23 September, 2017

Why We Haven’t Seen Another Buddha, A Christ, Or A Miracle Since? 

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

Yes. Its been 2,500 years since we have seen a Buddha and, a little later, a Jesus Christ. Such considerable and towering personalities lived in times before recording took place. We know they lived. We are far less sure about what really they precisely said as we only have word-of mouth coming down over a 500 years since their departure from this world. Around such a time after that, faithful followers had, at last, been able to put it all together in writing. What is on record, however, is the thread of word-of-mouth and this, we know, can be hopelessly inauthentic.

Christmas Humphreys, in his classic Penguin on Buddhism said,”We do not know what the Buddha taught, any more than we know what Jesus taught.”

The important thing for me, however, is not the issues of authenticity. I am prepared to accept tentatively as authentic what theologists and scholastics later wrote about the teachings of these great religious leaders. On the other hand, what arouses my curiosity on a constant basis is why great personas such as them or even close to them have never appeared thereafter. We have not had any religions after Christianity, Jewish, Islam,Hinduism, and Buddhism. We certainly have had and do have sects of these religions since but sects are subsets. The era of religion has dissipated; not disappeared. It is also a matter of curiosity why only these religions erupted and why at that time and not before or afterwards.Why didn’t anyone emerge to guide man before? Why not after? In other words, the timing raises a host of questions. I am aware that there have been other faiths around the same time but the latter are too minor for consideration. We have the Jehovas Witnesses knocking at our doors today but they are not a distinct religion.

I also ask myself why we hear less and less of the kinds of miracles attributed to Jesus and to his early apostles since the latter passed away. And what of miraculous claims by Buddhists about an ability (Iddi Balaya) to travel through space unaided by a device? For thousands of years we haven’t heard of a miracle taken seriously. Turning water into wine? Multiplying bread, raising the dead back into a state of living-before our eyes? How wonderful if I can have the lives of some of my own relatives who were so dear to me resurrected? Tragic -struck parents would give anything to have a dead child restored to live again-wouldn’t they, surely? The world would be much free of unfair suffering. And then, if someone could multiply bread for Somalians dying of hunger these days-leave alone doing that miracle for our benefit? We watch in TV and become traumatic when scenes of starving kids are on display,-dying without food to eat. We shudder thinking of cancer patients struggling with their lives.

Why oh why cannot someone with divine power perform miracles by intervening in all such instances? We divide into groups and argue whether God as a creator and supernatural supervisor does exist. Arguments and rhetoric flow on both sides of the intellectual divide.In the Middle Ages we had the Christian scholar, Thomas Aquinas who came out with “proofs for God’s existence.” Since then, there have been refinements to such arguments. With the march of science, many intellectuals took to rebutting Aquinas. The theory of evolution by Charles Darwin seems to undermine the whole traditional belief that this world of ours had been an act of vast creation. That was science’s serious deathblow to the belief of Abrahamic religions-Christianity, Jewish, and Islam. Findings of genetic science since Darwin only confirm and elaborate what Darwin had found. Yet, the scientific position is being denied vehemently by creationists. It is a war with science that we observe today in many fields of cognitive understanding.

My position is that this war need not go on and that we need not fight to death over such disputes if only the presumed God can intervene and show his miracle or muscle for the whole world to see. That would be the most convincing sure -shot. Wouldn’t that be? But it is not happening.

Perhaps, it is safer to get back to what science says: Miracles cannot happen in nature as they constitute a violation of the very laws of nature. Miracle claims are not common today because the the burgeoning numbers of scientifically thinking, modern, people are on the watch to ask questions and to pry and question any given claim. There are a number of stories of miracles but they lack wide enough testimony and they typically are personal experiences. David Hume famously said if one were to accept a claim of a miraculous event such a claim must have testimony that looks more probable than the optional scientific view that it can be explained in terms of the natural laws of the universe. Such tall stories are the product of mankind’s sense of wonder. The sensations of surprise and wonder lead us to irrational beliefs. To make matters worse for the believers, social media has grown and is growing in an exponential speed undreamt of before. A simple claim of a divine apparition can be caught on a tiny mobile phone and disseminated in lightening speed to the entire world. Be careful, supernaturalists, you are being watched. People all over the world are getting far too sophisticated to arrive at supernatural beliefs of any sort. The days of early religion were pre-scientific days and they were inhabited largely by barbarous and ignorant populations.

The religious explanation having become less and less attractive, the chance of a religious leader claiming divine association is getting bleak.A convincing affirmation of a God, miracle and religion being unavailable, it is unlikely for the world to have another Jesus Christ who claimed to be the Son of God. On the other hand, there are the non- divine aspects in the personality of Christ, which to me is most admirable. Jesus spoke to the poor and spoke against social injustice. He was capable of unbelievable feats of sacrifice. Jesus Christ had been a most compassionate and inspired human being as far as I am concerned. It is possible for us to have more of that kind of extraordinary human being; but not of a divine Jesus. Hopefully, we will as our world needs them.

