Some have expressed anger, sorrow, pity, or disappointment at my recent paper on yoga. But rather than back down, I will press on, as is my way. I reject all these emotions directed at me; or, rather, I use them as food for further meditations. That is, I reject their intended effects, since I have never been one to be turned by the pity or anger of others; but I feed on the emotional content of the words and air around me, as a tree feeds on sunlight or carbon. Rather than flee from passionate replies, I run toward them, turning their energy to my own uses. Unlike the Buddha, I would embrace all the emotions, even the so-called negative ones, to fuel my enlightenment. Unlike Yoda, I would embrace the dark side, since there is no dark side. All energy can be turned to good use, by any real Yoda or yogi. Again, there is no dark side, there is only a darker or brighter use of energy.
As you can see, this religion is all too familiar. It is in denial against life and against the real world from the first word. It implies that a woman who observes a pure discipline in child-birth will be blessed with a painless birth. Not so. It implies that there is something holy about the right side of the body. Not so. It implies that a holy being could or would want to avoid causing pain or anguish, and that he or she would do this because of pity. Not so. We all feel pain and anguish, and no amount of pity will remove it. A far wiser man from the East, Lao-tze, taught that acceptance of pain and anguish and death was the real transcendence.
All things in Nature bloom and then return from whence they came. This is the fulfillment of their destiny. This reversion is an eternal law. To know it is wisdom.
By that he didn't mean we should have a disregard for those in pain or anguish, or that we shouldn't avoid causing pain when it was unnecessary. He meant we should recognize pain and anguish and even death as gifts from the gods, whoever they are, equal to the gifts of pleasure and contentment. If it were not necessary for the body and mind to feel pain and anguish, Nature would not have included them in our bodies and minds. It seems to me this is the wisdom the Buddha was utterly without his entire life (as we will see below).
Soon after, we find this:
[Says the Buddha, as a child:] This birth is in the condition of a Buddha; after this I have done with renewed birth; now only am I born this once, for the purpose of saving all the world.
Again, very familiar, and very unnatural. Imagine a leaf saying this, or a flower. “I am done with the cycle of Nature! I am done with being composted and reborn into another day under the Sun! I demand to be a leaf forever, undying, and as an eternal leaf, I will save all the world!” We would find our little leaf more than a bit ridiculous. Who is a leaf to tell Nature what he will and will not do? And how can a leaf save all the world? What is more, why does this leaf imagine the world needs saving? No, the Buddha is an awful little brat from his swaddling clothes, and no wise person could listen to his chirping without pain.
The author now tells us:
When Bodhisattva was born, he came to remove the sorrows of all living things.
Thanks, but I am attached to my sorrows and have no desire to give them up. They are the deepest arrows I have in my quiver, and my art would would become impossible without my sorrows. I would sooner be relieved of my joys.
The family's soothsayer then tells the Buddha's father,
One endowed with such transcendent marks must reach the state of Samyak-Sambodhi, or, if he be induced to engage in worldly delights, then he must become a universal monarch; everywhere recognized as the ruler of the great earth, mighty in his righteous government, as a monarch ruling the four empires, uniting under his sway all other rulers.
Save us from New World Orders or Global Governments, whether ruled over by those with transcendent marks or not. But since the Buddha did not choose this “worldly” route, we will pass over that and ask instead what the state of Sambodhi consists of. Sambodhi is universal knowledge and perfect wisdom. Again, somewhat of an overreach for a being born of woman, I would say. If our little leaf wanted to be a god, we would laugh, but when a pretty prince wants to be a god, we do not laugh. Why?
The Buddha's father doubts the godliness of his son, saying that no man has been perfect before, but the Soothsayer corrects him. He tells of other men who came before who reached the state of Sambodhi. So we learn from the author Asvaghosha, speaking through the soothsayer, that previous authors of books were gods: Polosa, who compiled the Sutras; Valmiki, who wrote the Ramayana, and so on. Asvaghosha no doubt hoped the future will deify him in the same way, and some have.
