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November 18, 2013

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Methexis, I appreciate a frank exchange of views even when dharma brothers throw the baby out with the bath water.

If we wish to thump the scriptures at each other like some sort of cosmic tennis match of right and wrong, Gautama specifically advised against becoming enchanted by the ritual practice of professional monkhood. He was a shramana and highly skeptical of the whole kit and kaboodle, which is repeatedly mentioned in the dhammapada. Attachment to ritual is also considered one of the "fetters" which bind us to samsara.

“As for teachings: there are priests and popular preachers who are given to ritual and ceremony and who are skilled in the various incantations and in the art of eloquence; they should not be honored nor reverently attended upon, for what one gains from them is emotional excitement and worldly enjoyment; it is not the Dharma.” (Lankavatara sutra)

Rather than encourage ritual practice, Buddha actually advised going away from such things and meditating on one's own.

Perhaps (and I don't mean this as an attack at all but in a supportive, dharmic sense) your ego-self feels threatened by someone who is devoted to the dharma but genuinely free of religion, raising the worrying idea that maybe there really is no point to it. Mara doesn't like to be found out. Heretics get burned for a reason – generally for running afoul of some irate priest. Lots of holy wars too. The bodies are piling up even in Myanmar.

But what if we viewed faith not as a creed, not as an imposition, not as an authority, not as a rule, not by looking to inauthentic archetypes of “masters”, but as liberation?

I'm very curious: what will religion give you that you don't already have? How will it expand or reveal your Buddha nature? If ritual works for you, and I am sincerely happy if it does, who is this "you" who is benefitting from all this ritual?

You see, my observation on religion is not an aversion or one-sided screed at all: I will happily sit through any ritual or service, prayer or preaching, bolt upright like a captain strapped to the mast, hearing the siren song, but these are worldly things.

Yet if every single master tried ritual, as you observe, I am also pretty sure they each tried beating off behind a tree when no one was looking. There are actually liturgical discussions in the scriptures about nocturnal emissions. But did either condition lead them to enlightenment? Who can decide for anyone else whether religion makes sense? Who empowers this precisely? From whom does it derive its ultimate authority? Buddha? Huangbo? Bodhidharma?

If you wish to live that way, go ahead. I realize it differently. I prefer to be free.

"Ritual and form in Buddhism is bollocks."

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This one-sided obsession with the "emptiness" / "ultimate reality" / "Dharmakaya" - is dangerous and not thoroughgoing enough.

The one-sided fixation on "ultimate reality" is in Bhagavad-Gita there equal to "who cares about killing, all is oneness anyway, Arjuna" (simplified) ... no wonder that book was a favorite of many high ranking Nazi (SS) officers!

Gassing Jews or not gassing them - what's the difference? It's all illusion and phenomena ... the truth is only Universal Krishna-Consciousness anyway!

Religion is not one-sided affirmation of the Absolute.

Re-ligion is the re-connecting of the relative (fallen self) with the absolute (unborn self).

This connection works on many levels. Not only one. There's direct experience Zen stresses. There's also ritual important in Tiantai. There is form, very important in Pure Land schools.

Read the records carefully: every single Buddhist engaged in some form of ritual, including Huangbo, who was famous for prostrating like a mofo; Bodhidharma was seen doing nianfo.

They didn't say: "you must do prostrations" or "you must do nianfo". But they did it.

They knew a ritual by itself does nothing. That's not the point. It's not something that "does" anything. Bodhidharma explains what real Buddha-invocation is in his sermon.

Once a young novice saw Huang Bo prostrating in front of a Buddha statue at a monastery. So he asked the master:
"Not to cling to the Buddha, not to cling to the Dharma, not to cling to the Sangha; may I know what is the master praying to?"
"Praying to such teachings of non-clinging" was the reply.

Buddhism addresses all sorts of sentient beings. For a farmer the only way "Buddha" exists is in the golden statue. So the golden statue is the only way the Absolute can reach to the farmer's consciousness.

The Buddha's main teaching was not the non-duality stuff. He said he teaches dukkha and cessation thereof first and foremost. Why is this? It's because "dukkha" is an experience we all share (unlike mystical experience reserved only for the few).

"Dukkha" is not the goal; the goal is sukkha - cessation of dukkha, the pure, permanent, blissful Nirvana.

But we start with what we have.

