What is the Difference between Hinduism and Buddhism?
like a spiritual Buddhism?”
Let us side-step the metaphoric landmine
of defining spirituality
and simply contrast Hinduism and Buddhism.
Of course that too
is not nearly as simple
as it sounds.
For Hinduism is an umbrella term
of a great many practices and beliefs
spanning many centuries
and is as varied
as the Indian sub-continent
is an umbrella term
for all the ways the Buddha’s
original teachings and techniques…
have been influenced and sometimes corrupted
first by Hinduism,
then by neo-Taoism,
and finally by all the various iterations of shamanism
indigenous to each region
in which Buddhism was introduced.
So for the sake of simplicity
and to prevent the (reader’s/ listener’s) heads from exploding
let us contrast Hinduism in a very general sense
with the original teachings of the Buddha.
The majority of Hindu teachers are theistic.
They firmly believe in the existence
of one or more pantheons of celestial entities.
They embrace epic literature
describing their deity’s exploits
and seek their divine assistance
through ritual and invocation.
The Buddha did not set out
to create a new religion.
He sought to create neither devotees
Rather the Buddha was a meditation teacher
who was happy to teach those
who requested his guidance.
And the techniques he taught
absolutely did not rely
upon the invocation, supplication, or worship of deities,
and did not involve making offerings to them.
The Buddha expressly taught
that an hour spent in mindfulness
to a lifetime squandered in ritual.
after his death
the corruption of ritualism
crept, like a fungus, into Buddhism.
Nor did the Buddha
create any mythology
in the tradition of the Hindu epics
and yet in the decades and centuries
following his death
mythology was added
to the corpus of his teachings.
In the Hindu Upanishads
there are many philosophical treaties:
metaphysical, conceptual, and erudite.
Whereas, in contrast,
the Buddha’s original teachings
were earthy, pragmatic, and trenchant.
And yes, as the context would indicate,
in the centuries following his demise
an entire third category of teachings
known as the Abhidhamma Pitaka…
and consisting of metaphysics
was added to his cannon of teachings.
At last we come to meditation.
Generally speaking Hindu meditation
consists of variations of concentration
and permutations of mind suppression.
Before the Buddha was known as the Buddha,
when we was known merely
as the monk Gautama…
his first meditation teacher
taught him concentration.
Gautama worked diligently
and in time his teacher explained
that his attainments were equal to his own
and thus invited Gautama
to share the leadership
of his community.
The tale is told
that Gautama thanked him…
but explained that he was dissatisfied
with his attainments.
He then left his teacher’s community
and continued his quest for spiritual liberation.
The tale continues
that Gautama found
a second teacher,
received his teachings
trained in his methods
accomplished his teacher’s attainments
and was again offered to co-lead
his second teacher’s community of disciples.
Gautama thanked his second teacher,
yet still dissatisfied
he continued his journey.
Gautama retired to the forest
and in the company of five other monks
practiced austerities for six years.
Finally, nearing the point of death
that the austerities of the forest
were as futile
as the debaucheries of the palace.
Not only did Gautama
forsake the physical austerities
but he also rejected
the mental austerities of concentration
wherein one traverses the brainstem’s path
of controlling tendencies
and seeks to compress one’s perceptions
of sensation, flavor, scent,
sound, and sight, as well as
emotion, intention, reason,
recollection, and imagination.
And instead Gautama
entered upon the midbrain’s path
Calling it mindfulness
he gave his perceptions free rein
and simply went along for the ride.
He found that our perceptions
spontaneously organize themselves
into the four categories
of circumstance, body, relationships, and mind.
Gautama also observed
FIRSTLY – that although stress is a universal phenomena,
SECONDLY – humans display the tragic talent
of neurotically striving to shove our dreads away
and vainly reaching for our desires
which only serves to exacerbate our stress.
THIRDLY – he observed that there was a cessation
(or Nibbana if your prefer the Pali language)
NOT of dread and desire
BUT of merely their tyranny.
And FOURTHLY – Gautama observed
that one could accomplish this cessation,
independent of the caprice
of real or imagined celestial beings,
simply by mastering the techniques
of the eight-fold path.
In tonight’s guided meditation,
we will explore the active contemplations
of love and letting-go
as well as passive mindfulness and meditation…
which, when applied to all perceptions,
transcend the duality of dread and desire.
Let us conclude
with a simple
call to action
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