By Jagath Asoka –
According to Sigmund Freud, God is an illusion—a maya—and is based on our infantile need for a powerful father figure; furthermore, according to Freud, religion was necessary at the early stages of development of human beings and our civilization, and helped us restrain our violent impulses, but now we can set aside religion in favor of reason and science. I do not think that science is going to supplant religion, at least, in the near future. Freud’s ideas of religion resemble what the Buddha had said some 2500 years before Freud: “Once you reach your destination at the far shore, do you pick up the ferryboat and carry it with you?” Buddhism was my ferryboat, but not anymore.
According to both Freud and Carl Jung, a complex is a pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes in the personal unconscious, organized around a common theme. Here is an example of a complex: Let’s say that when you were a child, you fell down from your balcony and broke your arm; so you had your arm amputated and lived without an arm for two years; then the scientists were able to figure out a way to transplant arms, and now you have a real arm, and no trace of any handicap at all; however, now you have certain memories, emotions, fears, bitterness, anger centering on that one tragic incident of your life. If Freud and Jung were alive, they would say that you have a complex about your arm if these recurring thoughts trouble you or make you angry when people talk about balconies and arms. You know that you have a complex when you cannot tolerate what others have to say; you know that you have a complex when you react to other peoples’ ideas like an ape that has eaten hot peppers. Mother Complex is ubiquitous. Buddhism has become a complex, and has turned some people into neurotics. If you do not believe me, just observe the BBS members. Of course, the Buddha is not responsible for this phenomenon, and what he taught has nothing to do with this phenomenon. These are just Buddhist freaks and fanatics, and they are a dime a dozen in Sri Lanka, from top to bottom, from our president to our prisoners.
Most people cannot take criticism of their own religion—if you don’t believe me, read the virulent, asinine, and malicious comments made by some people when I talk about Buddhism. Even though I keep saying that I respect—and even venerate the Buddha and his teachings and struggle daily in my own life to live according to the teachings of the Buddha, but I am totally against the way people practice and proselytize Buddhism—but still some people make some asinine remarks about my attitude towards Buddhism. People who call themselves Buddhists often ridicule and denigrate other religions because they are ignorant and do not know anything either about science or religion, let alone about their own religion. What has happened to “tolerance” that the Buddha talked about, and the Emperor Asoka tried to promulgate?
As I said, I can keep writing about religion until the cows come home. Please have a sense of humor when you read my articles. Sometimes, I say things to gather empirical evidence to concretize my thoughts, and I have not failed so far. I will let you know a little secret: When I was a kid—and even now—I always used win when I tossed a coin. Here is what I would say: “Heads I win; tails you lose.” Now, most people know this trick, but when I was a kid, I always won; even now, I win because most people do not have a clue. Often, I feel sorry; so sometimes I try to explain how I deceive them; still, some people do not get it. Sometimes, I am doing the same thing with my writings, and some people will never get what I am saying, and it has been a constant theme in my life: writing has become my bane as well as my boon. A writer is a bane to his family and friends. Perhaps your family and friends will also become the beneficiaries of your boon; but everybody who is connected to you will always get a part of your bane.
The ultimate challenge in Buddhism is to leave Buddhism as well; be detached even from Buddhism because it will eventually become a raft, if you keep practicing it properly. As the Buddha had said, “Monks, I will teach you the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto.”
Buddhism enjoys its current status because of Emperor Asoka; Emperor Asoka played the same role in Buddhism, the role that Apostle Paul played in Christianity. But there is a big difference between these two figures. Saul was just persecuting Christians before he became Paul and a Christian; Asoka is similar to Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. As far as killing is concerned, Asoka probably killed a similar percentage of the world population during his time, like Hitler, but then he became Dharmasoka. Do you think that you would treat Hitler the same way that you threat Asoka, had Hitler become a Buddhist and achieved nirvana? Buddhists talk about karma, but what happens to you when you achieve nirvana; everything is wiped out as in the case of Angulimala? Buddhists ridicule the idea of confession in Christianity, but what will happen to a Buddhist if nirvana is achieved?
We are told that the Buddha had teachers: Alara Kalama and Uddaka. We also know that Vedas, Brahmana, and Upanisad are the literature of Brahmanism, which is called Hinduism now. Buddhism is based on Brahmanism just like Christianity is based on Judaism. The twist in Buddhism is the “attainment of the sphere of nothingness and the sphere of neither cognition-nor non-cognition.” Moksha in Brahmanism is similar to nirvana in Buddhism: In eschatological sense, Moksha is liberation or release; liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. “Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants,” is a metaphor with a contemporary interpretation meaning “one who discovers by building on previous discoveries.” Isaac Newton said the same thing, and it applies to the Buddha and Einstein as well, because they both had teachers.
