To see the Buddha “as he really is” we should explore some of the major episodes in his many lives and appreciate how Buddhist mythology, cosmology, and rituals, relate to one another. We’ll be less likely to view these doctrines as “popular Buddhism” – degeneration from reason (philosophy) to religion (mythology). The teachings of the Buddha are about liberation not affiliation. Their truth isn’t a matter of historical/factual correctness – it’s a matter of the presence or absence of suffering when we internalise the message and strive to live up to it.
Although Theravada claims to be the most orthodox Buddhist tradition, modernists within that tradition have promoted vipassana or insight meditation as the Buddha’s unique meditation practice. In the Pali Canon, however, insight generally comes after mastery of the jhanas. Modern understandings of the word “vipassana” appear to differ from the understanding of the Early Buddhists who transmitted the Sutta Pitaka.
It’s not uncommon for Buddhists to feel like their practice has stalled. Concentration wavers, awareness is lost, doubts arise, and the Buddha’s supreme freedom from samsara seems hopelessly unattainable. It can be an especially trying time if you’re a solitary practitioner lacking the guidance of a skilled meditation teacher. But it’s also an opportunity to straighten your views and re-affirm your refuge in the Triple Gem.
Newcomers to Buddhism are frequently told that Buddhism isn’t a religion. However, one must employ a very narrow misunderstanding of the word religion in order to exclude Buddhism. Ancient Buddhist doctrine is suggestive of a polytheistic religion. Deities and devotional rites remain an important fact of Buddhist life as far as many practitioners in the heartlands of modern day Asia are concerned…
One might reasonably expect the long history of scholarly endeavours to have shed some light on the Buddha’s life and teachings. Unfortunately, the evidence such as it exists is inconclusive and liable to provoke scepticism and hostility even among Buddhists. The historical Buddha remains an enigmatic figure and it raises a number of questions that need untangling and addressing…
I don’t always agree with self-declared “ex-Buddhist” Eisel Mazard, nevertheless I do count him among the people who have assisted my own developing understanding of the religion. While giving a very brief description of the “fundamental flaw” Mazard sees in Buddhism I also recommend watching the embedded video to hear it straight from the horses mouth…
Buddhism is less about following rules and more about abandoning self-serving narratives. The Precept, “I resolve not to kill but to cherish all life”, must be understood on three levels – fundamentally as an exercise in mindfulness; flexibly as a guide to ethical living; ultimately as a meditation on selfless interdependence.
Does Buddhism have a future? Buddhism will almost certainly continue to diversify as practitioners adapt themselves to the current harsh realities of globalisation. The issues of Rationalism, Consumerism, and Activism, are especially liable to influence future perceptions of the religion. Whether or not Buddhism remains relevant beyond the 21st century, or is viewed increasingly as anachronistic, will depend largely upon the various Buddhist schools all being much clearer on what the foundational teachings actually are…
The fundamentals of existence are visible form or corporeality (Rupa); feelings of pleasure, pain or indifference (Vedana); names, allusions or perceptions (Sanna); conditioned mental formulations (Sankhara); and cogniscance, consciousness, or awareness (Vinnana). According to the Buddha, these five ‘aggregates’ are impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha) and not-self (anatta), and that is how we should contemplate them.