Then came the seer Rishi down from the mountains, like the three wise men, led by the devas or spirits to praise the young prince, and to confirm him. And how did Rishi confirm him: by the webs between his fingers and the “wool-like prominence” between his eyes. This must mean that Ashton Kutcher will soon achieve Sambodhi. We should check the soles of his feet for thousand-rayed wheels.
The Rishi then tells the father:
All flesh submerged in the sea of sorrow; all diseases collected as the bubbling froth; decay and age like the wild billows; death like the engulfing ocean; embarking lightly in the boat of wisdom he will save the world from all these perils, by wisdom stemming back the flood.
The Buddha will save the world from decay and age and death? Anyone who has visited India would not find that wise. They already have over a billion people, many of them living in squalor. Imagine if all the people who have lived in India since the Buddha were still alive. The population would be in the trillions. That is not “wisdom stemming back the flood.” That is pathology causing the flood.
What we have here is not wisdom, it is an author, in his infinite ignorance, second-guessing the mechanisms of Nature, and calling this pity. Call me irreligious, but I prefer Nature to these infantile stories of an unstudied perfection.
The Buddha is then spoiled for many years, as only the son of a monarch could be, with jeweled couches and heavenly songs and other emasculating fripperies. At least Christ was the son of carpenter, and did some work. But the Buddha is a light-footed prince, prancing down lush hallways and partaking of sweetmeats on verandas and so on. Well, everything goes on in this way until the Buddha, now a young man, first sees an aged man. His father had protected him from all sorrow and imperfection up to that time (age 29!), but suddenly the Buddha learns of death. He is sad. Then he learns that he too will die. He is doubly sad. Sometime after, he sees a sick man. He is sad. Then he learns that he too may become sick at any time. He is doubly sad. Then he see a funeral procession, and is sad, etc, etc.
His father gets angry at his drivers, that they allowed his son to see a sick man or an old man. Yes, the father is just as unappealing a character as his son, both of them completely hysterical and spoiled and unnatural. Then Udayi comes to the young Buddha and tells him to cheer up and enjoy life: to enjoy the charms of women and so on. But the Buddha, who cannot abide change, cannot enjoy that which is not eternal. Remember, he has been kept wrapped in plastic for 29 years: how could he know anything of life or feel anything for life? Finally, seeing some ploughmen ploughing the fields, the Buddha is overwhelmed with disgust and has to flee into the wilderness.
I was struck upon reading this passage. I remembered how Van Gogh, seeing people work the fields, was filled with reverence. He thought something like, “How lovely that these people get to work in the field, planting things that will grow, having their hands in the soil, under the watchful eye of the warming Sun. I will paint these people, as a sign of my love for them.” Which feeling is more holy?
If reading chapter one of the life of the Buddha doesn't turn you into an ally of Mara, you aren't reading very closely.
Mara is the king of the world of desire. According to the Buddhist theogony he is the god of sensual love. He holds the world in sin. He was the enemy of Buddha, and endeavored in every way to defeat him. He is also described as the king of death.
Now, you can read that passage with Mara as some kind of Eastern devil or Satan, or you can just take him as the anti-Buddha. Since there is nothing Satanic about sensual love or death, I don't see him as Satanic or evil. We are not told how he “holds the world in sin,” unless sex itself is sinful. But, of course, if the Buddha is successful in banishing death, he must also banish sex. You can't have both. He must banish not only sex, but also children. Immortals have no need of sex or children.
I hope you can see that in this text, the Buddha actually surpasses Jesus in vilifying Nature herself. Not only is sex a sin, death is a sin. That makes Nature, and the cycle of life, a sin. Jesus recommends an ascetic life, like the Buddha, but he never positions himself as the enemy of death or of reproduction or of the cycles of Nature. Jesus damned the poor fruit tree for failing to bear, but the Buddha would praise it for having achieved mukti. The more closely I studied the life of the Buddha, the more I became convinced that Nietzsche was wrong. Buddhism is the stronger poison.
In fact, the reaction to the Buddha's teachings in India in the 4th century BC was very like my reaction in this paper. In the Bhagavadgita, probably written soon after the Buddha's death, we find Krishna telling the young coward Arjuna not to be so concerned with death:
Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die! Neither I, nor you, nor anyone here ever was not or ever will not be. All that lives, lives always.
