You know ‘eyes are useless when the mind is blind’. In today’s epoch, where ‘opening your mouth before opening the mind’ is so conspicuously normalized, little do we examine the cost and benefits of wisdom against ignorance. I do not think that it is any crime to be ignorant of oneself, which is, after all, a mundane issue and one that most people feel ‘my ignorance is as good as your knowledge’. But it is morally irresponsible to have a loud, incoherent and vociferous opinion against Buddhism while remaining in this state of ignorance.
Do not conspire to ‘agree to disagree’. There has been a slot and also an ongoing plot to horrendously appropriate the image, teachings, features and qualifications of Buddha and Buddhism nevertheless by the Vedic section in our society for all the religious and sociopolitical reasons known.
Truth does not care, but it verily wins. So-called theism like Buddhism is substantially not a substance of organized religion in the first place, yet a philosophy and a coherent mechanism that unexpectedly teaches the significance of self-transformation than self-mortification at the atomistic expense of your own common-sense, which is/was comparatively not the case with my former religion (Hinduism) hitherto.
About 2550 years ago, a rich prince named Siddhartha Gautama of Sakya underwent a period of existential crisis at the age of 29, which eventually gelled him to seek the ‘path of wisdom’ and nonetheless ‘truth’. His findings, of course without a PhD, then, brilliantly made a scientific case of debunking the ingredients of ritualism, animal sacrifices, brahmins, religiosity and infallible Vedas for achieving the state of Nirvana (enlightenment), i.e., Buddhahood.
Nirvana is not to be bemused with Moksha ever, please. He did not claim to be a messenger, avatar, neither promised any visa to ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’. His agnostic and non-Vedic understanding of the nature of reality and mind gave the world a podium to decode and decipher the causes and effects of ‘suffering’, through his eight-noble path.
He decentralized and disseminated his teachings with the help of Sangha, without discriminating anyone on the basis of identity, caste, class, gender and sexuality, and indirectly reforming the arrogance of Brahminism in a parallel universe, and also simplifying the factors of understanding, observing, perceiving, experiencing and achieving Nirvana. ‘Mahaveera’ Jain, the contemporary of Buddha, shared compliments and regards, too.
The portfolio of Buddhism has continued to proliferate across the shores and continents, without the marginal involvement of sword and edicts. The axioms have wildly appealed my common sense to a huge extent, due to which I decided to never die as a Hindu in my life, and, thus, at the age of 29, on 30th of December 2018, I proudly proselytized the objective of Dhamma at Chaitya Bhoomi (Mumbai), after having witnessed incoherence, riddles, casteism and contradictions in Hinduism, so far.
To any sane being with the ‘attitude’ of open ‘aptitude’, Buddhism would naturally appear as his only ‘altitude’. It would have been a gross error if I were to not die as a Buddhist in my life. Especially to incorporate the undertaken volition when India’s landscape is in boiling waters, knowingly, I can never stop being grateful to The Buddha, Ananda, Asoka, Sanghamitta, Buddhamitra, Nagasena, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, Atisa, Bodhidharma, Linji Yixuan, Xuanzang, Dogen Zenji, Nichiren, Anagarika Dharmapala, Iyothee Thass, Dr Ambedkar, S N Goenka, Dipa Ma, Thich Naht Hanh, Pema Chodron, Zenji Nio and many others for their immense contribution, wisdom, thoughts and social action.
Culturally, with volitional regards to ‘religion’, parenting leaves no room and personal space for the post-puberty child to decide the considerable path reasonably for itself. This essence, albeit undemocratic and ‘sanskaari’, goes against the very axioms of liberty, privacy and consent. Article 25 of the Indian Constitution is a rescuer, but sadly, it contradicts with the social realities and thence the contemporariness of lynching, apathy, ostracism and discrimination ‘continues’ to violate the preamble of Indian Constitution even today.
Burnol-moment for the bigots who vehemently fail to muster the courage in referring Buddha’s refutation of casteist system (mentioned in the Majjhima Nikaya discourse) and Vedas (in the Tevijja Sutta); since my proselytization, I feel more welcomed, respected and equal in the Dhamma community. This is the best social philosophy I could ever privilege myself with.
To add to this, the essay ‘Buddha and His Future of Religion’ published in 1950 by Dr Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution, has very much won my mind and heart. The major premises of this essay continue to appear as a ‘standpoint’ of Buddhism, personally for me, and with all due respect, facilitated a contextual role to assist me in embracing Buddhism over other religions.
