Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Year-end Part 1: True Dharma, Synthetic Dharma and Human Rights

Last weekend I came across some synthetic jewellery at a shopping mall. Each item looks just like the real thing, only much cheaper. It is made of substitute material. You will only know it is not the real stone when you look at the price tag. It costs only a few hundred ringgit. The shop assistant then showed the real version. It costs a whopping RM 13,888. This kind of synthetic jewellery is for people who cannot afford the real diamonds and rubies.

Just like jewellery, most sentient beings also look for the true dharma. But the true dharma is not priced in dollars and cents. Although on a mundane level perhaps it could still be denominated in dollars and cents, as in you still need to pay for many religious items or support it in terms of donations, for the most part, it is freely available. For example, teachers could decide to teach the dharma for free, whereas even a small genuine diamond, costs a lot. Therefore, jewellery is generally not freely available. Just as there is synthetic jewellery, so there is also synthetic dharma. Synthetic dharma refers to partial dharma mixed with skillful means, or partial dharma mixed with wrong teachings as well as to totally wrong teachings invented by bogus teachers.

However, I realize that to be able to listen to even a sentence of true dharma requires a different kind of “affordability” on the part of the listener. While we progress much materially, we have slackened in the spiritual direction. For those few people who are interested to pursue spiritual truth, unfortunately, I find that many people are not able to “afford” the true dharma. Instead they meet with or find only synthetic dharma. While some synthetic dharma is generally non-spiritually destructive, and does promote a little good, there are those that are spiritually destructive either in the short or long term or both. It is the latter ones that we should shun. However when we do suffer the negative consequences of following the bogus synthetic teachings, we may not even realize that it is the cause of it. And so the ignorance remains, unless it is pointed out by a wise one. Even if it is pointed out by someone, he/she may refuse to listen and reject that the negative result was due directly to following the bogus teacher. That is the problem. Even for those who are able to meet with the true dharma, they get only bits and pieces of it. I realize that to be able to receive the true dharma teachings from true teachers, people need to have an abundance of karma for true dharma. That is the “affordability” aspect which is not measured by any human concept of quantitative value. Even with synthetic dharma, these sentient beings are so pleased with it. Alas! They don't have the karma for true dharma.

There are many spiritual teachers around – Buddhists, non-Buddhists and mixed kind. Some are genuine, some not, and some in-between. Sentient beings nowadays are little endowed with the ability to distinguish between the true dharma and the synthetic ones. We are also unable to point out what is genuine dharma and what is not. Part of the fault lies with us for living in a politically correct world. We live in a world that treasures human rights. One of the human rights that people most treasure is the right to follow any religion or spiritual group. Unless the group is involved in any criminal activity, it is very difficult for any other group to really criticize any other group. Hence, our human rights also do bring some consequences or constraints to us. So it is actually very difficult to directly point out who the genuine teachers are and who are not. Many of these teachers of synthetic dharma also urge their followers to do good and are also involved in much social work that directly contributes to society. That makes it even more difficult for anyone to actually criticize these synthetic dharma teachers. Not much can be done to correct the situation, except for the genuine teachers to do even more to promote their true dharma.

Some people have this idea that all religions are the same. The truth is that only on the surface of it, are all religions the same, in the sense that all religions urge their followers to do good and avoid evil. However, if we delve deeper into the insights of every religion, we will find that each one has their own concept of what is good and bad. Also most religions preach an Almighty God and going to His Heaven is the ultimate goal. But in Buddhism, we are not interested in going to any heaven. Even the Buddha’s Pure Lands, we are going there only for a little while, definitely not to stay there for eternity.

So, we who are following the genuine dharma, at least we believe so, should continue to support true dharma wherever it is. Even for those that are following true dharma, it is not guaranteed that in the future we will still continue having this blessing. At the end of it, it still comes down to whether we do have the karma to listen, undertake and practice the true dharma until the end. And even after that. For those that do, treasure it well and never let go of it. Do not convert to other religions over silly reasons like your marriage. If you know marrying that woman or man will eventually require you to convert into his/her religion, why do you still stubbornly attach to him/her. It is better to give up that woman or man, than true dharma practice. The exception to this rule is if you are still able to practice and achieve Enlightenment, despite converting to other religion. In most cases you cannot do that anymore, because the people of that religion will start indoctrinate you until you think it is okay to die and then go to heaven. Be careful because heaven is not guaranteed to you in black and white. Then samsara goes on and on for you. I am not saying other religions are wrong. Neither am I saying Buddhism is the only right religion. Rather I am saying they have a very different system and path than Buddhism. If that is what you want, then go for it. But think carefully before giving up on the Buddha's teachings. This is my humble reflection and thought as the year 2012 comes to an end.

Firstly I would like to thank my Gurus for all the blessing and guidance received. I also would like to thank the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Next I thank my protectors as usual for doing a fine job. Thank you so much, even though you still have a few more days to go! Must never let me do stupid things that I will regret forever.

This year has been a mixed bag for me personally. There had been 2 deaths in relations, and face some challenges in my work, but spiritually I think of this year as a year in which I made a little progress in meditation. It is a key step towards "dropping of body and mind" spoken of by Dogen. Just a little progress each year is good enough. That's all for now!   

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Chondon Chondro said...
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