That may be true, or not, but at least it doesn't stink of poison. It is a breath of fresh air after all the maunderings of the Buddha. We could understand a young soldier being traumatized by the brutalities of war. We understand soldiers returning from battle who question life and the gods, who must work through a depression or undergo a life change. But it is difficult to feel much sympathy for the young Buddha, so traumatized at age 29 by seeing an old man, a sick man, a coffin, and a ploughman, that he must ride his royal stallion into the woods, accompanied by his butler, and seek the company of a bunch of other rich Brahmin too holy and effete to face the real world. There he says his first true words to these Brahmakarins, though he seems to know it not:
Pitiful indeed are such sufferings! and merely in quest of a human or heavenly reward, ever revolving in the cycle of birth or death, how great your sufferings, how small the recompense! Leaving your friends, giving up honorable position; with a firm purpose to obtain the joys of heaven, although you may escape little sorrows, yet in the end involved in great sorrow; promoting the destruction of your outward form, and undergoing every kind of painful penance, and yet seeking to obtain another birth.
And how does the manchild think to better this pitiful plan? He plans to suffer these austerities in order to avoid another birth! Ah, brilliant plan, young Siddhartha. Because you fear death, and find the very idea of it ruins your joy, you seek to have death (or its existential equivalent) now instead. Yes, you seek Nirvana, a thing never before sought by any wise man of India before you. But what is Nirvana? Nirvana is “the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflictive states.” This is achieved when all desire is rooted out. Nirvana is “the unconditioned (asankhata) mind, a mind that has come to a point of perfect lucidity and clarity due to the cessation of the production of volitional formations. Nirvana is deathlessness.”
To my eye, Nirvana appears to be a death wish, suicide without the knife. Notice that the Buddha has defined craving and desire as afflictions. Not just negative cravings or desires, or destructive cravings or desires, but all cravings and desires. A man desiring to kiss his wife: an affliction. A woman desiring to have a child, and to caress that child, and to feed that child: an affliction. A bird enjoying flight: afflicted. A fish craving to eat a fly: afflicted. A dog enjoying a bone: afflicted. A thirsty man drinking from a clear stream: afflicted. Nirvana is not deathlessness, it is lifelessness. Nirvana is not the opposite of death, life is the opposite of death. Life is deathlessness. But the Buddha has fled from life. He cannot abide it.
Beyond that, I have no desire for an “unconditioned mind.” What is wisdom but the conditioning of the mind? A moron has an unconditioned mind: may be quite adept at avoiding most thoughts, may even have reduced cravings or desires. Do I long for the moronic state? No.
Are you quite sure that religion is not a form of induced imbecility? Are you quite that bodhi or amata is not the most successful form of induced imbecility ever known?
Christ advised us to be like children or like the birds of the air, but even the birds and the children are not morons. Nor are they yogis. Children would never think to avoid experiences or desires. Birds would never think to avoid cravings. The whole point of living like birds or babes is to experience the rawness of life, with trust and acceptance, to take Nature as she is, to have no thought of saving the world. . . because you have no thought of “the world.” Could a beast of the field avoid desires? Can we imagine a beast of the field having a negative desire? The beast of the field, like the child, is its desires, and no harm done. Jesus must have meant something like this.
But the Buddha has no such didactic use for children or birds of the air or beasts of the field. What use has one in search of deathlessness for children?
Strong in will! bright in wisdom! firmly fixed in resolve to escape the limits of birth, knowing that in escape from birth there alone is rest, not affected by any desire after heavenly blessedness, the mind set upon the eternal destruction of the bodily form, you are indeed miraculous in appearance, as you are alone in the possession of such a mind.
So said the foremost hermit to Siddhartha, recommending he leave the woods and proceed up the mountain to the Muni, the greatest of the ascetics. And this Muni, of name Arada, what wisdom does he have concerning the road to Nirvana?
The mind quieted and silently at rest, removing desire, and hating vice, all the sorrows of life put away, then there is happiness; and we obtain the enjoyment of the first dhyana.
