By Jagath Asoka –
Before I write my thoughts on this topic, I want to emphasize that all these articles that I have written are just my opinions that are based on my profound pondering and constant reflections. These conversations and exchange of ideas with my readers have only one purpose: As the Buddha explained, “To liberate my mind from clinging.”
I want all of you to know that I have borrowed the phrase “God Buddha” from Sharmini Serasinghe. Sharmini’s and Tisaranee Gunasekara’s writings concretize one of my long-held thoughts, based on my own experience as a medical/technical writer, over the last thirteen years: I personally think women are better writers than men; since 2001, I have not worked with a male medical/technical writer here in the USA, yet.
The commenters who identify themselves as ”Dude,” “Sirimal,” “Gamini,” and, of course, the others who make cogent and cohesive comments and contributions to this website must contribute their own articles to Colombo Telegraph because all of you are much better than some of the learned and professional writers who appear on this website. I am sorry to say that most of them are boring, but I am happy to say that they have cured my insomnia!
I don’t know about you, but I contribute to Colombo Telegraph because it is banned in Sri Lanka, because Rajapaksas have taken away our precious freedom of expression, and because they have hired sycophants and thugs to kill, harass, and intimidate journalists and dissenters. I sincerely believe that Rajakapsas will stop all these nonsense because if they don’t, they will not survive. They will end up like Prabakaran. It is just a matter of time.
Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka belongs to a different category; I sometimes disagree with Dr. Dayan Jayatillakae, but I admire his cogent and cohesive arguments, analyses, and predictions. I sincerely understand his predicament. So, Dayan, keep entertaining, educating, enlightening, and edifying us with your impartial, erudite, fair, and scholarly articles and analyses, not with their antitheses.
All the idiots, lovers of Rajapaksas, BBS members, and all the other hatemongers, please, please do not change, not even a skosh; live forever as the way you are right now, without changing at all; I need you like the air that I breathe. You, keep me alive and entertain me without respite!
I did not plan to write this article, but I am writing this as a response to some of the comments that I have seen about Buddhism, God, nirvana, and other religions, particularly about “nirvana” and “praying to the Lord Buddha.”
Before I write this article, I need to make a few more comments related to the comments made by “Dude, “Sirimal,” and “Gamini”: Yes, Dude, I agree with your comment: “Sri Lanka is also ready for a Tamil Prime Minister, and Vigneshwaran would do just fine or Sumanthiran.” I also agree with “Sirimal’s” comment where he alludes to the word “praying” that I used in my previous article: “It is not easy to translate the feeling word to word.” Gamini, I agree: Ranil will not steal from us like Rajapaksas.
In this article, I will explain what I meant by “I pray that the Lord Buddha…”
Religion and God are very sensitive subjects; it is like talking about your own mother: only I can criticize my mother, not you. Probably your mother is more attractive, educated, sophisticated, and even richer and sexier than mine, but I still love my mother, not yours. In the preceding two sentences, I just paraphrased one of Gandhi’s favorite aphorisms. I have no intention of telling you the story of Siddhartha to Buddha because all of you know that story. But I do not think that most of you have ever thought that the Buddha has taken the place allocated to God in your own mind. Yes, there is a place allocated, reserved, and spontaneously evoked only for God in the structure of our mind; that place can neither be eliminated, nor produced by force. It is common to all of us, regardless of our religion and faith: Yes, God resides in your mind whether you like to admit it or not. You cannot be a theist, atheist, agnostic, or apathyist, let alone a human being, without God in your conscious and unconscious mind. It is a fact that God resides in our minds, and we need God more than we need anything or anyone else; if you are a Buddhist, you need God more than the Buddha. Most Buddhists gullibly and ostentatiously reject this idea of God because they think that this God belongs only to the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. I think they are not only fooling themselves but also are trying to fool the rest of us: I think everybody needs God, and atheists talk and think about God more than the rest of us. Buddhists are not atheists, and the Buddha’s first two verses in Dhammapada about mind are an allusion to God. The God that I talk about is not the exact and identical God described in the Bible or Koran, but both the Bible and the Koran describe the God that I talk about, using their own jargon, stories, similes, parables, metaphors, symbols, allegories, and miracles: This God is omniscient, omnipotent, and ubiquitous: So, you can definitely find this God in you. If you do not believe me, just reflect and ponder on what I have written; you do not have to tell me the answer because I already know your answer. When it comes to God, you don’t have a choice but to believe in him and pray to him. Please do not criticize me for making God a male figure, and let’s not argue about semantics and rhetoric. You can refer to God as “She,” or make God a unisex or sexless figure. That is your prerogative, but don’t make a sanctimonious and ostentatious display of piety, just keep God where he belongs: in your mind.
I often use some ideas that were presented by Jung and Rudolf Otto when I talk about God, religion, and Numen. The word “Numen” is used to describe the divine power or spirit; a deity, especially one presiding locally or believed to inhabit a particular object, and used by some to describe the power or presence of a divinity. To me, these words, “numen, God, and Buddha” denotes, as well as connotes, ideas, beliefs, and concepts that are similar and not similar at the same time. Of course, I am using the Buddha’s tetralemma here.
