Original Article: Golden Lotus Rain (金色莲华雨露) Blog (Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD) Translator’s Note: Buddhism has had to integrate into an essentially Confucian culture in
Daoxin stared at this young Dharma-vessel. Later the boy became his student and eventually inherited the Dharma and became the Fifth Ch’an Patriarch – Hongren. Hongren would eventually choose an illiterate man for his successor, who would become the Sixth Patriarch of Ch’an – Hiuneng. This is a significant statement to humanity, because Hongren had many students who were affluent and well educated.
The Christian monastic tradition, as manifest through Western Christianity, has generally combined a stringent discipline with voluntary poverty and celibacy. The idealised image of the Buddhist monk, as it has entered the Western psyche, is one of a man who has abandoned what is here (real material life), for what is over there (imagined religious realms). Of course, as what is over there, by definition, is never here and now, its presence can never be empirically confirmed. The Buddhist rules followed by monastics and the laity take the place of Christian piety in the West, but are adhered to by most Westerners with a similar fanatic attitude that completely misses the point the rule is assumed to be designed to achieve. The physical practice of Buddhist meditation is of course the act of Christian prayer wrapped in saffron robes. Western converts meditate as if they are praying to a divine being, but with the added titillation that the divine being in question is their own imagined self-essence – or god removed from his heaven and relocated into their own head. Chanting mantras – the holy syllables of the East – replaces the singing of hymns and the chanting of monks, and sutra reading is bible study by other means. Just as god in heaven can never be logically verified, enlightenment in the head can not be seen in the environment or known to exist.
The only reason we take suffering over inspirational thought is because we have been trained to do so by those who would capitalise on our self-imposed limitations.
Theistic religion was once suitable to the emerging intellect of humanity, but is no longer suitable for an advancing species. Modern humanity benefits from science, technology, medicine and the internet, and no amount of praying will save the life of a relative, or produce space travel, or the latest breakthrough in the fight against human disease. The Buddha denied the validity of theistic belief and advocated mental development and discipline (behavioural modification) as a means of over-coming alienation. The Buddha taught non-identification with thought (i.e. non-attachment), and can not be considered ‘idealistic’, and he criticised certain types of materialist thinking prevalent in his day, and can not be called a ‘materialist’. Karl Marx advocated the study of the physical circumstances humanity finds itself within, (i.e. historical materialism), but as he fully acknowledges the existence and functioning of human consciousness, he can not be termed a gross materialist. Marx wrote often about human consciousness, and stated that when consciousness is inverted, (i.e. deluded), it can not perceive things as they actually are, and falls into the error of religiosity. However, as Marx denied the validity of philosophies that limit the interpretation of the world to a set of thoughts, or thought constructs, (i.e. attachment to thought), he can not be called an ‘idealist’, or ‘ideologue’.
For the Buddha, delusion generates itself in cycles of endless repetition. Causes lead to consequences, and this systems appears to transmit itself from one birth to the next. However, this should not be interpreted in a theistic or mystical fashion. Whatever the Buddha is referring to, it can not be obvious reincarnation favoured by certain religious theories, as the Buddha fundamentally rejects such notions in his teachings. Rebirth and karma, as used by the Buddha, appear to be a method of interpretation that avoids the trap of gross materialism, whilst using the rational mind.