And then, by squashing that joy, the yogi blots out the first dhyana, and moves to the second. Again a joy is felt, and by refusing that joy, the yogi moves on to the third. Rejecting the third dhyana is the road to the fourth, and the loss of “I” is the road to the fifth. Every advance is a rejection, you see. Bartleby the Scrivener was a natural yogi, “preferring not to.” Nirvana is the saying no to everything.
Although the Buddha found the first hermits ridiculous for their mortifications, what does he do?
With full purpose of heart he set himself to endure mortification, to restrain every bodily passion, and give up thought about sustenance, with purity of heart to observe the fast-rules, which no worldly man can bear; silent and still, lost in thoughtful meditation; and so for six years he continued, each day eating one hemp grain, his bodily form shrunken and attenuated, seeking how to cross the sea of birth and death.
Brilliant. Why not say no to that one hemp grain and have done with it? Why drag out this sad story for six years? Amazingly, the Buddha agreed, and at last he thought: If I am going to eat the one hemp grain, why not have a beautiful girl feed me perfumed rice milk, pouring it into my mouth and all over my naked body? Which he did, being very refreshed. After several rounds of this (we aren't told how many) he was so fat the ground shook as he walked. So he went in search of his special Bodhi tree, where he could sit and be fat and try again to get rid of “I”.
But he couldn't get rid of “I” on his own. He needed to be tempted by the devil first. So Mara arrived and shot arrows past him, and girls jiggled their melons in his face; and then an army of spirits jumped up and down and grimaced and clashed their spears and whatnot. The Buddha ignored it (this was a bit easier because he had his ipod plugged into his ears, but we aren't told that). Actually, I think I could ignore all that with my eyes closed, too. It is pretty easy to ignore arrows flying past you when you can't see them. But it is somewhat harder to ignore arrows when they land in your fat body. My question here is why Mara wasn't a better shot. What kind of a god can't hit a fat man sitting under a tree with his eyes closed? What kind of army stands around shouting and waving their arms? A pretty pathetic army. Even the girls don't do their best. Who can't ignore a girl when he can't see her? But if she grabs your willie, now that's another matter. Mara is about as much a devil as the Buddha is a circus clown.
Still unable to make any progress on his own, the Buddha now goes down to hell, like Dante and Vergil, to see all the sinners swallowing molten brass and swimming in boiling cauldrons and being forced to watch reality TV shows and so on. For someone supposed to be avoiding all thoughts, the Buddha seems to require an awful lot of action going on around him. First an army of devils and hookers, and now a mental walk through the aisles of hell.
From studying the circles of heaven and hell, the Buddha comes to see that “sensation brings desire.” To kill desire, you must kill sensation. Sensation is caused by contact and contact is caused by the six entrances (senses).
Knowledge destroyed, names and things will cease; names and things destroyed, then knowledge perishes; ignorance destroyed, then the constituents of individual life will die; the great Rishi was thus perfected in wisdom.
And there it is, in plain language. Perfect wisdom is all knowledge destroyed. The ultimate religious contradiction, the purest poison. How do you destroy all knowledge?: induced imbecility.
“Forthwith, the Buddha rose from the Bodhi tree full of compassion for all that lived”. . . except those things that insisted on desiring or having knowledge or eating more than one grain of hemp a day. He advanced into the world with the holy intention to excise knowledge and passion from the world, and to tape over the six entrances of every living being (causing terrible worldwide flatulence).
What happiness in all the world is so great as when a loving master meets the unwise; the world with all its occupants, filled with impurity and dire confusion, with heavy grief oppressed, or, in some cases, lighter sorrows, waits deliverance; the lord of men, having escaped by crossing the wide and mournful sea of birth and death, we now entreat to rescue others.
Thanks but no thanks. The Jehovah's witnesses were here this morning and I told them the same thing. I'll wait for the next boat, the one with the maidens in it, and the roast beef. You lords of men and loving masters can go find your unwise elsewhere. Might I suggest the YMCA?
