The Error of the Buddha
by Robert E. Wilkinson ©2007
“The goal is not to lose oneself in the Divine Consciousness.
The goal is to let the Divine Consciousness penetrate into Matter and transform it.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, p.191
One of the most troubling developments of our modern age is the inverse relationship between Knowledge and Belief. The less people know about an issue, the more they are willing to believe without questioning. This has led to some tragic social and political consequences but nowhere is this lack of discrimination more problematic than in the conflicting religious beliefs that are presently driving our world to the brink of destruction. If we are ever to turn the tide of this mounting chaos, we must be willing to stop and take a long hard look at the beliefs and suppositions that underlie our collective religious life. Only then can we move forward together with a healing Knowledge.
In his series, “Buddha and the World”, Deepak Chopra has given us a splendid opportunity to do this, to ask the difficult questions rather than simply accept his propositions as undisputed fact. I am most grateful to him for his efforts and hope that he will join in this discussion and respond to the points that are raised.
At the beginning of his article Dr. Chopra writes of a world teetering between madness and catastrophe, a problem he blames in large part upon the burden of past beliefs, a fact plainly evident today in the widening Shia-Sunni conflict in the Middle East. The solution to these complex global problems, says Chopra, are the teachings of the Buddha.
I could not disagree more. Chopra raises the central issue of ‘the burden of past beliefs’ yet he is somehow unable to recognize that Buddhism itself falls into that very category. Does he not see that the most urgent problem of our time, underlying all the rest, is that our whole conception of Spirituality indeed Reality, is based upon teachings that are over 2,000 years old? We would not tolerate this kind of dogmatic intransigence in our scientific endeavors so why do we continue to cling to the notion that God spoke to man over 2,000 years ago through Buddha, Jesus and a few others and has remained silent on the question of spirituality and the human condition ever since? This makes absolutely no sense but each passing day bears witness to a world arrested by the atavistic beliefs of religions long past, with many still locked in some form of convert or kill mentality.
Our attachment to these old religions naturally begs the question: Are the teachings of Buddha and others who lived over 2000 year ago still relevant to our Twenty-first Century society? Chopra will certainly claim, as many have, that Buddha’s teachings are based upon eternal and unchanging truths. But let us carefully examine this claim.
It is a widely accepted but erroneous ‘myth’ that there is but One Eternal Truth realized by all sages at all times though it may vary in form from one culture to another. This ‘One Truth’ is static and unchanging and many believe it represents the most exalted heights that human consciousness can attain. There is however compelling testimony to the contrary, a more integral and enlightened view which holds that Spirituality is a progressive movement, same as the biological evolution, constantly revealing new and fuller aspects of the Divine Consciousness.
All of us today live in a self-evident evolving reality. Does it seem at all reasonable that the spiritual realizations gained over 2,000 years ago by sages limited to an earlier phase of human evolution could be applied without revision to our complex modern culture? Certainly not! The facts are clear. The limitations inherent in the Mental consciousness when Buddha and others of that period made their discoveries could not admit of anything higher than a dissolution of the nexus of consciousness which held them in the world. 1. Buddha called his experience of dissolution “Nirvana” - a state of pure Being, equanimity and peace. The Nirvanic realization, we are told, has the quality of an infinite Zero, or Emptiness without form that grants liberation from this so-called ‘illusory world of becoming’.
It is certainly no coincidence that Lao Tze, the Chinese sage who lived around the same time as Buddha expressed his ‘spiritual’ realization in much the same vein calling it, “The Nothing that is All.” We find this same language later on in the teachings of Shankara, founder of the Advaita Vedanta school, who described his realization as ‘Moksha’ or liberation, where one does not feel oneself any longer to be an individual with a name or form, but an infinite, eternal, space-less consciousness. Clearly these extraordinary beings had reached the heights of the mental consciousness available to them at the time but with the continuing evolution of our species for over 2,000 years, new and greater spiritual heights have opened to our view. The Mental has given way to what Sri Aurobindo 2. and his line have called the “Supra-mental”, as Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, 3. Third in that line, explains:
'Supermind is the faculty that is now changing the human being's capacity to observe and measure. What before in both science and spirituality could only be expressed in terms of paradoxes and irreconcilables, can now be perceived in a vastly truer light. Mind indeed deforms the experience when it is used as the highest instrument of perception. And in both approaches Mind has been the tool, with its resultant language, insufficient and inadequate to express the higher reality in anything better than paradoxes. With the advent of Supermind this limitation is no longer felt; and with it comes the perception of the true nature of creation, - in particular with respect to that which moves and hence to time and matter.' - The New Way, Vol . 3, 1983, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet
Let us continue for a moment with Buddha’s realization and go more deeply into what it means for the individual and the world. There are two poles of Universal Being, one is Spirit (Purusha) and the other is Matter (Prakriti). The Buddhist view of reality is based upon an irreconcilable split between these two poles and a strategy that that posits one pole, (the Material), as an illusion in order to reach the other. Following Buddha’s realization of "Dukkha" (suffering) as the first great truth, his solution to the dilemma of existence was to seek liberation by declaring the unreality of the world. And this is exactly what Dr. Chopra is advising us to do in his article, …to become detached from the self and realize that the Individual self and the World are an illusion. In a recent interview with Atlantis Rising (May/June 2007) he told the interviewer:
“I enjoy the illusion of it all. I’m standing in an apartment in New York City on the 69th floor overlooking the city and I know it’s not “real”, but I can appreciate it.”