What of the Buddha? According to popular Buddhism many more Buddhas are to come. But we haven’t seen a sign of that and we are unlikely to see that. There is an undeniable supernatural assumption about the theory of Buddhas to come that is devoid of any testimony or evidence. Perhaps, once again, it is more an outcome of the human sense of wonder that was referred to above.A Buddha with this kind of dimension will also not come again because belief in the supernatural is waning fast.

On the other hand, the world has already witnessed great men and women of wisdom and insight like the Buddha. We are likely to see more of them in the future. However, that is not the Buddha of folklore who could perform miraculous feats and alight and walk immediately after birth.Once again to cite Christmas Humphreys, “Buddhism is a spiritual philosophy whose attitude to life is as cool and objective as that of the modern scientist.” The philosophy that is Buddhism will live on to produce new dialogue and fresh scholars in the future; but the religion that we know as Buddhism will continue only in name sake. So will Christianity. Islam will take a much longer time before nominalisation.

In the war with science, religion will eventually lose. It is only a matter of time.

*The writer can be contacted at sjturaus@optusnet.com.au

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    The writer makes a clear distinction between the Buddha of Buddhist philosophy and the Buddha of Buddhist religion. We have Gnanassara’s also who belong to the Buddhist religion. Lord Buddha predicted that the Sasana will disappear. The writer say the same thing but insists that the philosophy and wisdom of the Buddha will survive as it is sound

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    Religion is the opium of the masses…man needs assurances about things they know little about, and which assail them. Man is also concerned about what happens next (ie after death) and so religions flourish in spite of the best efforts of science to understand and explain phenomena in evidence-based formats. The writer has provoked the ire of these people to whom religion has given them a placebo-like reason for their existence and whatever good comes their way coincidentally or for reasons that experts in those fields know more about.Religions help to divide people and make conflicts that could easily be avoided if everyone started thinking rationally and not adhere to mumbo-jumbo drilled into them over their impressionable years..

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      Lasantha Pethiyagoda:-

      We have to understand That there is a Difference between Religion, ‘Agama’ and ‘Dharma’ or Truth which All the Great Teachers taught.

      We use ‘Religion’ to fill the Gaps in our Developing Minds, (which are still in the Early Stages of Evolution), to Fully understand The Teachings of These Great Masters!

    • 0
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      “”if everyone started `thinking rationally` and not adhere to mumbo-jumbo drilled into them over their impressionable years.. “”

      No wonder you hibernated in cuckoo land down under and aspire to be a chinese ant like at north korea.

      We are all different and the world has been ruled by passion from solomon to confucius to shakespeare to milton.

  • 0
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    [Edited out] Comments should not exceed 300 words.Please read our Comments Policy for further details.

    • 0
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      There are many others who have exceeded the 300 word limit. Viz. Citizen May 2, 2017 8 am. Yet my comment was removed.

    • 0
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      There are many others who have exceeded the 300-word limit. Viz. Citizen May 2, 2017, 8 am. Yet my comment was removed.

  • 2
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    Buddha’s visits to Lanka

    Buddha is supposed to have visited Lanka 3 times. Considering the distances involved and the primitive methods of transport availabe at that time, this seems to be highly unlikely.

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      Mr Edwin Rodrigo,
      You must read the navigation histories of Vietnamese and people of those regions in Indo-China, those of Arabs, Yavanas or Greeks and Indians, Phoenicians and others to understand the human desire for adventure…take chances in life and so on.Your conclusion or suggestion is gossip as you have not read on the findings of archaeologists. Monsoons and Sail boats were there even then. You cannot come to shallow conclusions like that when discussions are in a serious forum. It is more realistic to say…only after reading, that it could have been possible or remain dumb. Read on pre-historic archaeological findings of Sri Lanka to broaden your knowledge.

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        Kongani,
        The Mahavamsa does not mention that the Buddha came in a sailboat.
        “Read on pre-historic archaeological findings of Sri Lanka to broaden your knowledge. “
        Which archaeological finding has confirmed his visit?
        This was a miracle invented by Mahanama, since it is not in the Tripitaka.

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      Buddha’s visits to Srilanka is another of the fallacies written into the Mahawamsa. According to Indian Historians, Buddha only went round his kingdom consisting of parts of the present day Bihar and Nepal. When he never visited Calcutta or Delhi which are nearby, there was no reason for him to have visited Srilanka, that too not by land but by flight. Sensational stories like this may have been accepted in the past, but not now with scientific advancement.

  • 2
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    “In the war with science, religion will eventually lose. It is only a matter of time”

    Still it is a religion’s appeal that it offers security in an uncertain world. That seems to be the reason why we see more religious people in developing or third-wrold countries than in developed countries. Remember, how many of us waited till nature’s action during MR’s rule?

    Science can answer how, but not why in most cases is where people’s last resort seems to be religion and god, because science clearly defines yes and no, a religion hides the same giving little hope in the form of miracle.

    I pray to god that scientists should soon invent a vaccine to eradicate racism and religiosity

  • 0
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    Congratulations to Shyamon Jayasinghe. A timely and thought provoking article indeed.

