Friday, August 21, 2015


I have read some great spiritual books, and met some great spiritual teachers, in my lifetime but I must and will say this---only you can save yourself. Only you can relieve the misery of your broken life. Only you can wake up and be born anew. No one---not Jesus, not Buddha, not Muhammad, nor anyone else for that matter---can wake you up or otherwise effect this radical change in you.

Now, what I’ve just said is rank heresy to many religious people who think that salvation or enlightenment---call it what you will---comes from accepting this person or that person into one’s life or from following a certain prescribed path or set of teachings. Well, I am a heretic, and I’m proud to be one. A heretic is one who chooses, and who chooses to think differently and be different. We need more heretics in the world---more people who are prepared to think and live differently. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that only a heretic can change our damaged, troubled and threatened world. I go further and say that only a heretic, who is prepared to surrender and throw out of the window all their past thinking and conditioning on matters religious and non-religious, can wake up and change the world for the better. So, get real. Stop worshipping others. Look within. The truth is within you.

One of the great books of the past 40-odd years is If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! by the American psychotherapist Sheldon B Kopp [pictured left]. Now, that is a great title for a book. The idea of killing the Buddha---or Jesus or any other holy person---is quite horrible, and the idea of the taking of life in Buddhism is especially revolting (in theory, at least). The point of the book’s title is fairly obvious --- no meaning that comes from outside of ourselves is real. Any Buddha you meet ‘on the road’, that is, outside of yourself, is not the real Buddha. It is a counterfeit---an imposter! The real Buddha (or Christ for that matter) is within you. Got that? Within you. Inside.

Jesus understood that point perfectly. That is why he is quoted as having said that ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ (Lk 17:21 [KJV]). He never asked people to worship him or offer him sacrifices. He said, ‘Follow me’ (Mk 2:14 [KJV]), that is, live the way Jesus do, and ‘Feed my sheep’ (Jn 21:17 [KJV]), that is, attend to the needs of others, especially the marginalized and the disadvantaged. He also said, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice' (Mt 9:13 [NIV]). And while I’m on the subject---well, sort of---do you want to know what makes a true ‘Christian nation’? I will tell you. A Christian nation---irrespective of the religious affiliation(s) (if any) of its many inhabitants---is one which feeds the poor, houses the homeless, provides universal health care, livable wages and other benefits to its people, protects, restores and enhances the environment, and works with other nations for world peace. That is what Jesus would have wanted. That is what Buddha would have wanted as well. Ditto Muhammad.

Back to the theme of this post. Others can point the way but each of us must be our own teacher, master and savior---and disciple. Buddhism is very strong on this. Listen to these words from what is known as ‘The Buddha’s Farewell Address’:

Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. 
Rely on yourselves, and do not rely on external help.

Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. 
Seek salvation alone in the truth. 
Look not for assistance to any one besides yourselves.

Here’s a Zen exchange that I like. It illustrates the futility of seeking truth in the form of someone else’s conceptual, conditioned teachings. It also illustrates that each one of us is in exactly the same position as respects both our ignorance of the real and our innate ability to have direct and immediate access to and understanding of the real:

A monk asked ‘What is the meaning of the First Patriarch's coming from the West?’
Master: ‘Ask the post over there.’
Monk: ‘I do not understand.’
Master: ‘I do not either, any more than you.’

So many of our emotional and psychological problems arise from our bondage to self. We need to be set free from that bondage, but only we---that is, the person each one of us is---can do that. The so-called ‘higher power’ is to be found inside each one of us despite the fact that many people see it otherwise. The power is a power-not-oneself that is capable of freeing us from the bondage of self and to self. The power is the primal, ontological power of being itself that expresses itself in us and as us.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I endorse psychiatry. I work with psychiatrists and lecture at an educational institution---the NSW Institute of Psychiatry---the objects of which, among others, are to assist and foster research and investigation into the causation, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses and disorders, to assist and foster post-graduate education and training in psychiatry, and to prescribe programs of training in psychiatry and mental health for both medical practitioners and for other persons including non-medical groups. Psychiatry helped me to overcome clinical depression and one or two other mental health issues as well. However, a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor can but help to facilitate recovery. They treat but do not heal. Deep down, all healing is self-healing.

The real Buddha or Christ is within you. It is an innate potentiality. It is both a presence and a power that is waiting for you to unleash it. I love these words of Dr Norman Vincent Peale: ‘There is a spiritual giant within us, which is always struggling to burst its way out of the prison we have made for it.’ This spiritual giant is unleashed when, firstly, you really want it to be unleashed and, secondly, when you remove the obstacles to its activation. Want-power is especially important, and you must surrender, that is, let go.

So, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. (Metaphorically, that is.)

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