Friday, August 17, 2012


‘The arising of form and the ceasing of form – everything that has been heard, sensed, and known, sought after and reached by the mind – all this is the embodied world, to be penetrated and realized.’ Buddha, from the Samyutta Nikāya.

Gautama Buddha (‘the Buddha’) did not claim to be God, or a god, nor a ‘son’ or ‘agent’ of any such god, nor even a prophet. When asked about himself, he simply said, ‘I am awake.’ The essence of being ‘awake’ is this---always stay mindfully present from one moment to the next ... and 'come and see.'

The Buddha encouraged his followers to ‘come and see’ (ehipassiko) [Sanskrit: ehipaśyika ‘which you can come and see’---from the phrase ehi, paśya ‘come, see!’], that is, to test and investigate for themselves whether or not his teachings worked, as opposed to placing reliance on blind faith. Yes, investigate for yourself and then make up your own mind based upon the evidence.  Buddhism is a very down-to-earth set of teachings. At the risk of over-simplification, the essence of Buddhism is: what you see is what you get. That is all there is, but it is more than enough! The essence of Buddhist empiricism is this---one ‘looks and sees’, one ‘perceives.’ In other words, knowing (jānam) must be based on ‘seeing’ (passam). The Buddha spoke only of observable causes without any metaphysical pre-suppositions. He sought always to explain the observable in terms of the observable. That means rejecting the unobservable as the cause of the observable.

The author in front of the Daibutsu---The Great Buddha of Kamakura
Japan, June 2011

The Buddha taught that it is through the regular practice of mindfulness (sati) from one moment to the next, that we experience---note that word experience---life directly ... without those mental filters and psychological barriers which we tend to erect between ourselves and the objects of experience. Alan Watts, a well-known authority on Buddhism (and Zen Buddhism, in particular), has written that ‘the method of Buddhism is above all the practice of clear awareness, of seeing the world [that is, ‘things’] yathābhūtam – just as it is [they are]’, for it is recorded in the Pāli texts that the Buddha said, Bhūtam bhūtatopassati (‘See a thing as it really is’). He was talking about things (bhūta) that can be directly experienced. Now, in order to do that successfully, the Buddha made it unambiguously clear---as I hope I have as well in many previous posts---that we must not put any barriers between ourselves and external reality – barriers such as beliefs, views (especially speculative ones), thoughts, ideas, theories, opinions, and doctrines.

I have no time for any religion which says, ‘Believe [this]’ or ‘Believe in [this person]’. No time at all. That sort of religion is foolish stuff, unworthy of thinking people. There is nothing to believe. Absolutely nothing. There is nothing worth believing. Absolutely nothing. There is no one worthy of your belief. No one---not even Buddha. Anyhow, why believe? Think about it for a moment. How could it ever make a difference in your life? The sky does not become any bluer because you ‘believe’ it to be blue, nor does the proposition, ‘The sky is blue,’ become any truer because you believe it to be true. Is it not more important---indeed, entirely sufficient---to know and understand … to ‘come and see’? I say to you this day---come alive! Come and see things as they really are!

And don’t even believe that. Just do it. Come, see!


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