Methexis, not to answer this for anyone else, but in the Lanka, I believe, the question arises of whether error is permanent, and Buddha replies that it is not. That which is right is infinite, and free from perishing, but error does not enjoy the same characteristic. Thus I for one do not believe in inherent or absolute evil, since evil is an obscuration, and as Buddha said (in the dhammapada), not all the darkness in the world can dispell the light of a single candle.

To carry this hypothesis forward, evil only exists in the mind stream of appearances; but good does not exist in function of evil, nor is it dependent upon any condition, and is not arising from samsara, but of the eternal unborn, undying Nirvana which is the Buddha Mind. The scriptures state it is merely enough to recognize Mara to dispell the evil one's power. Dwelling in the Buddha mind, there is no evil which can be recognized, because it is free of all discrimination; thus dualistic perceptions of good and evil do not apply.

In the temporal realms, though an icchantika may sink to a lower incarnation, if but one hair on the head is good, it is sufficient to be reborn after the hells to a higher existence; but this one hair is not enough to save the icchantika from sinking, and this is the great sorrow of evil. Compassion is merited for those who choose an evil path. Even so, it is important to not keep company with icchantikas, but to remain in the company of those who embody at least some of the paramitas.

To put this another way, answering more from intuition than scripture; I do not think the vibration of evil can exist at the level of the absolute. Such obscurations would be shattered and obliterated, and for this reason, the atman (self) must be reborn to provide an opportunity to become attune to the song of the Buddhas, to purify itself, and to shed the obscurations that would lead to total anhilation in the presence of the pure and absolute Buddha mind. This very fear is what keeps humans in samsara. The atman is not inherently evil, but a manifestation of Buddha mind; however its seeds of habit energy, still present in consciousness, prevent the atman's approximation to nirvana, and these first must be extinguished for the mind to cease producing evil or karma of any kind.

If something must be done, do it!

Ritual and form in Buddhism is bollocks. The reason why we have such things is very simple: the sangha likes it and it makes people feel, at a psychophysical level, that they are participating in something grand and anti-mundane. It maintains the illusion that wisdom is found in idols. What pure tripe. I've never been to a Zen center; I have no teacher; no one holds the key to my inner realizations and I will lay a trip on no one and no one will lay a trip on me. It is not for anyone else to decide what makes sense for me at a spiritual level. Buddhism is not some "thing", a mere appearance of mind. It is the shattering of those things. This clinging to external authority to know our Consciousness is the great deception. The Buddha I realize through intuitive and continuous study of the teachings would condemn such obeissance to form. Buddha nature has no doctrine.

Consciousness is continually available to the seeker, has never been unavailable, and adheres to no doctrine, ritual or belief. It is a birthtight of ultimate meaning. There is no school of Consciousness. Consciousness is the school! Intuitively, we can realize that even death does not extinguish Consciousness, once we awaken to its meaning.

It is this eternal, unborn awareness, not "Buddhism", not method, not skill, not practice, not belief, not creed, not doing, not sitting, which liberates us from the primordial fear of non-existence and the vague stress and unhappiness which permeates samsara. Yet the doing is not meaningless; I feel this is a great danger in Buddhism, the danger of grim and effortless nihilism. The notion that , well this is all mindstream so I'll sit around and wait to die. Life is not a transit lounge in the ultimate meaning of existence.

The doing too is everything, right here and now, with the diamond caveat that eternal Consciousness must first be recognized, and continually re-recognized, and plumbed for it endless mysteries. At that realization, which is intuitive and animative, and not dry, academic, or conceptual, life discovers meaning and total joy, the joy of purpose, the joy of knowing we are getting somewhere through this sexy, vicious, weird carpet ride through samsara. Consciousnes does not provide meaning. Consciousness is the meaning.

Buddhism for me is about getting in touch with that through the endless stream of physical reality by which the Consciousness can get it touch with itself. It is how the consciousness feels and it is overlooked that this is not some random transit lounge in existence, unreal though it may be. That is why we incarnate. This is the wherefore of glandular, fleshy, cringing life. Living form is not some random fart of the universe but a purposeful sacred thing.

It is vitally relevant that we use the psychophysical experience and take our cues from what is around us because everywhere there is Mind and mind is purposeful when it takes incarnation. Shattering of the illusion of form is awareness of the Consciousness which gives rise to the experiences we relate to as beings. The experience is the purpose of life. What will we make of it? What lessons will we take from it? It is not for anyone else to determine this for us; this is the role and sacred right of unborn consciousness and no one is denied.

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