I thought that would be a good kick-off for a post so I tried to find that on NPR’s Morning Edition online archive, but alas, nothing.
Did I dream this, with the Indian accent and all? It could be. Anyway, dreams are just another side of reality, so on with my story…
I have long wondered why India never took up Buddhism, the land of its birth. Of course, the same can be asked of Christianity and the Jews. Why didn’t the Jews swap their old paradigm for the newer updated Christian one? History shows me that people trade in their traditional religious model for a new and ‘improved’ one when their own traditional one finally fails to address life as it did previously (1). This is simply a matter of nature filling the vacuum that it so abhors. The Jews and Indians had something that served them well and so they never flocked en masse to the newer religion.
Buddhism, like Christianity, was the contemporary attempt by their originators, Buddha and Christ, to update the religion of their times. Jesus refocused Jewish tradition, casting out the money changers and challenging stuffy hide bound priests. Buddha offered a spiritual practice open to everyone, circumventing the caste system. Essentially, he simplified and democratized the worldview expressed in the Bhagavad Gita. (Jesus did something similar for Judaism I assume.)
However, Buddhism didn’t stick in India, and that NPR comment, whether real or my dream, explains why. He didn’t come with a radically new message; the message was already an integral part of Indian culture. The truth of suffering, Buddha’s First Noble Truth, parallels that NPR comment, “the rich suffer in comfort; the poor suffer without“… everyone suffers. Buddha’s message just places it at the heart of a universal principle…
The First Noble Truth is the existence of sorrow. Birth is sorrowful; growth is sorrowful, decay is sorrowful, and death is sorrowful. Sad it is to be joined with that which we dislike. Sadder still is the separation from that which we love, and painful is the craving for that which cannot be obtained.
I am not a Buddhist, at least not in the religious way.That applies to Taoism too. However, I have verified the science underpinning Buddha’s truths through personal experience — over and over! Buddha was a “rich suffering in comfort” person and sought to find the underlying cause of suffering, or at least find out how to deal with it. The myth of enlightenment (2) is just some icing on the cake of reality, like the myth of Heaven, or indeed, Santa Claus. Such ‘hoodwinks’ of enlightenment, Heaven and the rest, serve a tribal purpose by giving people an ideal to rally around. Of course, that is true of all ideals: artistic, political, personal appearance, etc. We connect through whatever cultural story we share in common (3).
Does this analysis sound cynical? I imagine it could, depending upon whose ears it falls. Fortunately, if you’re reading this far, your ears are probably impartial enough to see that I’m merely seeking to see life from a symptom’s point of view—a simpler point of view. Simply said then, necessity is not only ‘the mother of invention’; it is also the mother of all action. Seeing it from any idealistic point of view just leads me round-n-round in endless circles.
(1) This eventual failure of a current religion to address changing times adequately explains why religions in the developed regions of the world are losing adherents. The harnessing of electricity has changed life in profound and fundamental ways—and this is only the beginning! We have barely stepped into this new electric based life-style. Such a drastic change as this must drive a comparable shift in humanity’s religious paradigms over the coming centuries. See also And Then There Was Fire and The Wealthy Poor.
(3) This explains why people become emotionally unhinged when their story is threatened. The survival instinct kicks in which then kicks out rationality. Perceiving the source of conflict (need and fear) helps me remain impartial and at peace with what is out of my hands to help.