When I use the word “numen,” I use it to describe the indescribable presence. I feel this presence, this numen, this holy feeling, whether I am in a dilapidated Buddhist temple in Hiribmuregama, Galle, Sri Lanka ,or when I am in the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, NY. This numinous feeling has nothing to do with religion at all. I am absolutely certain that I will have this spontaneous feeling if I were to enter a mosque or a synagogue; I have felt the same feeling in Hindu temples. This numinous feeling gave birth to all religions. As Heraclitus said, “The best things cannot be told.” So, I would not try to explain this indescribable feeling to you; I can only allude to it. The Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed had an innate ability to spontaneously invoke and evoke this feeling whenever they wished for it, and wherever they were; but most of us cannot do it unless we are in a certain environment. I know that some people can invoke and evoke this feeling when they meditate, pray, utter mantras, listen to chanting like Buddhist Sutras, Catholic hymns, or Sufi whirling, etc.
Over the last 2600 years, the Buddha has gradually become God for Buddhists, and that was inevitable. I can give you a plethora of examples and write and talk about this subject until the cows come home, but that is not necessary. I will give you an example, and this example will give you just the taste of this topic, just as when I say “Taste a drop of the ocean to get the taste of it; you don’t have to drink the entire ocean.”
In Samyutta Nikaya and as well as it was explained by Buddhaghosa, the epithet “Adiccabandhu” is often used to describe the Buddha because Adicca (the Sun) belonged to the Buddha. The Sun is the Buddha’s kinsman because the Sun is the Buddha’s breast born son (orasaputta); Sun is also the Buddha’s disciple. The implication here is that the Buddha is the creator of our Sun, the sustainer of life on earth. Usually, in the Bible and Koran this creator is God. I am certain that the Buddha did not think of himself as God, but nobody can say with absolute certitude what the Buddha taught. Ananda was not taking any notes or holding a tape recorder to the Buddha’s lips to record his teachings and then went home to transcribe everything for us to read. The same is true about Jesus and Mohammed as well; all of them were illiterate: did not read and write, but their wisdom is unmatchable, and their teachings are indelible. That is why they have entered the realm of God in our minds. That is why I say I pray to the Lord Buddha, because he resides where God resides in my mind.
Do not ever forget that Siddhartha was a human being with all the functions of a human being. When our Martin Wickremasinghe—Sri Lanka’s epitome of creative writers and pioneer critics—wrote Bava Taranaya, he got a bit of flack. When Siddhartha became the Buddha, he still was a human being. He was born, lived, and died as a human being, like Jesus and Mohammed. Later, they all entered into the realm of divinity. Now, they reside in our minds where God resides. They have not supplanted or kicked God out of our minds; they are living together in the same place with God. For Hindus, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, and the other deities reside where God resides in our mind. This idea of God was first articulated by the Jews; but God had been in our unconscious mind before God entered our conscious mind. Later, Christians and Muslims borrowed, added, and modified this idea. But God does not belong only to the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. God belongs to all of us. Now, some monks like Kiribathgoda Gnanananda and other BBS thugs think they are the latest incarnation of the Buddha.
A conversation that I once had with young Buddhist monks comes to my mind when I hear the following Sinhalese phrase, and if I were to hear this phrase again, probably, I would throw up in the face of the one who utters it: “Hari Silwath Hamuduruwo; Hari Pin Patai.” I am pretty sure, and I firmly believe that there are genuine Buddhist monks who are worthy of deep veneration, but they are rarer than gems that you are going to find on the Island of Sri Lanka, which appears to be a terrarium surrounded by the most beautiful beaches imaginable. These young men were forced to become monks when they were around ten years old by their parents, because their parents firmly believed that they would achieve nirvana by making their children monks. I was in my early twenties, and they were just a year or two younger than me. One of them could sing Amaradeva’s songs with such a dulcet voice, and since I love Amaradeva’s dulcet voice and mellifluous music, these monks became my friends. I had earned their trust by being brutally honest about myself with them, so they did not have a choice but to reveal their innermost secrets to me; of course, the Russian Vodka worked as a good libation. We talked not only about music but also about the voluptuous, beautiful Russian sirens and nymphs. I have to use euphemistic language to describe what they revealed to me. They revealed that they were having both mental imaginary and physical imaginary sex with these women. They also said that they did the same with the women who venerated them in Sri Lanka. The sympathy and empathy that I felt for them was truly indescribable. My point is that do not ever forget that these monks, priests, imams, rabbis, etc are mere human beings, just like you and me. Most of them were ordained to perform certain functions and rituals. Most of them are not holier than you, or worse than you.
