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  • Lama Jigme Gyatso

Reverse Engineering the Buddha's Teachings


Imagine being told

in the innocence and idealism of your youth

that there was a secret Buddhism

taught not in books

but passed down orally.

A whispered tradition

from mouth to ear

that promised a quicker path to enlightenment

than that which was commonly taught

and practiced.

But the price to receive

such arcane and secret teachings

was obedience, and subservience, and

personal disempowerment.

Imagine that in your innocence and idealism

you paid that price

willingly, and gladly, and enthusiastically.

Imagine that in the fullness of time

after years of asceticism, and study, and practice

you received all your teacher’s instructions

only to learn that they really weren’t so secret

and were readily available in books

(though highly figurative,

as if coded)

and the path they revealed

was no faster than the original,

though seldom practiced,

teachings of the Buddha

but were actually slower

with their own set of pit falls,

and side paths,

and tiger traps.

Imagine following this path

full time, for decades:

begging and scraping,

receiving teachings, and texts,

contemplating them

and applying them in numerous three-year retreats

only to eventually see

that passages

which your fundamentalist siblings

have clutched at as literal

were actually metaphoric

and that by reverse engineering them

into their original similes

it was as if old doors,

heavy and dusty with disuse

opened before you


revealing a dimension of the teachings

hitherto unimagined by you,

our your fellows,

or your teachers, or by theirs.

Imagine studying, and contemplating,

and applying these teaching

in even more three-year retreats

as if stretching your heart,

and mind, and perception

and realization.

Although repetition may be

the mother of skill,

it is also the adversary of novelty;

and in time these revelations,

thoroughly studied, and contemplated and applied

could feel obvious, and commonplace,

and comprise one’s daily experience.

Returning then

to one’s peers

one could no longer

fit in.

For one’s world view

could no longer be in alignment

with theirs,


and ones behaviors

albeit more empowered, and insightful, and effective,

could no longer congruent with theirs.

Such things

intrigue not your former fellows

so much as it does enrage them

for in the rigid, aggressive, fear

of fundamentalism

different is rapidly confused

with that which is wrong,

and dangerous, and evil.

More than two and a half millennia ago

the Buddha taught

that the test of the instructions

and the test of their teacher

was neither their beauty, nor wealth,

nor popularity, nor orthodoxy,

nor tradition, nor pedigree,

nor peer approval.

The Buddha taught

that the test of the instructions

and their teacher

was NOT how well they harmonized

with one’s preconceptions


but by how (once they were applied,

at last every morning and every evening)…

how dynamically they evolved

one’s body and feelings, and mind, and circumstances

toward the enlightened ideal

of which the Buddha taught and exemplified.

Although this is obscured

by those blinded by the fundamentalism’s

fear, and aggression, and rigidity

of patriarchy

it is painfully obvious

to those who traverse true matriarchy’s path

of peace, permissiveness, flexibility as well as spontaneity:

centered, and patient, and compassionate.


Remember the cold welcome

Saul of Tarsus received from his former peers

in the Christian book of Acts

when they proclaimed,

“Your much study, has driven you mad!”

Or when the monk Gautama,

having realized the middle way

was utterly shunned by his five forest fellows.

In Mahayana Sutras one reads

of ten Bo-dhi-sat-tva Bhu-mi or levels.

With great time and effort,

the teachings of the fundamentalistic path of patriarchy

may lead one to the third Bo-dhi-sat-tva Bhu-mi

but certainly no higher.


The only way to pierce,

no less pass,

this glass ceiling of limitation

is to shift cognitive gears:

from patriarchy to matriarchy

from fundamentalism to liberalism

from rigidity to flexibility,

form fear to acceptance,

from anger ro love,

from control to surrender,

from contrivance to spontaneity, and

from scatteredness to centeredness.

This could be a metamorphosis:

frightening, and painful, and unpopular

but is not the death of the well-fed caterpillar

the birth of the beautiful butterfly?

This was the experience of the monk Gautama

on this journey to become the Buddha

when his first master exclamation

that Gautama has mastered all his teachings

left him disapointed, and unfulfilled,

and let down, and dissatisfied.

Who when he sought out a second teacher

received his instructions, contemplated them,

and mastered them

and was again proclaimed by his second teacher

to have mastered the instructions

and have become his master’s peer;

again was disillusioned, and disappointed, and moved on.

For if a true seeker

is to follow the Buddha’s example

(be the Buddha a man of flesh, blood, and bone

or merely archetypical)

than rank, and acceptance, and prestige

are no substitute

for the actual freedom from the tyranny

of our stresses and their causes.

The Buddha kept searching

and intuiting, and contemplating,

and practicing

until, in the fullness of time

he found techniques and world views

that produced the results

that he longed for.

This is the path of the spiritual hero,

and while it is not common,

it is not singular.


For truth is not the product

of tradition, or popular opinion,

or political expedience.

Truth, like medicine,

is that which works.

It is that which works

despite the outrage

of the minions of orthodoxy.

It is that which enhances

our peace, and love, and wisdom, and joy.

It is that which helps us

to be of service to others.


It is that

which helps us to be

the person our dog

already thinks we are.

This is the path of the Buddha.

This is the path of the great saints.

This is the path of Treasure-revealers

or Terton, if you prefer Tibetan.

It is the path

I have shambled upon

low these many decades.

It is the path

whose fruit

I offer to you.


Buddha’s teachings and 

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