17 01 2012 LESSON 497 Dhammapada
Verse 38 Wisdom Does Not Grow If the Mind Wavers
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One of unsteady mind,
who doesn’t know True Dhamma,
who is of wavering confidence
wisdom fails to win.
From Piya Tan
Season Greetings and Happy Lunar New Year!
Buddhism sets you free
Religion imprisons our minds with beliefs, dogmas, rituals and guilt.
There are also religions that do not or dare not call themselves
religion, understandably. But the demand for unquestioning faith is there
all the same.
Call Buddhism what you like, but there is something about Buddhism that
is truly rewarding if we keep an open mind. No, there is nothing to
believe here. Many find this to be one of the hardest things to do. All
right, we can say that Buddhism does begin with some kind of beliefs,
such as keeping the moral precepts so that our body and speech are in
order for the sake of a harmonious family and society. But these are not
beliefs: they are universal truths that make human communion harmonious
Then there is Buddhist mind-training or meditation, which even other
religions are now adopting. This is because it brings inner peace and
clarity. Ultimately mental stillness has no label. In fact, this is what
the Buddha of early Buddhism is trying to tell us: truth does not belong
to any religion, nor to anyone. It is liberating like the fresh air and
space around us.
There are also Buddhisms that call for mere faith, or some ritual. If
these work for you, use them. At any time, you find that there is
something simpler or better, have the courage to rise to it. Buddhism is
about change, and change is occurring all the time if we carefully
observe ourselves and things around us.
The Buddha’s Buddhism teaches us to keep on letting go of beliefs once we
understand them. It is like learning ABC: we first master them, and then
learn to spell words and make sentences. Then we read interesting books,
and even tell stories to others, and share with them the great wonders of
Early Buddhism is about self-learning. It is like learning to walk: no
one can walk for us. As toddlers, we crawled and tried to stand, we fell,
stood again, and now we are walking effortlessly (until age catches up,
Wisdom comes in a similar way. Our sufferings arose from various
conditions we were not sure about, or we could not prevent them for some
reason. But there is a lot to learn from our sufferings. First, we must
accept that there is really no one to blame, except conditions: no sin,
no fate, no demon, no God, no others. Study the conditions, and
understand them, then we will be able to prevent such sufferings, or at
least lessen their effects.
Religions that demand all kinds of beliefs and rituals are trying to own
us. But such religions are nothing but cunning and desperate people who
are trying to control our minds and use our bodies. If any beliefs do not
benefit us (they usually don’t), we should let them go. If we are not
sure what the beliefs are about, it is not benefitting us. The same with
rituals: they should help bring some peace and wisdom to us. If not, we
do not need to do them.
Beliefs and rituals are often nothing more than public relations and
advertisements that money-priests use to hold their clientele and con the
gullible. A belief often means something we are not sure about, and are
not really helpful. If we care to recall our own past: it is a record of
our abandoning belief after belief. That is how we grow, by shedding the
onion-skins of beliefs when the sting of truth opens our eyes.
The rituals that religious professionals charge us for – such as funerals
– can all be even more meaningfully done by us, our relatives and friends
together. If we truly love the dearly departed, we should give him or her
a truly loving friends’ funeral. True and good rituals are not public
show-offs of guilt or wealth, but a powerful gesture of the heart that
feels for others and a good feeling for ourselves.
When Edward Bernays, the “father of public relations,” made a great
fortune selling his ideas to corporations and politicians, it really
benefitted no one except the corporations and politicians, and Bernays.
People in the US were throwing their hard-earned cash into investments,
making a lot of money, and living like intoxicated hamsters in the cage
of pleasure and plenty. They were all heading for the Great Crash of
1929, the beginning of the 12-year Great Depression. They started blaming
everyone else, except themselves.
Now, the religions are using Bernays’ tricks in making us to feel guilty
and sinful about ourselves as if we are not already suffering enough, and
to desire for things (like heaven) that we do not need. Of course, these
religions claim they have all the answers. But these are answers to
problems that these religions themselves have conjured up.
best where ignorance and the class system prevail. Yet more evil had been
done in the name of religion than much of the rest of history put
together. Religion burdens us with the greatest of sufferings when they
try to define good and evil for us, even against our better judgement and
common sense. The more powerful the religion the greater the
Better than any religion is an open curiosity for the healing truth and
liberating insight; a relentless questioning that only brings joy and
peace of helpful answers that fruit in self-understanding. And the best
person to examine and ask such questions is we ourselves. For, if we do
not think for ourselves, we will lose our minds; if we stop feeling, then
we are dead. The chains are mind-made, only the mind can break them.
Piya Tan ©2012