I think Buddhists have a better understanding of the illusory nature of consciousness. This is what I have learnt from Kalakarama Sutra: If you have seen the miraculous performances of this magician and his magic—our consciousness—and understand the secrets of this magician, this magic show is not a big surprise. The tricks of our mind such as fear, jealousy, hatred, malice, desires, and lust can no longer capture, transfix, or deceive you. Your actions and deportment are not dictated by these illusions, generated by your consciousness. You know that they are meaningless. Most Buddhists talk about Buddhism with blind admiration, with their asinine remarks and myopic proseytization: Truly, a strange admixture of tragedy and comedy. I was in that same place, especially when I was a Child. To borrow from the Bible: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Probably, all of us, regardless of our religion and belief in God or gods, must learn how to practice this “total detachment” from the Buddha. If you do not practice Buddhism properly and are attached to Buddhism, you will become a neurotic, and you will end up having a complex about Buddhism. I see this with my colleagues who are blinded by Buddhism. As you can see, I like to borrow from everyone, including Kalakarama sutra and Corinthians, from every religion, and that makes me a wealthy person. Borrowing makes you richer; if you don’t believe me, ask Donald Trump; but when you borrow you must do two things. You must pay back with proper interest; you must generate your own wealth and lend it to others. All of us are borrowing everything, not just the money. Even our life, we have borrowed it from our parents, and raising our children better than our parents raised us is what we need to do. That is our tribute to our own parents.
Most people cannot stomach what I have to say because I look at things that are not supposed to look at; I ask questions that are not supposed to ask; I am blunt, but sincere; I do not have an agenda; I am not trying to become an ambassador or a professional journalist; curry favoring is not one of my activities; my writing is my bliss. I will never enter politics, because I do not have this desire to control others. I will never be a manager because I hate managing; but I will lead, if necessary, and leave the management to others who want to manage; we need everyone: politicians, custodians, writers, ambassadors, managers, teachers, etc. Writing is both my vocation and avocation; I never planned to be a writer; it was a fortuitous change in my life. I think the bliss—Ananda—that the Buddha talked about can be found not only in our jobs but also in sports. When you find Anada you are in Nandawathi (the realm of joy). Once you find your Nandawathi, there is your nirvana.
“Jack of all trades, but Master of none” is my own description of myself. It is not an accolade or an honorary title. I have a bird’s eye view of life, in general; and microscopic view in certain areas of life. I do not have to read all the books that people have written on Buddhism or memorize Buddha’s Sutras verbatim; after all, no one can reproduce Buddha’s teachings with absolute certitude, and we cannot resurrect the Buddha or clone him. I have a bird’s eye view of Buddhism that I have gain by reflecting and observing myself, my actions, thoughts, desires, fears, hatred, lust, love, malice, ignorance, and stupidity; however, I think we must let our children enjoy this magic show, and we must not spoil it for them; once they have lived a full life, I am certain, most of them would become true Buddhists. We must let our children believe in Santa Claus and see the magic show. They do not need to know about the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path in their childhood. Now, most of my colleagues who are beyond their forties are practicing Buddhism as they did it in their childhoods; I have grown up and left my childhood, but I have to watch my colleagues behaving like children when they prattle and practice Buddhism. I used to get mad at them, and then I used to laugh at them, but not anymore. I have accepted them with their childish babble and antics: Now, it is very easy to relate to everyone and be around them. But I do not want to spend too much time with them because I know that if I were to spend too much time with my colleagues, I will find my own Kanthaka, cross the Hudson river, shave my head, and live in a cave; but I do not have that luxury, because my son is not Rahula, and I am not Siddhartha; I have to raise him, and I do not have a throng of retinues. So, instead, I live a life of a happy troglodyte, play tennis, play with my son, read books, and write. A neurotic or someone who is insane can never be happy by living his or her life as a troglodyte, playing tennis, reading books, writing articles, and playing with his son or daughter.
All work and no play can make Jagath a dull boy, so let’s have some fun with pun. I can talk about Buddhism or science using the Sinhalese names that I know. Sinhalese is the language of my heart. If you understand Buddhism and live according to Buddhism you will find Ananda (bliss); when you find Ananda, you will be in Nandawathi (Realm of Joy); Nandawathi is like Thusitha, where redolent Jasmine flowers do not wither, and where you live with Asoka (without sorrow) and with Darshanamali (a flowery vision).
We must see limitations of any affirmation or negation, including Buddhism. Dissent without malice is the life blood of any relationship. I have seen this show so well, so I am going to miss the show that most of you are watching now with alacrity. As far as God or gods are concerned, take a step towards gods, and they will take ten towards you. Enthusiasm (“en,” “theos”) means “filled with god”. So be enthusiastic about life; all life is filled with enthusiasm, not with sorrow. If you are a Buddhist then you probably know that sorrow is just an illusion of this magic show that we call “our consciousness.” But these illusions can still really hurt you; just remember this analogy: movies are illusions, too, but most people, including myself, cry when they watch sad movies.
Everybody has the potential to be a Buddha, and that is what I meant when I said: All of us are Buddhists after all. Even a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian has this potential. After all, most of us did not choose our own religion, just like we did not choose our own parents, siblings, and names. The idea of God and belief in God is much bigger than the ideas promulgated or generated by any puny human being, including the Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed. In other words, the magic show is much greater and bigger than the magician. If you don’t believe me look at the number of theists in this world, far greater than atheists, apathyist, agnostics, and Buddhists.
Where and what is your bliss? Have you found your Ananda (bliss) and Nanadawahti? I pray that you would not end up becoming a neurotic because of your religious beliefs.