As a Gnostic/Stoic person who believes in the spirit, I would have to say most of Buddhism teachings are something which appeal to me quite a bit as they require a person to look in vs looking out. Buddha’s teachings are aimed at integral development; they seek to free the mind, body and soul. Note how they do not seek to free the spirit, for the spirit is eternal, and although often confuse with the soul, they are not one or the same; I will expand on this at another time.
Many approach Buddhism the way one would approach a dogmatic religion; however, Buddhism was never meant to be a religion but a philosophy of life. Buddhism like Gnosticism focuses on each individual’s personal journey and the wisdom therefore gathered. I am writing this article from a philosophical perspective, which means I am not debating Buddhism’s origins or history.
Siddhartha Gautama; better know as Buddha was born in India, 2500 years ago. He was born into a Royal Family and was given everything a prince would desire; a life full of privilege where his every desire was to be met. However, at the age of 29, he left his palace; this event would alter the rest of his life. For the first time in his life, he got the opportunity to see an ill person, an old person and a death person; witnessing this was an awakening, as it dawn on him that every person; despite where they come from, who they think they are or where they think they are going; will experience illness, ageing and death. Although he learned all aesthetic techniques (a set of principles which guide a person or movement) for self control and looking in, these were not enough for him; as such he decided to sit under a Bodhi tree and commit himself to remain there, pondering on life and all he had learned until he was to become illuminated. It is interesting to note that he understood how learning something or memorizing it does not mean one has understood the concept at hand. Understanding requires one to assimilate what was learned, afterwards understanding plus experience gives rise to wisdom.
It was not until the age of 35 when he felt he had discovered the fundamental keys to life. He came to understand God (the primordial force) is based on cause and effect. This means a person who behaves according to his concepts and values will activate Dharma which means the Universe will react accordingly. As such if someone’s concepts and values are detrimental to his own well being, the reaction will be a negative (which activates Karma). On the other hand, if the individual’s concepts and values are guided towards self healing and self development then the Universe will respond positively; providing better opportunities and better experiences as part of life. To clarify, Dharma once activated will take place sooner or later; what this means for those whose will was violated and abused imposed, is that sooner or later life will balance itself out.
Dharma works a little bit differently on adults than it does on young people; because young people lack the ability to fully discern right from wrong; when their will is violated, it is a violation of the primordial laws which will not go without consequence to the person who committed the act or to his lineage. In adults however, it reacts the same but we perceive it differently. For example; if you were a victim of abuse, Dharma will activate Karma for the person who committed the transgression on your soul; however, if as an adult you keep choosing to remain in the victim seat, then you will continue to experience “negative” events as a result of your “conscious” choosing to remain stagnant. Another example when it comes to adults: If something you consider negative happens to you and life doesn’t “punish” the person whom you feel transgressed by, then usually this means Life chose the event to take place (this is where divine will comes into place and where real faith should be exercised). The event may have taken place as a result of your own principles (perhaps they were not good principles, perhaps you weren’t living by your own principles or you violated them, or maybe you violated the principles and rights of the person you feel did you wrong) as such life simply evened itself out–therefore no matter how much you may wait for punishment to take place, none will–for you are choosing not to acknowledge your own responsibility. Dharma then forces us to LOOK IN and acknowledge what we have done and why. Please do not look at any of these as dogma but as basic science “Action=Reaction”.
Buddhism teaches self resilience; most who originally followed Buddhism lived in countries where scarcity was the norm, as such they were force to adapt to their surroundings; developing great balance internally. Their way of living is a great example of how the external has no power over the internal; this means while the world can be in a catastrophic state, the individual has found himself within; his personal world cannot be touched nor altered by events happening outside. This is beautiful and something we all need to continue developing, for it puts the power to create a fulfilling, peaceful life back in our hands.
So how does one get to that state of consciousness? According to Buddha, there are 4 truths which constitute the introspective science of being and which can be transcended through exactly that… introspection.
