The worldly name of the Buddha was Sidhattha Gautama. Part of his profound teachings became the religion of Buddhism, the larger part of which is derived from Hinduism. Gautamism is my term for the Original Teachings, that has nothing to do with religion, but with “Suffering and No Suffering” only. In this article, the author tries to explain the difference.
What is happiness? It may sound a stupid question, but in terms of Gautamism (my own term), the answer becomes essential. All religions promise eternal happiness in the Hereafter, in Heaven, where the souls of the “rightful ones” will go after death. Also in fairy-tales, the end always is a happy one. We all strive for happiness and the methods to achieve it are of various kinds. It can be to have money, power, love, being successful, harmonic family life, etc, etc.
Generally it is thought that if one is not unhappy, the opposite of being happy must be true. A neutral state in between, neither one nor the other, is not perceived to be worth striving for. If someone says to be neither happy nor unhappy, this person usually means to be living a rather “dull” life, nothing much to get “excited” about, just getting by and would like to see it different, to become “happy” instead.
In consequence, also the religion of Buddhism, as I observe it being practiced in SE-Asia, aims to achieve happiness and the ultimate of it is to become “enlightened”, bringing you to Heaven after your last death, never to be reborn again to a life of suffering. They believe in the Hindu concept of reincarnation, to be reborn in the flesh, whereas Gautamism sees rebirth as a mental process only. This makes it a psychology, rather than a philosophy and definitely not a religion.
In theoretical Buddhism (which is NOT Gautamism – again, my term only), there is the concept of the Non-Self. This concept is rightfully seen as a negative one by many. In the literature we can read that the Non-Self has eradicated his/hers Self, eliminated the very Ego, to such an extend that a Non-Self cannot talk and think in terms of I, me and mine. Indeed, this is utterly negative, because it would make a fish, or rather more a stone to be “enlightened”.
Unfortunately we do not know the original words of Gautama Buddha, because he never wrote down a single word (not that we know of). All we know about his teachings, came to us from later scholars and this explains to me that the Non-Self likely was not Gautama’s formulation, but Non-Selfish it was instead. If we look it up in the dictionary, we will see that selfishness is seen as a synonym for egoism.
In Gautamism however, selfishness is seen as being subjected to the material world, to life as it appears, whereas non-selfishness is the opposite, to be an objective observer of the material world, not a subjective part of it. This doesn’t make the Non-Selfish an outsider, not a hermit turning away from the world, but instead someone dealing with it in Wisdom, being the Knowledge of the True Nature of All Things.
In theoretical Buddhism, this Wisdom is expressed in the profound teachings of “Dependent Origination” (Pattica-Samuppada). It is the Chain of Suffering, a cycle that starts with “birth” in ignorance (Avijja) and ends with “death”(Jara-Marana), leading to another ignorant rebirth. In theoretical Buddhism, this chain must be broken to eliminate suffering and in the Buddhist culture this is attempted by avoiding to make “contact”, which is the sixth shackle in this chain and the first one that we can have control over. This has a most significant effect on the mentality of the people in Buddhist cultures, that we westerners have no appreciation for and very difficult to deal with (ever ordered a 3-minute boiled egg for breakfast in a Thai hotel?).
In Gautamism nothing is eliminated, but Ignorance itself and thus suffering is avoided to arise through Wisdom, achieved at the last “death”, after which “rebirth” (ignorance) cannot occur again. In the State of Mind that follows, there are feelings, but one doesn’t have them (one is no longer subjected to them – “Independent” Origination).
Gautama-Buddha, initially being a philosopher himself, reasoned that being a hermit, turning away from the material world, would lead to “happiness”, being a state of non-suffering and so he lived an ascetic life in a cave during around 6 – 7 years. He finally found that he was still suffering and so he abandoned this unsuccessful ascetic life, returning to the material world, that he had to deal with in an other way. Shortly after, he became enlightened and the Teacher as we know him from the literature.
Alas, his enlightened State of Mind was a psychological one, beyond comprehensible reasoning and so he had to talk “around” it, in the hope people would understand, but they didn’t. Most likely this is why he never wrote down anything, or tore it up afterwards, even more likely, because there were and are no words to express the Psychology of the Mind, nor will there ever be. For the same reason one cannot become enlightened by studying theoretical Buddhism only – one gets confused, or comes to useless, or even negative conclusions.
Because of his royal birth, Gautama was made a holy Hindu monk, had to be, as the Royal House would not accept a lesser position for the former Crown Prince. Therefore his “rebirth” became “reincarnation” for his Hindu followers, as anything else was beyond their comprehension, then, as it still is today in the Buddhist World.
The Wisdom, the Knowledge of the True Nature of All Things, in as far as I have been able, or rather was forced, could not avoid to penetrate it, is not a “nice” thing to know. In fact, it is totally unacceptable, not to say devastating and therefore I cannot talk about it. It doesn’t make you happy and so I am not. But I found my Peace of Mind and I am not suffering any more, but yet kind of missing my “glorious” life of suffering before, to which I never can return, even if I wanted to (thus not).
It’s a long way to Enlightenment, nobody can teach you, it cannot be reached through reasoning (meditation) and once you made it, there is no way back. It’s a painful process to die for the last time, never to become reborn again.