I also feel sorry for the children whose parents gullibly say, “We want our children to understand the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.” For your own children’s sake, give your children a break! When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was to play all day. Even now, that is all I want: Just play all day. Did Siddhartha try to understand these Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path when he was a kid? Siddhartha had a harem, and he reveled in sex and luxury until one day he felt a deep depression and left home looking for a cure for his depression and found his Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path; it was a hero’s journey, and the boon that he brought back to us is still enjoyed, revered, and venerated: his teachings, realizations, experiences, meditation techniques, and practices were in the realm of humanity; now, we practice and follow them as Buddhism. The best definition of nirvana that I have seen came from a non-Buddhist: Nirvana is a state of mind where you are not compelled by desire, fear, or social obligations. Nirvana belongs to the same category that Heraclites talked about: The best things cannot be told. As I said, when I play tennis, I just get a glimpse of this state of mind, where I am totally engaged, and I am not compelled by other desires, fears, or social obligations. Yes, I am not a good tennis player at all, but I do not have to win a gold medal to enjoy tennis; tennis is an activity where I do not feel the concept of time and place. Writing and reading have the same effect on me; so is spending time with my son.
The Buddha did not discover anything new; he was the one who articulated the human condition so that others could understand it. The Buddha is the one who came up with the exact vocabulary to describe this human condition, and showed us how to deal with death, suffering, and other ineluctable conditions of life. Before the Buddha, people had been dying and suffering; all the good and the bad qualities of human beings have been constant; these qualities are going to continue as long as human beings continue to live in this universe. Jesus and Mohammed did the same thing; the only difference is that God became the center of everything that they talked about. Buddha talked about the same things without God, but the concept of god is inseparable from Buddhism. If you were to combine all these elemental gods in Buddhism and Hinduism into one God, all religions become just One Religion; all faiths become One Faith; if you are a Buddhist, you still need God; if you are vehemently denying it, for God’s sake, and for your own sake, please stop pretending that you don’t believe in God. Physical existence of God is totally irrelevant!
If you want the best for yourself and live with serenity as well as detachment, follow the teachings of the Buddha and pray to God as often as you can and as often as necessary. I firmly believe that all of us are Buddhists, but most of us do not know that all of us are Buddhists. At this stage of my life, I do not need or seek the guidance of a guru and a spiritual leader. I do not visit temples, churches, mosques, or synagogues. Most of my friends who are beyond their forties are going through this deep spiritual crisis; some have become born-again Christians, and the others are searching for nirvana, a panacea for all ailments. There is one explanation: They are scared of impending, ineluctable death, old age, and suffering. I am scared of death, too, so I just play tennis, golf, soccer, and basket ball; at least, three hours a day: That is my nirvana; that is my mediation and prayer; that is my panacea. Yes, I pray to God that resides in my own mind when I am totally helpless and my rational as well as irrational thoughts cannot help me anymore; praying helps me to deal with all ineluctable situations: such as death, old age, sickness, and losing and separating from those I love deeply. Death is an illusion—a maya; so there is no need to be scared. I do not think that people are scared of dying; people are scared of suffering and privation, not death; now, you can clone yourself if you want; scientists have figured out how to implant not only your memory but also enormous amount of knowledge and literally turn you into a talking library that can process any information like a robot with human qualities. Scientists can also erase your bad memories and nightmares. If you have children, you know that in every child of yours, 50% of you live in them. So, either through having your own progeny, or if you are really desperate, by making a clone, you can live forever; If you do not have a child, adopt one and treat the child as your own progeny. I know that most people do not want to make clones of themselves, but I am not sure what will happen in the future because science is progressing at a truly unimaginable and unpredictable rate, and I am seeing it every moment. This kind of thinking has eliminated my own fears of my own ineluctable death. Well, suffering and disease are still real problems, but we will come up with solutions to these problems as well; we have reduced suffering, and most sufferings are created by human beings because of our greed, anger, malice, and stupidity. Before we cure suffering, we need to find a cure for stupidity. As the Buddha said, living with a stupid person is worse than living with an enemy. Sri Lanka is a good example of suffering crated by our own stupidity; our politicians have literally looted money from the hapless, and with the money our politicians have accumulated we can eliminate poverty in Sri Lanka and turn our country in to Shangri-La. But the stupidity of our masses that refuse to see what our politicians are doing to them is the cause of their own privation and suffering. The commenter who identifies himself as “Gamini” has made a valid point regarding Mr. Ranil Wickramasinge: Ranil will not steal from people, like the Rajapaksa clan and goons, who, probably, have become billionaires by stealing and misappropriating our public funds and taking bribes, particularly from China. Ranil’s upbringing and background is totally different from that of Rajapaksas. Ranil does not crave for money; I grew up in the same neighborhood, and I have seen so many of my neighbors who served our country and did not care about making money at all: Dr. Vimala Navaratnam and her Husband Dr. Navaratnam, down Inner Flower Road, epitomize those in my neighborhood who served all of us, but never expected anything in return from us. They were truly concerned about our health and well-being. People like Navaratnams are in the realm of the deities that I worship. Yes, I worship human beings.
I am a Buddhist, but I believe in God and pray to God; I am an omnireligiophile (a word that I coined): A lover of all religions.
Imagine in the future, you would clone yourself and your children, and implant all your knowledge and memories into your brain and your own child would raise you and then you keep repeating this cycle; you eliminate diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, Aids, etc: there is no death; eventually, every human being who is alive today would end up being God.
May the Buddha’s teachings invoke and evoke the wisdom that you have within you and make you believe in God that resides in you; may God help you in all situations