Pre-2016 post; revised July 18, 2022
1. In 2014, I participated in an online discussion group on “Buddhism” for a few days. A couple of things that struck me were:
- There are a lot of people out there who see that there is something valuable in Buddha Dhamma. But there is a lot of confusion because so many conflicting ideas are brought up and discussed without a conclusion.
- Each person seems to have their version their own “theory” of what Buddha Dhamma is. In many forums, instead of having an honest discussion about what ideas are right and what is wrong, many people use the forums for “entertainment.” It is their “coffee break” to sit around and show off their “knowledge” and “wisdom.” (I must say that I regularly participated in a couple of other discussion groups in 2014 where people seemed to be genuinely interested in having an open exchange of ideas; due to lack of time, I don’t participate in such discussions any more).
2. It is a good idea to first decide what the goal of such a forum is. I think the goal should be to find and confirm the core ideas that the Buddha taught 2500 years ago. Let us eliminate all these different labels, Mahāyāna, Theravada, etc. Since it does not appear to happen any time soon, I have decided to just present what I have found. I call it Buddha Dhamma. And that is what it was called until the term “Buddhism” came into vogue in the 19th century.
3. I have two key points to make:
- We can remove many bad ideas that crept into Dhamma by looking at the historical “evolution” of “Buddhism”; The main problem with the “evolution” of Dhamma is that it is not a germ idea that needs to be nurtured and refined: Buddha Dhamma is the set of ultimate natural laws that a Buddha DISCOVERS. Now, one can be skeptical about that, which is perfectly fine. Confidence in that belief comes from critically examining the evidence, which may come later. But let us make that assumption because that is a key idea in Buddha Dhamma: It is a rare event that a human being can discover the ultimate laws of nature; see “Power of the Human Mind – introduction“, and the follow-up posts.
- Modern science can be another useful tool in finding the truth or fallacy of some concepts involved; the “theories” of science are continually being tested and verified by thousand of independent scientists, so even though they are not infallible, they are better than many speculations by individuals. And there is a key difference between finding nature’s laws via the scientific method and how a Buddha finds them; see “Dhamma and Science – Introduction.”
I will use both these tools in presenting my case.
4. The goal (and the motivation) in finding true Dhamma (or any kind of true salvation for those who believe in any other religion or belief system) is different compared to a philosophical debate. One could “win an argument” in a philosophical debate, especially if “winning” means persuading more people in the audience. One could thus “win a debate,” but deep inside, one knows the argument has flaws. It is like winning a court case and freeing a criminal. The criminal (and may be even the lawyer) knows that he/she committed the crime. Even though the consequences will not be paid in prison, they will be paid according to the Dhamma or nature’s laws.
5. If we can recover those correct laws that the Buddha taught, we can gain the benefits of knowing them and following them. It is not about winning an argument. It is ALL about finding the truth for oneself. If what Buddha said is true, then this world is much more complex than most people think, and there is much more suffering if one does not use the remaining time in this life wisely.
6. Then there is this naive argument: “All religions work for the good of mankind. Do not criticize any religion or sect within Buddhism”. But some of those people also say, “Our sect of Buddhism is the best version because we are so compassionate that we will not attain Enlightenment until EVERYONE is ready.” As we will see below, this oath is against one of the five precepts in Buddha Dhamma, promising not to lie. I will not talk about other religions, but I will point out the flaws in many existing versions of “Buddhism” today because that is the compassionate thing to do.
7. If one is truly compassionate, one should try to find the true Dhamma (because there is only one set of natural laws) and SHARE it with anyone interested. Dhamma is not something that anyone can GIVE to anyone else. Even the Buddha could only teach those who would listen to him. Some people even question the compassion of the Buddha when they hear this story from the Tipiṭaka:
- A butcher named Cundasukara lived right next door to the Jetawanaramaya, where the Buddha resided for a long time. Some may wonder why the Buddha did not try to “save” Cundasukara by teaching him the right path. Bhikkhus could hear the screams of the pigs being slaughtered and asked the Buddha why he would not try to teach Dhamma to Cundasukara. The Buddha told them that Cundasukara would accrue much more bad kamma if he tried to do that. Killing pigs leads to much bad kamma, but unimaginable bad kamma could be accumulated by having hateful thoughts towards a Buddha: see, “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kamma.” One could accumulate more bad kamma by hurting the feelings of a human being than by killing an animal, and hateful thoughts towards a Buddha can be infinitely worse than hurting a normal human being. Therefore, sometimes true compassion can be hidden.
- In my way of thinking, I would not be acting compassionately if I did not point out these flaws in both Mahāyāna and Theravada because I have experienced the benefits of the true and pure Dhamma.
- My goal is not to try to “convert” anyone to anything. The Buddha did not try to convert anybody. It is up to each person to make their own decisions because one is responsible for one’s future, and no one else is. Most of us are lucky to live in societies where we can make our own decisions.
- As I keep emphasizing, Buddha Dhamma describes the ultimate laws of nature. Anyone with any religious background, or an atheist, can follow Dhamma and should be able to see that it does describe the laws of nature. However, it is critical to find the true Dhamma. The only way to do that is to check for consistency at ALL TIMES and to weed out the bad versions.
8. In the following few posts, we will examine the problems in many different versions of Mahāyāna and Theravada. If you see any flaws in my arguments, please send me a comment. It is possible that I could make a mistake, and if so, I will correct them. I hope all those who read these posts will keep an open mind because we all should have the same goal: finding the pure Dhamma that will benefit us all.
- Problems with Mahāyāna and Theravada are discussed in the section “Historical Background.”