Though occasioned by a few conversations I had on social media, the topic has been with me for about two decades now : the fallacy in Buddhist thought, if one is looking for truth. For our world of action, there is no better subscription than the Buddhist way. For, it is in the very tenor of what the great Buddha himself presented in the new path : action … terminate absolutely the (lower) desires to end misery in your life and the world about … evolve out of even the (higher) desires to end absolutely the cycle of karma and rebirth.
Keeping the context of cultured thought of the times in which Buddha stood up and presented his own is important, if one is not to merely imagine and project one’s own meaning to what Buddha held forth in his assemblies. He disdains the rituals of Vedic or the later Sindhu-Sarasvati religious culture and he is silent on the ” God ” concept that tradition was then full of. It simplifies much in people’s life, freeing their attention to concentrate on the job at hand : action, on what to do, how to live one’s life, what to believe of what is manifest, which to regard as right or the correct path, how to decide … the entire life and values perspective in short that enables us to critically view our life and situational instance, and act in its accord.
What I see instead is that people, both hard core and romantic subscribers of Buddhist way, are reposing more and more of their quest for truth in it. It just leads to a jumboorie of imagined truths, the kind that Carl Jung warns us about : Enlightenment is not a matter of raising clouds of light within us; it is to illumine the very darkness all about.
Truth, in Buddhist way, can only be speculative, which in itself is a fine thing to do. But since it says, “overcome the self,” its followers presume that the directive means “negate the self.” It implies that the self is either a non-existent entity that we regard as existing through ignorance or that it exists but only until we are able to “eliminate” through our effort.
The first implication is a philosophical one, and still begs the question : So, what exists, in truth ? The second categorically means that the self does not exist in truth, and leads us back to the first. Without attempting to answer the ultimate question, let us revert back to the original directive Buddha proposes : Overcome the self. To me, in its context, it means that we become more powerful than the desiring self, the one which takes us over and commits acts that leads to misery for ourself and the world around us. That, we should win it over and make it subservient to our dictates, to the values perspective that Buddha clearly lays out. It is not a call for negating our very self, for there has to be one even for “overcoming the self.”
To sum : Buddhism could be a great way to action, to live and reduce misery, if not end it. But there is no truth in.
Personally, I find the Buddhist way a trifle too contradictory to something that I regard as non-negotiable : Life is; embrace it.
How is one to embrace life, if all of life and the world is nothing but misery ?
How does the anecdotal Buddha recommend joy, and advise us to enjoy our wealth but with offerings to others ?