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‘The Importance of Reliable Authority and Guidance’: A Buddhist Response (2)

Novitiate program at Wang Fat Ching She.

Two Important Benefits

Mariusz touched on two of the more important benefits of a systematic and guided self-development. Firstly, accomplishments produce well-being and inner peace. Wellbeing and inner peace are converted into human moral restraint and virtue. This is the exoteric dimension of Sadharma. Secondly, they produce Insight. This is the esoteric dimension of Sadharma. Morality is preparation for tranquility and Insight meditation. Buddhist Insight is intuitive wisdom perfected. It enables a insightful Knower (Jnani) to distinguish the distinction between conventional appearance and the ultimate Reality. The greatest pragmatic value of religious Insight is to release the intuitive wisdom so that the intellectual mind is utilized without mental corruptions or cankers. The secularists or exotericists are trained conventionally and intellectually to use the intellect only. Intellectual mind is defiled by self-centric ego. Intellect breeds the egoistic self. Spiritualists or esotericists are spiritually advantaged as they develop one extra mental device of intuitive wisdom. Books or even Canons alone cannot guide us to develop intuitive wisdom. The authority and guidance of spiritual gurus can shepherd us with their wisdom mind maps. In fact, both scholastic and meditational trainings require the reliable authority and guidance of experienced experts. We know that very experienced old fishermen can guide us where to cast the net. 

Spiritual Maps

Mariusz further added, “ Insight acquired through systematic, diligent and guided learning provides one with perspective which reveals structures, relatives and truths invisible to a shorted-sighted ignorant eye.” Sakyamuni Buddha provides the Buddhist with systemic and guided spiritual maps that help Buddhists to walk the straight path to liberation. The Three Universal Characteristics of existence, the Noble Eight Fold Path, the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, the Thirty Seven factors of Enlightenment and other countless Buddhist doctrines are detailed specifications of spiritual maps. They are authoritative instructions that guide Buddhists on the development of morality, concentration and wisdom. This three-fold Path of morality-concentration-wisdom is the Buddhist Path to actualize the Sukha or Eudaimonie of Nirvana. Nirvana is a completely appeased mind free from the self-centric ego of clinging.

Not only does the knowledge of relative truth require systematic guidance, but also the knowledge of ultimate Truth requires the experienced Eyes of Intuition of Dharma Masters. Dharma Masters guide the Dharma Wayfarers along the spiritual stations. Mariusz depicts beautifully, “When the seas of trials and dire straits are rough, a skillful navigation is required by the spiritual travellers.” We can learn philosophy, mathematics, spirituality, and literature from Mariusz. Everyone is our teacher if we care to listen and learn. And we have to as everyone associated with us is connected to us in one way or another unless the demand is unreasonable.

Likewise, Buddhistdoor cannot last on the basis of cyber technology alone. There are many contingent conditions connected to the holistic family of Buddhistdoor. Among all the interconnected contingent conditions, the Buddha reveals to us that deontological ethics are very decisive. We worship Sakyamuni Buddha because he is a reliable authority and guidance. The living Sakyamuni Buddha has parted from us for 2,500 years. Today, the most reliable guidance is Scripture. Today, the Scripturea can be easily accessed through internet. If one really desires to see the Buddha, one an see the Buddha-nature in the internet. In fact, the Buddha never teaches us to see his physical body. He teaches us to see the Dharmakaya of the internet or Dharmakaya of anything under the sun. Dharmakaya is the eternal Truth of Anatta or Sunyata or Pratityasamutpada.

Rely on Inner Refuge

Gotama Buddha is a pragmatic empiricist or a spiritual logical positivist. He promulgates in the Kalama Sutta that Man is the ultimate arbiter of what is TRUE (Absolute Truth of Oneness of Being). The Exalted One says thus:

“Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by tradition, by scripture, by logical conjectureby inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering view, by probability or by thought.”

Many Buddhists and non-Buddhists have misconstrued what the Buddha declares. The Blessed One admonishes not to rely on traditional or conventional sources of episthemology (Duality) in order to derive what is true (Non-duality). These are merely intellectual knowledge (duality) that veils what Is TRUE (Non-duality). Only direct intuition or contemplation can reveal what is true. In Monotheism, God also commands His believers not to rely on conventional knowledge of idolatries. The believers must rely on the Lord or God to see what is true. The Quran confirms the intuitive wisdom of the Buddha. It says, “ Whoever knows himself knows the Lord.” The Bible says, “ God is closer to you than your jugular vein.” All Tathagatas and Prophets unveil to us that the Truth/Buddha-nature/God is found in Man to be discerned by Man in Man. Sakyamuni Buddha says, “Just as a goldsmith assays gold by rubbing, cutting and burning, so should you examine my words. Do not accept them just out of faith in me.” Such a democratic attitude appeals to modern minds and explains why scientific minded Western Buddhists have taken up a great enthusiastic interest in Buddhism after experimentation and verification. It also accounts for my fervent interest in Buddhism even though I am an Easterner.

Indeterminate and Determinate

Intellectual knowledge is indeterminate (neyartha) while intuitive knowledge is determinate (nitartha). From the Buddhist perspective, whoever has acquired the absolute knowledge of nithartha is an esotericist. A Buddhist esotericist is qualified to furnish advice or instruction of authority and guidance to neyartha learners who are exotericists to traverse to the other shore. Whoever intuitively discerns the integration between what is neyartha and nitartha sees the middle view of Dependent Origination in the context of middle way thinking (pratityasamutpada-hrdaya-karika). In the Theravada tradition, when the self has melted into Non-self, the pure, finite consciousness is the authority and guidance.

Conclusion

Buddhism advocates the epistemology of Buddhological logical positivism (logical empiricism). Buddhist epistemology encompasses empiricism (Yogacara: eight consciousness), rationalism (duality), intuitionism (Non-duality) and verificationism (self-realization). However, scientific philosophy of logical positivism includes empiricism (six consciousness), rationalism (logical reasoning) and verificationism (emperimentalism) while it is skeptical of theology and metaphysics. Therefore, scientists are considered sentient beings who emphasize the investigation of physical phenomena (rupadhammas) minus the psychological ethics. Buddhists concern themselves with both physical and mental phenomena (rupa-nama-dhammas). Hence, the Buddhist inquiry of Man and Nature is more comprehensive than scientific enquiry of Man and Nature.

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