Yes, the Buddha had reached Nirvana, and now had a desire to preach it. “Because he would convert the world he went on toward Benares.” Big contradictions. Having rid himself of all desires, the Buddha desired to preach and proselytize and convert the world to his superior wisdom. And, I suppose, having rid himself of all hunger, he went to Burger King. How can someone who has gone beyond “I” still have a desire or ability to teach? Who is teaching? How can you teach with all your six holes plugged? What are you going to do, tap out the Seven Sutras and Sixteen Sastras with your head on a coconut tree? It would be easier for Helen Keller to follow the plot at IMAX.
Next, the Buddha preaches his “middle way” in Benares, a doctrine that was already cliché in 400 BC. Confucius had already taught it in China and it was over the door of the Temple at Delphi: “Nothing in excess.” It was probably over the door at Lascaux as well, but in buffalo letters. It is not especially deep. Don't eat too much or too little: don't get fat or skinny. Don't get up before you are rested and don't oversleep like a slug. And get out of the tub before your fingers get that wrinkled look!
Of course, the Buddha does have some good advice, like don't concern yourself with money. The premier Eastern mystics of the late 20th century and early 21st, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Deepak Chopra, and Bikram seemed to have missed that day under the banyan tree. Then we get the law wheels: eight right roads and and four great truths:
My true sight greater than the glory of the sun, my equal and unvarying wisdom, vehicle of insight—right words as it were a dwelling-place—wandering through the pleasant groves of right conduct, making a right life my recreation, walking along the right road of proper means, my city of refuge in right recollection, and my sleeping couch right meditation; these are the eight even and level roads by which to avoid the sorrows of birth and death.
So let's count: 1) sight 2 ) wisdom 3) words 4) conduct 5) recreation 6) proper means 7) recollection 8) meditation. That's a lot of stuff to think about for someone who left his “I” back under the Bodhi tree. Can't I just say a holy “no” to all this stuff? Can a yogi with his six entrances taped over have 1) true sight? 2) right words? 3) right recreation? With all your holes blocked, what kind of exercise can you do? 4) right conduct? With your eyes and ears and nose taped over, how do you know if your conduct was proper? You may have passed gas in the presence of the King. How do you know? And now the 4 truths:
Of this wheel the spokes are the rules of pure conduct; equal contemplation, their uniformity of length; firm wisdom is the tire; modesty and thoughtfulness, the rubbers (sockets in the nave in which the axle is fixed); right reflection is the nave; the wheel itself the law of perfect truth; the right truth now has gone forth in the world, not to retire before another teacher.
I wonder if the Buddha could be a little more specific? Nothing there would hold up in court. Nothing there would have impressed my 8th grade teacher, who was used to such wafflings. What conduct, what contemplation, what wisdom, what thoughtfulness? What is right reflection? What is wrong reflection? Apparently the law of perfect truth is just a list of empty platitudes.
You may have noticed that my tone in the paper became lighter as I went. I tried to take the subject seriously, really, but after a couple of chapters, I couldn't hold a straight face any longer. I find all these solemn solicitations to holiness to be absurd. I begin to feel like I am watching an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, starring the Boddhisattva and his wacky companions. I don't know much about the mysteries of life, but I know, from logic101, that the point of life is not to avoid living. I might possibly want to avoid nasty, negative, or unpleasant experiences (then again I may not), but I certainly do not want to avoid all experiences. I may want to avoid gross sex, sexual addiction, profligacy, or incest, but I do not wish to avoid all sex. I may wish to live an upright life, a life of rightness or rectitude or virtue, but I wouldn't dream of thinking that sitting under a banyan tree staring at my own third eye, trying to say no to all thought and desire, was an example of that virtue. Furthermore: why would the Buddha try to transcend Nature, to escape the cycle of birth and death, by sitting under a beautiful tree? The tree should kick him in the tush and tell him to go sit in a plastic cubicle if he doesn't like Nature. If I were that tree, I would drop a heavy branch on his fat head.