From simplifying the realities of Buddha dhamma to reasoning over the theses of Buddhism, as usual, Dr Ambedkar has done another splendid work. Other religions, yet organized ones, are the portals of Mokshadatta (only when accepting the idols as Gods) which is not the case in Buddhism (the religion of Margadatta). Thankfully, dhamma is an inside job that can help one internalize without attachment and expectations and frees oneself from the cobweb of matrix and other delusions. That’s the ultimate value of spirituality, anyway.
This is not just my story. About 87% of the Buddhists in India are ex-Hindus who escaped the oppressive, casteist and immobile clutches of Hinduism and other religion, whereas the rest are traditionally Buddhists since ages. The literacy rate (81.2%) of newly converts (and the traditional Buddhists), as per the 2011 Census data, followed by parameters like greater work participation and sex ratio, is incrementally higher than the literacy rate (66.7%) of the SCs belonging to brahminized Hindu community.
On a holistic level, the Census report also states that the literacy rate of Hindu society (73.2%) is lower than the Buddhists’ literacy rate (81.29%). The national average literacy rate stands at 72.98%, which is lower than Buddhists’ literacy rate. These numbers tell that the philosophy of Buddhism does not impede and hamper individuals on the basis of caste, class, identity and gender, and stop them from acquiring education, opportunities and socialization.
Female literacy among Buddhists in India is also considerably higher (74.04%) than the total population average (64.63%), data shows. Only Uttar Pradesh (57.07%) and Karnataka (64.21%) show female literacy rates lower than total population averages, but these are still considerably higher than Scheduled Castes (SCs) in these two states.
Buddhism has literally debrahminized, enriched and enhanced the social and economic status through education—especially of Dalits or newly converts. Their work participation ratio (43.15%) is higher than that of total Scheduled Castes (40.87%) and higher also than the national average (39.79%).
A detailed report (2017) by IndiaSpend also highlighted that Dalit consciousness in India is gradually rising against the apathy of Brahminism and patriarchy and obliges conversion to Buddhism religion for accessing equality, castelessness and social fraternity but at a dwindling rate. Such steps are constitutionally valid, fracturing the fins of an arrogant fish.
A society’s DNA is shaped by empathy, brotherhood and civic sense. Its survival is dependent on the organic and structural development of egalitarian statuses and free/open thinking or else the closedness dehumanizes the spirit of wisdom, religiosity and fraternity. That’s why Buddhism could make it to the 21st century, since 400 BCE, despite experiencing functional violence and conflict from Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Communism. Such a battle is won without brouhaha and vanity. It begets intellectualism and adaptability.
In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, Buddha told Ananda that his followers should not accept his teaching as correct and binding merely because they emanated from him. Being based on reason and experience, the followers were free to modify or even to abandon any of his teachings if it was found that at a given time and in given circumstances, they do not apply.
Ceteris Paribus; on few occasions, Buddha unanswered few questions on the existence of God, the totality of Universe, etc. not because he was not knowing, but he hinted that these queries beget the scope of conformation-bias in the apocryphal minds and very much dawdle the spirit of mindful purposes. What lovely agnosticism!
Also, this is not the actual case with other religions known so far. To which, Dr Ambedkar enunciates “Buddha wanted his religion to remain evergreen and serviceable at all times. That is why he gave liberty to his followers to chip and chop as the necessities of the case required. No other religious teacher has shown such courage. They were afraid of permitting repair, because the liberty to repair may be used to demolish the structure they had reared. Buddha had no such fear. He was sure of his foundation. He knew that even the most violent iconoclast will not be able to destroy the core of his religion.”
Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it; Do not believe in traditions, because they been handed down for many generations; Do not believe in anything, because it is spoken and rumored by many; Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books; But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. – Buddha
The intellectual cocktail that saves one from the cacophonic whirlpool of nihilism, materialism and consumerism is Buddhism. Noises that are psychological, behavioral and physical are regulated well by the theory of emptiness and vipassana when obediently consecrated. I have personally benefitted, incentivizing me to share the welfare of these benefits without expecting anything in return. Other religion, in their own words, do not focus on the point of ‘cognitive empathy’.
Robert Wright’s book ‘Why Buddhism is True’ makes a good case in this context. However, in two years, starting with six members for regular interactions on Buddhism, I have managed to endeavor the teachings of Buddhism philosophy to more than 2000 individuals till date, on my own, without any funding from ISI or CIA. No pun intended.
Followed by the readings of 250+ books in the sphere of Buddhism, I have managed to also disseminate the ancient psychotherapy (Buddhism) to the needy ones and raising their dimensions closer to the status of ‘arahat’. It takes a pinch of salt to make the food tastier and an iota of Buddhism to revolve a human life.
“Do not be dependent on anyone. Work hard for your own salvation” – Buddha