However much he may enjoy the illusion, this is plainly a life-negating view that has no power to heal the wounds of fragmentation inflicted on our modern world by the reductive linear mind and its nihilistic religious forms. It is simply a continuation of an old patriarchal consciousness that denies the Feminine Goddess principle, Matter and our collective Becoming in favor of a remote static peace that has negated the lives and creative possibilities of hundreds of millions of human beings.
If we take an unvarnished look at what Buddha taught, not the kind of humanism it has morphed into today, it can only be understood as a strategy of escapism based on a denial of the World, the Feminine Principle and the Human Soul. Sadly this path has found a willing following in many of the world’s religions which teach the faithful that salvation, if it exists at all, may only be found in the transcendence of the world in some after-death Christian ‘Heaven’, Advaitan ‘Moksha’ or ‘Nirvanic’ Void. A contemporary example of this retrograde view may be found in the popular works of Eckhart Tolle who writes:
“…The ultimate purpose of the world lies not within the world but in transcendence of the world.”
Dr. Chopra simply does not understand that when our highest spiritual wisdom declares the world to be meaningless, purposeless, unreal, and irredeemable, these nihilistic perceptions invariably play themselves out in our individual and collective life. This fact is undeniable in the tragic symbolism of children blowing themselves up in the service of fundamentalism based upon the deceitful promise of a paradisiacal afterlife. Likewise, if our earthly existence is conceived as only a meaningless passage to some higher reality then a certain restraint is removed on the unconscionable exploitation of the environment not to mention each other. Surely he cannot deny the overwhelming evidence of a looming environmental and human catastrophe, but who would ever have imagined that it was a direct consequence of these old nihilistic religious beliefs that disenchanted the natural world.
There are numerous other contradictions and points in his article to which I take great exception, particularly his comments on the corrupting influence of Time and his remarks on the human Soul. This is understandable since he espouses a path that seeks the obliteration of Time rather than to know its Power of Integration. But do not be deceived by his comments that Buddha was any kind of ‘physician of the Soul’. His very teachings are the basis of the Soul’s extinction. On this point I bow to Sri Aurobindo who has exposed the flaws of the Nirvanic experience for all time in his epic poem Savitri, Bk. 3; canto 2 – The Adoration of the Divine Mother:
“Thou hast reached the boundless silence of the Self,
Thou hast leaped into a glad divine abyss;
But where hast thou thrown Self's mission and Self's power?
On what dead bank on the Eternal's road?
One was within thee who was self and world,
What hast thou done for his purpose in the stars?
Escape brings not the victory and the crown!
Something thou cam'st to do from the Unknown,
But nothing is finished and the world goes on
Because only half God's cosmic work is done.
Only the everlasting No has neared
And stared into thy eyes and killed thy heart:
But where is the Lover's everlasting Yes,
…A huge extinction is not God’s last word.”
Having seen Dr. Chopra interviewed many times, one cannot doubt his heartfelt concern for the suffering of the world. He is indeed a Bodhisattva and an inspiration to millions of people. If Buddhism is Chopra’s chosen path, one can only respect his decision. At the same time problems in the world are growing worse with each passing day. Solutions elude us because we continue to look to past traditions that negate and divide us instead of embracing a New Way that offers a knowledge that integrates and heals. This situation simply cannot continue.
Robert E. Wilkinson
(1) In the early centuries of the Piscean Age the consciousness of the race was founded on three rather than four pillars of being. The Physical and Emotional in the service of the Mental. The highest, (Spiritual) was lacking or dormant. The great sages of that era including the Buddha were limited in their higher perceptions by the veil of mind whose nature is to reduce and fragment what spirituality and quantum physics tells us is inherently whole and interdependent. The bicameral mind thinks and sees in terms of polarities and is insufficient and inadequate to express the higher reality in anything better than bi-polar oppositions, paradoxes and irreconcilables such as Time and Eternity, Spirit and Matter, Being and Becoming, Good and Evil and so on. When mind tries to move upward beyond its vibrational limits, it is obliterated in Nirvana which is mistaken as the Spiritual. As Sri Aurobindo explains:
“One does not rise up when one passes into Nirvana, one pierces a hole and goes out. It is not as many believe the ending of the path with nothing beyond to explore, it is the end of the lower path and the beginning of the higher evolution. Nirvana in my consciousness turned out to be the beginning of my realisation, a step toward the complete thing.” Sri Aurobindo - Letters on Yoga
(2 & 3) Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) is regarded as having made a contribution to human thought the equivalent of which does not seem to have been attained by any other known thinker. Together with the Mother of Pondicherry, he laid down the lines of a new Supramental Yoga which reveals the limitations of the old spirituality and corrects the error of the Buddha. Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet (Thea) (1938- ) Third in the Supramental line has brought synthesis and continuity to their yoga. Her work as director of the Aeon Centre of Cosmology has been to unveil a body of applied cosmological knowledge unequalled in it scope and specificity which, for the first time, offers us the tools to heal the schisms of the mental creation and integrate the Spiritual and Material planes. She has carried Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s work to completion, rebuilt the ‘Cosmological Bridge’ lost for millennia and has given us a New and Integral Way to embrace our collective becoming. For more on her evolutionary knowledge see: http://www.aeongroup.com