- DUKKA–The truth about suffering: Buddha’s supreme teaching is born out of the concept that old age, illness and death are forms of pure suffering. They are the union with the unpleasant. They are the separation from the pleasant; when not obtaining that which we desire or crave, we classified it as torments to our minds which leads to the disruption of our inner peace.
- SAMUDAYA–The origin of suffering: According to Buddha we suffer because of our desires. He was not referring to desires which helps us in our self development but desires born from a place of need and greed. According to Buddha, instant gratification, desire for revenge instead of seeking justice, and the amassing of more than what is needed, are the fastest ways to disconnect from our centers and for the activating of Karma.
- NIRODHA–The cessation of desire: How can we let go of suffering? By changing our desires. When one’s demands are based on urgency, hate, spite, then one activates Karma. When one wishes come from a place of sobriety; a place of thoughtfulness, justice, kindness, gratefulness then one activates Dharma. This means we need to learn to focus on what we have, who we are and whom we would like to become (personal growth) instead of focusing on that which we don’t have or focusing on envy or a desire to trigger others.
- MAGGA–The truth of the trail: It bases itself in the correct channeling of eight vital areas: Subsistence, attention, concentration, effort, perspective, intention, word and action. In this way we become the main subject where alchemy can occur, reducing our suffering and therefore getting closer to Nirvana; a soul’s state of liberation and illumination.
As you can see Buddha’s way provides a set of tools and rituals to help us transcend pain and suffering; not by denying them but by working on them and transmuting them. Buddha’s teachings are not only found within Buddhism but throughout history, different lineages and cultures. If we look at all great thinkers and their blueprints for life and how they approach it, we can easily see Buddha’s concepts being applied. This is not surprising as Buddha did not create the concepts or tools he taught; he simply had access to them through the process of illumination which is something we can all have access to if we work on ourselves. Such state of illumination is what is called by some the Buddha spirit while others call it the Christ spirit. According to Buddhism, Kabballah, Gnosticism, Stoicism–Buddha or Christ spirit–is not a person but a state of being.
Now let me point out a few more teachings which are similar and were taught by different mentors.
- DUALITY–Pain & Pleasure: A Vietnamese Master pointed out how natural it was to question the saying “Suffering is a noble truth”. These saying which is similar to some of Christ’s sayings, is often misunderstood. People are taught they should be glad they suffer because it means one will get a reward in some mythological heaven. However; Buddhism as well as Gnosticism and Stoicism, teach us the actual meaning of such saying…. Buddha wasn’t trying to teach us to be happy about suffering or that we are special if we simply accept others to whip us, forcing us to lower our heads. What the saying was referring to, was the ability to sit with our pain from a detached space; not to ran away from it, not to superficially accept it as a command from God but to sit with it, to listen to it, to learn from it, to walk with it, until we are able to identify what it is that needs to be done in order to heal and to build a better self because of it. Therefore, as a mentor pain is a noble guide and one of the best teachers; if channeled properly; for it leads us to alchemy. Another way of looking at it, is this: When we like something we experience momentary elation, when we don’t like something we tend to ran away by labeling it as “negative”; as such we experience constant dissatisfaction, for neither pain nor pleasure are permanent states and both should be accepted and felt in order to obtain balance. Pain in Buddhism is seen as part of Dharma and isn’t feared for it helps us to grow. Suffering on the other hand (which is a state imposed on ourselves by our desire to remain stagnant) is part of Karma, it is not going to teach us anything and it erodes at our self esteem. Pain is a natural part of life, while suffering is a state created by our own mind due to unresolved wounds, traumas or unhealthy desires. Once we embrace pain and work through it, we release the hold suffering has on us. What do you think is best: temporary pain or permanent suffering? The pain of working on your self development will liberate you from the suffering you hide. Running away pretending all is okay, will only perpetuate suffering until your mind or body will feel exhausted and the ramifications of hiding it will manifest in worst ways.