I think there is a reason that Buddhism has become popular in the contemporary West, and it isn't because it is an advance over Christianity. It is precisely because it is a further reversion into shallow vanity and a pathological inversion. It is actually an increase in the poison dosage, required by a society that has an ever greater tolerance for poisons like this. It is no coincidence that a society engulfed by a love for plastic in all its forms, from plastic bags to plastic homes to plastic personalities, would also be drawn to Buddhism. As our society as become evermore anti-natural, our religion must be, too. Christianity was already anti-natural to incredible degrees, as Nietzsche has already proved. I am not here to rehabilitate Jesus, mind you. But the Buddha makes Christ look almost pagan. Christ was an incredible man of action compared to the Buddha, with his fits of temper in the marketplace to his healing of lepers to his walking on water. With Christ we get hints of humanity and of a personality. He is surrounded by his Marys and Marthas. But the Buddha is like a machine. His own mother died on the 7th day, and we may assume it was from the chill.
I found myself frightened by the whole tale: not so much that a story like this could be told 2,500 years ago, when I assumed that people were still attached to the Earth (although that, too), but that it could be taken as an example of godliness or holiness. What kind of monsters are inspired by such a story? I cannot fathom reading this and thinking that I wanted to be like the Buddha. I mean, it is hard enough to imagine a sickness of mind so advanced it could lead a man to avoid the sorrows of the world by fleeing into the desert to mortify himself. How can you solve the problem of externally inflicted pain by replacing it with self-inflicted pain? But the Buddha's solution is even more radical than this Eastern holiness that came before him. At least pain is some real sensation: we may imagine that in a diseased mind it is close enough to pleasure to stand for it. But the Buddha does not allow these men, these poor Brahmakarins in the forest, even that consolation. He wants them instead to seek a death-like trance, devoid of all thought, desire, and memory. Is that not more horrible than any pain or sorrow? How can you fear death, and then recommend a near-dead living as the remedy? The fundamental idea, stripped of the religion, is a gross contradiction.
I felt much of this when I first read the story decades ago. Every decade I go back to it, to see if it has taken on a new meaning. And, truth to tell, it always does take on a new meaning. Every decade the story of the Buddha seems more monstrous to me, and more analogous to our current culture. Every decade I see more parallels. I see how incredibly modern the Buddha was in his self-absorption and his monomania and his hysterical inability to cope with the smallest concerns of life and living. I see the Buddha as a lastman, an even more complete specimen than Christ. I see the people around me becoming more zombie-like every decade, mirroring in some ways the zombie state of the Buddha. I see the same weakness in myself, and I see this weakness encouraged and nurtured by the society around me. But as I recognize it in the story of the Buddha, I recognize it in my own self, and I seek to root it out. I have no desire to be desireless. I have no desire to be the Buddha, or Buddha-like. If anything, I seek to be the anti-Buddha. I salute the Moon-devi and Mara himself, who, if he was an enemy of the Buddha, must be worthy of my alliance.
Do not take this as Satanic, by any meaning of the word. I have no use for any of that, either. I only mean that the emotions, all of them, are our constant companions, and I embrace them. Passions are the engine of existence, and I would, if anything, work to increase my passions. I consider myself a bright angel, and for a bright angel there is no dark side. Anger is not dark. Sorrow is not dark. Hatred is not dark. All can be used. All are but various forms of light. Even death is not dark. Krishna was right: if you weren't meant to be here, you wouldn't be here. Those who are born are born for experience, not to avoid experience. If you were meant to avoid experience, you could do that very well in the quiet bosom of God. Because you are here, we must assume that Nature imagined she had some use for you here. You are like the little bird pushed from the nest by its mother, for its own good. If the baby bird sits on the ground refusing to fly, and only meditates on the warmth of its mother's feathers, we do not call that baby bird holy. We call him food for foxes.
*Buddhists will tell me to go to the Tripitaka instead of this "Life", but it would take me my whole life to analyze the Tripitaka like this. I am not here to argue about specifics, I am here to analyze the foundation. If the foundation is rotten, the building cannot be a good one.
If this paper was useful to you in any way, please consider donating a dollar (or more) to the SAVE THE ARTISTS FOUNDATION. This will allow me to continue writing these "unpublishable" things. Don't be confused by paying Melisa Smith--that is just one of my many noms de plume. If you are a Paypal user, there is no fee; so it might be worth your while to become one. Otherwise they will rob us 33 cents for each transaction.