||JUNE 18, 2001
Q. What is enlightenment?
A. Turning on the light. Opening your eyes. OPENING YOUR EYES!
Q. Can a woman become a Buddha?
A. No. A woman cannot become a Buddha. Also, a man cannot become a Buddha. A girl, a boy, a duck or dog etc. cannot become Buddhas. None of them. If any say "I am a woman, man, girl, boy, duck, dog etc.", that self-consciousness, that separation activity, that illusion of separativeness, will be an impenetrable barrier to enlightenment.
Q. Then one must get rid of the barrier?
A. No. That cannot be done. such a self-centered activity would only make it thicker. Try harder? Even thicker! Buddha nature is on both sides of the barrier. In fact, the barrier is Buddha nature.
Q. How should one become a Buddha?
A. One does not have to become a Buddha. It is a waste of time to become a Buddha. You cannot become a Buddha. Right now, there is no Buddha. In fact, there has not been a Buddha for a long time, Minutes, even.
Q. What was the Buddhas greatest sermon?
A. Breathing in and out.
Q. What is the best practice?
A. Breathing in and out.
Q. When shall I do it?
A. ALL THE TIME!
Q. Please be more specific, but do not destroy the truth in the process.
A. Insulting. However, here it comes. Breathe like the Buddha. His teachings were the short and long of his breath as he spoke. The words were mere noise accompanying the process. Find a sutra, read it out loud. Observe your breathing. Memorize it. Too hard? Then memorize the words of the sutra. Afterwards, recite it out loud. You will breathe like Buddha. Or, actually, the Buddha will be breathing like a Buddha. This is the case for any language in which the sutra is memorized. Do not be confused!
July 5, 2001
Q. What part does the belief in rebirth have in Buddhism?
A. There is more than one answer.
Historically, one finds mention of rebirth constantly. Westerners sometimes like this notion of returning time and again. It's almost romantic to them. This was/is not the case in Asia. Life was hard. Coming back would be coming back to sorrow and difficulty. It would be better to reach Nirvana and not have to come back. That would be good.
In the West, people who play with ideas of rebirth seem to imagine that they were kings, princesses, or someone great. They never think of frogs or toads (being run over on the road), or persons working as slaves. However, aside from that, why do we see it with Buddhism?
Originally, Buddhists were surrounded by those steeped in beliefs or rebirth. People, it seemed, would never let go of that. It had been imposed upon them, as a social control, in the guise of religion. The Hindus built a tight caste system out of it. The layers of that system represented the historical waves of conquest in India, each new ruler being of a higher position and caste. Those who had been conquered repeatedly were at the bottomthey were the original inhabitants, the Dravidians. They worked the hardest, did the worst jobs, and had no respect, and certainly little freedom. Incidentally, they were of the darkest skin color. The higher-up in caste you went, the whiter it gotstraight noses etc.
This was a result of conquests in the plural. However, it was enforced, ingrained, seared into people with the notion of karma. Cause and Effect. You get the consequences of your actions. Not a bad idea, except for its implementation. If you were born white and powerful, you supposedly deserved it, due to actions of a previous life. If you were born poor, an Untouchable, and black, again you supposedly deserved it due to karma. And the only way to get out of this was to die and be reborn to a better life. That is, if you behaved properly in your present caste. There was no upward mobility or changing of caste. A locked system.
We in the West have remnants of this idea (also disguised as religion) left over from the Puritans. "If one is good, God will make one rich. If one is rich, then one must be good, virtuous, better than others (automatically)."
The Brahmins would not touch things that lower castes had touched. "It is not healthy," it was said. And that probably became quite true, the poor getting sick due to spiritual "badness" (or lack of food, etc.) A self-feeding system. This went on for millennia. It was so deep a belief that no one could just say "It is not true." Not even the Buddha.
Every teacher has to teach his pupils at the place where they are. Karma and Rebirth were where they were. In Buddhism, they did away with the caste system, (much to the chagrin of other religions, even today, as Untouchable Hindus became Buddhists). The teaching of karma has points in its favor as long as one only applies it in limited quantities to explain everyday life. It is best applied to oneself (therefore correcting problems in this lifetime). It is worthless applying it to others. "They suffer disease, earthquakes, fires, poverty etc. because of their karma."
That, fundamentally, is very non-Buddhist.
One can see how the sick and poor etc. are blamed for their situation. Welfare is bad. Privilege good. The healthy and rich etc. are lauded for their virtues (inheriting money, inheriting a supportive community with schools and hospitals, inheriting political office, power etc. either through family or schoolmates of the same "fortunate karma".
Social reform slows down or stops if this kind of thinking gets too heavy. That is why, in history, Buddhism had to stress compassion and the ideal of the Bodhisattva "saving all sentient beings". It can be MONSTROUS without that.
Face up to it. Don't look for previous lives. Ultimately, do not look for future lives. Now is Now. Don't postpone your life. You can change your place in society. You can change society. You can stop others' suffering. How? Cause and Effect. What? Yes, cause and effect. But as Shakyamuni Buddha himself said, it is a chain, like a net, a linkage of interdependent causes and effects!
We do it together, only in a BIG WAY.
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