The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Meaning of the Buddha: the Dharma Initiative

'Please don't deify false gods'!

This, in response to my recent affirmation of the teachings of the Buddha. I say 'the Buddha', because, like Jesus, who was given the TITLE 'the Christ' ( 'anointed one '), 'the Buddha' is simply 'an awakened one'. Like Jesus the Christ, we have been used to looking at a singular person with that particular title, but as we look at the title of the kings of Egypt, the Pharaoh, or certain of the Roman Emperors who took the title 'Caesar', we see that it was merely a status, achieved, if you will, by whatever means. By dying on the cross, according to Scriptures, Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God, having become the Messiah of Israel. According to certain Scriptures from the Far East, the Buddha was any person who achieved enlightenment to a degree unimaginable. 

Fear is the single biggest issue facing humanity today! Wars are fought because one nation ( or tribe ) fears that if they don't strike first, the other will & they may not have a chance to strike back, especially in the case of nuclear attacks ( WWIII? ). Fear of the Unknown plays a big role in almost every aspect of human life, although it need not. Most people naturally seek protection from those fears through exterior means, whether it means hiring a bodyguard or making a preemptive strike
( act of war ). Of course, fear is not relegated to just war-time scenarios; it is part of our daily lives. Many have learned to control, or at least hide their fear fairly well, but really, when you think about it, Fear is the motive behind much ( if not most ) of what plagues our culture, even what motivates our culture itself. This is to say nothing of the myriad cultures around the world!

Some have questioned whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy, simply a way of life, like true Christianity. Yes, one might say; Buddhism IS a religion, but is that not what true religion is, a way of life, based on a sort of philosophy? When comparing modern Christianity with Buddhism, one might note that they seem almost worlds apart ( which, in fact they ARE-'as far as East is from West' ). When comparing the plain teachings of Jesus with the teachings of the Buddha, whether it be the one we know as Siddhartha Gautama ( Buddha ) or Buddha Shakyamuni ( there ARE others ), however, one may note that, aside from cultural differences, they're saying much the same thing. Much of our problem, here in the West, with failing to note the striking similarities is that, for ages past, we have tended to view the Scriptures as a western, rather than Ancient Near Eastern document!

Part of our problem as well, here in the West, stemming from the one just mentioned, is misinterpretation; misinterpretation has led to the founding of many a doctrine that really should not hold that title. On top of that, we have the differing manuscripts & texts, certain books ( writings ) that never made it into the canon, some that questionably shouldn't have & others that clearly should have. All this, of course, was decided by men, men who had an ulterior motive of one sort or another. ( what's that they say about good intentions? ) When we understand all this, it should not be too hard to differentiate between the true doctrine & what is false, or engineered by men. Even so, we must understand as well the cultural differences. For instance, the cleanliness laws ( 613? ) laid out in the early books of the Bible: some Christians today will fairly consistently follow these laws, as well aspracticing a strict adherence to the Ten Commandment, but the majority of Christians will admit, usually with the exception of the fore-mentioned Ten Commandments, that these laws were for ( ancient ) national Israel. To imagine that they should apply to us in 21st-century America is really quite ridiculous!

The concept of Dharma, which admittedly varies somewhat in meaning in the several ( main ) Eastern religions, is the idea of protection. Because of our fears ( for they are many ), we tend to seek for protection, often, wherever we can find it. Here in the West, we almost habitually look outside ourselves for that protection, while the ( ancient ) Eastern religions looked to the innermost being, not for protection so much as to resolve the heart of the issue, the fear. More & more people here in the West, though, having gotten fed up with the hypocrisies & inadequacies of Western religions, are actively pursuing the Eastern religions in their search for 'God'.

Buddha, in the sense that many or most here in the West think, was not a god, nor did he claim to be!
The fact that he achieved the status that he did ( not unlike Jesus ) speaks volumes about whether he was a god or not: as far as I know, no claim of equality with the Designer of the Universe has ever been made in reference to the Buddha, nor should it, though it should be noted that, as we are, in our innermost being, of the same Essence as the God of the Bible, we are in that sense gods, as even Scripture says ( Psalm 82:6 ). 

The similarities between the teachings of the Buddha & the Christ cannot be denied! Our Western concepts are what stands in the way of our understanding this glorious truth. Returning to the Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek Scriptures as examples of Ancient Near Eastern literature, rather than trying to foist upon them our Western point of view, may be the first step in our journey of awakening, of realizing that, no matter the cultural perception or personal prejudice, we can know the God of Creation outside any religion, though all religions bear the Image!

Charles Haddon Shank

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