    This is what Sam Harris (neuroscientist) in his book “Waking Up”says about religions:

    “At its best, religion is a set of stories that recount the ethical and contemplative insights of our wisest ancestors. But these stories come to us bundled with ancient confusion and perennial lies. And they invariably harden into doctrines that defy revision, generation after generation.
    ……… Religious stories may bring meaning to people’s lives, but some meanings are patently false and divisive.
    …… Altered sates of consciousness are empirical facts, and human beings experience them under a wide range of conditions. To understand this, and seek to live a spiritual life without deluding ourselves, we must view these experiences in universal and secular terms.”

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    Many mystics have stated that God or Nirvana cannot be experienced by the MIND. The Knowledge of God is experiential and transforms a person. The mind is s useful tool, which thinks, however, there is another faculty called the HEART, not the physical heart but another faculty within ourselves. Jesus said the “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”, Buddha said Nirvana is within you. In the Hindu religion, they call it the Atman. We need to develop this Heart faculty in us if we are to feel the God or Nirvana. In Buddhism, it is simply Dana, Sila, Bhavana (Giving, Morality, and Meditation). It is expanded into the 8 fold Noble path. Any expression of compassion warms the Heart and the Heart becomes softer. Morality is emphasized in the 10 Commandments and also the 10 precepts in Buddhism. In meditation, the Mind falls silent so that we can feel the God Head within. You are asking for Miracles. Just look at the breath. Is it not a miracle? The Hindus say when you breathe you take in not only air but Prana. The breath keeps this clay doll living and makes it talk, walk, and enjoy. Our life started with the first breath coming in and will cease with the last breath going out. Then the body will fall back to dust. In your Heart, there is a yearning to feel God which will take you back to your home. One of the main blocks to experiencing the real happiness are the concepts people have. There are many books you may wish to read such as the Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, In the arms of the beloved by Rumi, Songs of Kabir translated by Rabindranath Tagore, What the Buddha taught by Dr. Walpola Rahula.

  • 0
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    The writer including, all are touching only the surfaces of the teachings of the so called great teachers. Much of the discussion is clap trap.

    All interested in comparative religion or research in to his/her own religion must first know what TEXTUAL HISTORICAL ANALYSIS is. Preparation of heuristic models in the minds is very important with every episode. Attempt to understand what interpretation is, what Tradition is,what exegesis is, hermenutics is,what sitz im leben is and how using archaeology that life’s situation could be created,using philology , etymology etc the time a word or practice came in to being.

    That is how Christian fathers like Gunkel and Bultmann came to the conclusion that there was never a Jesus in History ,but there was and is one only in the faith of the people.

    (Part I)

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    part ii.

    One of the recent theories, based on historical evidence that there was never a JESUS. That the character was created by Romans WHO RULED the Middle East to keep the Messiah Believing Jews silent, when they were demanding economic freedom and other rights. The idea that started as a rumor, then developed in to a cult within about 200 years, Read the metamorphosis of the Bible.It is full of Indian folk tales and Buddhist ideas. There was a well attended lecture series at Alexandra Palace in London 2 years back, attended by American , British and European scholars where it was systematically shown how the Romans created the Jesus character and presented it as a “Came and went theory.” Then the gaps were filled gradually.No fair minded person would believe that the bible has REVELATIONs of a God who never was and Jesus stories with devine protection.

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    I will continue tomorrow.Thanks,

    • 2
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      no thanks.have a rest please on behalf of all of us.

    • 0
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      But you are prepared to believe that Buddha came here by Airbus,without a visa?

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    The totality of existence is God.

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    This is my personal Understanding about life.
    Religion means a way of living! Not necessarily it should be based on, only in the ways mentioned in the few established ‘so-called’ religions. There are so many philosophies, thoughts and customs you can follow as your religions or you can create/have your own religion on your understandings of your practical experiences in life!
    There are TWO parts in our Human-related life:- One is -to be born as a human-being and Two –(may call as ‘born again’)is to end up as a HUMAN with the same body & in the same birth- merely by changing the SOFTWARE from PHYSICAL which we so far used to collect the data/experiences till our physical tools are being naturally shutting down due to old age (as we possess non-rechargeable batteries! ) to SPIRITUAL which we are in possession already but not aware about it ourselves (only hear-say from religious ‘authorities ? ‘). We become SPIRITUAL AWARENESS by ourselves, to process the data to attain SPIRITUALITY in knowledge and understanding and to spend the remaining part of the life much USEFUL to the HUMANITY!
    Then only we – human-beings -can expect BUDDHA-like HUMANS to reappear among ‘HUMANS’!
    As a human-being we are subject to so many desires and tastes at our disposal to experience/gain experience with our physical mental-awareness.
    These so-called experiences are the data-collection for our mental digestion for our way to the next birth of the awareness us SPIRITUAL awareness to achieve the SPIRITUAL knowledge! This is where the ‘Born again’ occurs with the frail old human body to become a HUMAN with HUMANITY!
    Happenings in the earth are due to the inadequate thinking power of the ‘two-legged Social-animals’ as human-beings which fails to understand the inner-power in them to become HUMAN with HUMANITY!!
    SPRITUALITY is not necessarily to be religious and is not connected with any established religions! Religions etc,are PHYSICAL places from where your data/experiences are collected.

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