- THE NURTURING OF THE SOUL: An Indian Master taught that to obsess with a temporal desire is the perfect recipe to feed the false ego which likes to coagulate or slow our healthy mind; as such it takes away one of the tools provided by life (clear cognitive thinking) which is there to help us transcend the illusion we live in. To complain about life, to hate others and hold resentment because we did not get our way, is to chew the food the false ego needs. In ruminating about how life didn’t unfold the way we would have liked it to, we are chewing, swallowing, vomiting and chewing it again; a cycle which is detrimental to our lives. On top of it, if we choose to ran from our “demons” but also like to cite our “believe” in God or believe we follow “God” when our actions say otherwise, then we are simply killing the real self and giving room for the mask or false ego to take its place; as the false ego loves the idea of duality. Hence the ancient elders used to warn people to be careful to believe oneself a follower of God while hating or secretly hurting your neighbor. According to them, every time a person like that mediates or prays, that person is kneeling before a false master. A master who likes to enslave; which for that moment will leave you feeling as if you are righteous, but it knows it has control over you because it knows the truth of your actions. As such Christ tried to teach us to stop praying to a false God, for that is what happens when one can’t confront the shadow through self responsibility. Just like love needs to be fed in order to remain strong, so does hate.
- EMOTIONAL FLOW: One of the first Masters who opened up Tibetan Buddhism to the west, said: To understand the truth about hate and suffering is to understand the neurosis of the mind; therefore letting go of toxic attachments and starting the process of flowing with life. When it comes to hate and suffering, our less develop brain (our brain develops through the process of walking through our pain not by thinking on unicorns and rainbows) behaves like a monkey on steroids; always seeking external stimuli. To learn to flow doesn’t mean to simply let life happen and do nothing–that was never the intention of the lesson yet somehow many have misunderstood it and think flowing means accepting everything including suffering. The art of flowing has to be learned and experienced in steps, until we learn to flow using our mind, heart and body–none of those can be negated. How do we learn to flow correctly? By addressing our emotions, by not accepting the label society has on pain as something to ran away from. You don’t want false healing, you want real healing. In this world as humans we have two main choices: “Adapt” or “Adjust”. To adapt means one is willing to mediate with our surroundings, with the things we cannot control; when it comes to emotions this means we are willing to acknowledge them and to learn from them. New Age false positivism seeks to “adjust”, a process far more difficult and unrealistic as it implies to put one’s responsibility on the external. It means falsely creating a new world while denying reality. When it comes to emotions, this means to suppress, to deny; in other words to live in delusion; thinking that by repeating nice words one will transmute the unpleasant emotions which are there to help us grow. It’s like asking a baby to ran when he hasn’t grown, built the strength nor the cognitive skills to do so. Let me reiterate, walking through pain isn’t the same as remaining stuck in suffering. Similarly, repeating a bunch of niceties isn’t the same as healing or illumination.
As you can see by now, Stoicism isn’t that different than Gnosticism or Buddhism. They are all expressing the same thing. We need to learn to sit with our emotions; its about walking the path vs talking about the path. That way we learn to master the art of knowing when something requires our attention, our action, or when it is there just for us to contemplate. None of these disciplines teach us to simply embrace one of the tree responses; for in life all 3 are required. It comes down to knowing when to use them, how to use them, and more importantly motivation.
Perhaps now you can understand Buddhism a little bit more clearly. It isn’t about allowing transgressions to take place and do nothing; just like stoicism isn’t simply about detachment, cold thinking and action; those conclusions are what someone believes when such person has not understood these philosophies properly–it’s all about learning balance. Balance is what we will need to walk through the illusion of separation between light and darkness; labeling them as separate, as good and bad. In reality they are one but we experience them as separate; both are very much needed, for one cannot exist without the other and neither is good or bad…they are what we make of them.
“Life is about balance. Be kind but don’t let people abuse you. Trust but don’t get deceived. Be content but never stop improving yourself”