to act we can expect no progress. We have the power to achieve peace for ourselves and peace on earth, if we develop and use our wisdom to do so.
Inner transformation is what Buddhists strive to attain. This is primarily by one’s own efforts. The mind is central to Buddhists. Gaining peace and tranquility of mind is what Buddhists seek because it is with such a mind that one can experience true happiness. There are some deep rooted aspects of the human nature which keep clouding our mind, disturbing its calm, not allowing us to keep our mind at ease. They make our mind instable and keep it away from tranquility. These deep rooted aspects of human nature are greed, hatred and delusion or the so called three mental poisons of “lobha, dosha and moha”. They cause us to like and get attracted to certain things and to dislike and run away from other things (aversion). They are responsible for unwholesome deeds that we commit as we travel through life. On a psychological and emotional level they prevent us from seeing things from a balanced perspective and more importantly, because of them, our sense of reality is always twisted and distorted.
STATE OF THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
In the world today, we see that the impact of uncontrolled greed goes far beyond the individual level. We see how it creates economic disparities among nations and communities, and between countries. Besides, we see that the greed of the human race is undermining the right of other living beings to exist. Violence is rampant in the contemporary world. Some of the historical hatred is bound up with religious causes or identities, and finds expression in terrorism that is plaguing the world today.
The Buddha sought to help people minimize the destructive effects of the deluded impulses and in fact, to transform them into the impetus or momentum for happiness. The Buddhist approach to peace starts from the fundamental act of surmounting the inner poisons. Through spiritual practice the energy inherent in our deluded impulses can be transformed in its entirety into the illuminating “flame” of enlightened wisdom and inner tranquility. The three poisons can be subdued so that they no longer produce confusion and disruption and no longer drive us to act in a strange and destructive manner.
Private spirituality and morality alone cannot address and contain overall suffering of others “”…” or the community at large. Suffering has a social dimension and its relief involves engaging in the lives of others through compassion, sacrifice and service. This is the spiritual path observed by committed Buddhists. Merely feeling sorry for those who suffer or meditatively channeling compassion to them or performing rituals on their behalf is of little value today. We need to be more actively involved by finding more direct and tangible ways of helping the suffering and relieving them from their misery. This is a more meaningful spiritual path. As Buddhists, we are committed to relieve suffering of others, and promoting peace. Compassion towards all living beings is one of the fundamental goals of Buddhist life.
According to the Buddha’s teachings, all living beings and indeed all phenomena are interdependent; all things occur and exist only through their interrelationship with all other phenomena and this fabric of relatedness is of infinite extent both temporally and spatially. Herein lies the basis for the principle of mutually supportive coexistence of all beings so central to Buddhist thinking.
In Buddhism, greed, hate and delusion are not merely grounds of wrong conduct or moral stains upon the mind; they are the root defilements or the primary causes of all bondage and suffering. The entire practice of the Dhamma can be viewed as the task of eradicating these evil roots by developing to perfection their antidotes — dispassion, compassion and wisdom. These defilements cause harm and suffering both personal and social, and their removal brings peace and happiness. The practices taught by the Buddha are effective means for achieving their removal.